Dark Spots and Marks
As if wrinkles weren’t enough to worry about, dark spots are another inevitable part of the aging process. Not only do these marks make us look older than we actually are, but they also contribute to a dull complexion. Skin pigmentation can appear on both the face and body, and while most issues are harmless, it can sometimes cause emotional stress. Some dark spots can be lightened with a simple treatment, whereas others require more profound ongoing care — let’s take a closer look.
What Causes Dark Spots and Marks?
Our skin has specific cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for giving our skin its color. When these cells become damaged or unhealthy, melanin production is unfavorably affected. More specifically, the tyrosinase enzyme responsible for melanin production sends an oxidation signal to the tyrosine amino acid, which sparks an overproduction of melanin.
So, what causes dark spots on the face and body? These marks are often a result of hyperpigmentation due to spending too much time in the sun, acne scarring, melasma, cosmetic procedures like dermabrasion, and skin injuries. Fluctuating hormones, genetics, and age are also contributing factors. Can stress cause dark spots? You betcha. When you’re frazzled, the blood supply is restricted, resulting in tired, dull, dry skin that stops producing regenerating cells. This can cause uneven skin tone and pigmentation, giving you another good reason to learn how to manage your stress levels.
Treatments for Dark Marks
Dermatological treatments aren’t for everyone, but they can be useful for stubborn dark spots that aren’t responding to topical (specifically, OTC) products.
- Chemical Peels: These aqueous solutions reduce the appearance of dark spots via chemical exfoliation. An esthetician or dermatologist will determine whether you need a light, medium, or intense exfoliation, depending on your markings’ severity. Some peels just target the outer layer of skin (epidermis), whereas others penetrate deep into the dermis.
Laser Resurfacing: Though lasers are used to remove your skin layers where there’s pigmentation, this is a non-invasive treatment. Depending on the severity of your dark spots, either an ablative or non-ablative laser tool will be used.
- IPL Therapy: Also called a photofacial, this treatment works to stimulate collagen production, so it’s an excellent choice for those with flat, discolored patches of skin precipitated by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
The Best Skincare Tips for Dark Spots and Marks
- Sun Protection: As with other skin conditions, prevention is vital. Wearing sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 every day (even when it’s cloudy) is your best measure of defense. Even if you already have dark spots due to previous years of neglect, you should still be wearing sun protection to prevent future damage.
- Skin-Safe Lighteners: Reducing dark spots with skin lightening products have been a big topic of controversy over the years because many were formulated with dangerous ingredients such as hydroquinone, mercury, camphor, steroids, arbutin 1%, azelaic acid, and Glutathione, among others. Instead, look for skin-safe lighteners like niacinamide, kojic acid, azelaic acid, licorice extract, vitamin C, paper mulberry, and linoleic acid. Just be sure to only use one product with these active ingredients at a time to prevent any irritation. How long does it take to get rid of dark spots on the face? It can take anywhere from three months to a couple of years for them to completely vanish — and that’s providing you’re consistent with using your products and/or dermatological treatments.
Retinol and Retinoids: Many over-the-counter products contain retinol, a weaker form of retinoids, which are more potent, prescription-level drugs like tretinoin (the generic name for Retin-A), tazarotene, and adapalene. They’re an excellent option for treating hyperpigmentation because they decrease epidermal melanin. However, keep in mind that these ingredients, though effective, can have side effects such as retinoid dermatitis, peeling, and photosensitivity — another good reason to remember to wear sunscreen.
- Skin Rejuvenation: While it won’t get rid of dark spots, SiO’s Cryodrop tool can be used in conjunction with your favorite serum to help rejuvenate the appearance of your skin. The SiO Cryodrop tool sculpts facial contours, diminishes puffiness, re-energizes your skin, and enables you to fight the signs of aging for the long-term, thanks to cold therapy and facial massage.