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The Truth About Sunspots

October 27, 2021

The Truth About Sunspots

NOTICE: It is important to properly identify any spot on your skin. Skin cancer is a serious condition that should not be ignored. Please see a licensed dermatologist for a professional evaluation of any spots that are concerning. Always apply sunscreen on any skin that is exposed to the sun. 

 

Sunspots (in the context of this article) are flat brown spots that develop on the skin from sun exposure causing pigmented skin cells called melanocytes to multiply in the skin. Melanocytes are skin cells that produce a protective skin-darkening pigment called melanin.

Most sunspots fade over time, but they often do not disappear completely without intervention because the skin has been damaged.

The good news is, they can be treated.

You have two choices.

You can choose invasive options or using serums and creams with effective ingredients proven to lighten skin.

Pros and Cons - Invasive vs Serums & Creams 

PRO: Invasive options tend to work faster.

CON: Invasive options are costly and have a higher risk of side effects.

PRO: Serums and creams rarely cause any side effects WHEN you choose a quality serum or cream with the right ingredients. (More on that below)

CON: Serums and creams require discipline because it will take applying them once or twice a day for 30-90 days to get results. 

More on Invasive Options

Invasive options range from acid peels to laser, intense pulsed light (IPL), freezing (cryotherapy), dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels.

Laser will require one or two treatments, but it is quick with long-lasting results. Some potential side effects are crusting or temporary darkening of sunspots. However, these side effects tend to fade quickly. I highly recommend, if choosing this option, using NeoGenesis Recovery following a laser treatment because it significantly speeds the healing process.

Cryosurgery is when a dermatologist freezes the sunspots. As the skin heals, it has a more even skin tone. Cryosurgery can be painful, but it is quick. 

Aside from pain, risks are blistering or temporary redness and swelling. Possible permanent side effects of Cryo are darkening of spots, lightening of the skin around the age spot, or scaring. When a board-certified dermatologist performs cryosurgery, permanent side effects are rare but still possible since the way a person’s skin responds can vary and be unpredictable. Do not take shortcuts in choosing the professional if you opt for cryosurgery.

Microdermabrasion is performed with a special device that buffs away the sunspots. This can be quite effective, especially when a patient also has a chemical peel. Plan to get microdermabrasion once every two weeks for 16 weeks but this makes sunspots completely disappear.

Following this kind of treatment, you may see mild inflammation that lasts for a few hours to flakey skin that lasts for a few days. Again, I highly recommend following this treatment with NeoGenesis Recovery for optimal healing.

A chemical peel can remove the layer of skin where the sunspot is and reveal skin cells that have not been damaged by the sun.

Safe chemical peel options are alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic and lactic acid), beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid) and trichloroacetic acid (TCA). Glycolic acid (GA) is the most common alpha-hydroxy acid peel and is also known as a fruit peel.

The risks of chemical peels include scarring, infection, and a substantial contrast in coloration of the treated skin. The time required to heal is based on the depth of the peel. This may sound simple, but this treatment is best given by a licensed professional to ensure a safe treatment.

More On Serums & Creams Options

As stated before, using serums and creams requires a commitment to applying twice daily (AM/PM) to get results. Most skin brightening serums or creams work either by reducing or suppressing melanin production. 

Top Ingredients to SAFELY Lighten Sunspots:

  • Kojic Acid - Makes an enzyme necessary for the reduction of melanin production.
  • Vitamin C - Choosing a stable form of topical vitamin C is crucial or it becomes a pro-oxidant instead of an effective antioxidant. For example, look for glutathione in the ingredient list because it provides an effective delivery system that far outperforms any percentage of free ascorbic acid or other ascorbic acid derivatives. That is why I love the formula in Triple C + Gold . It has the longest lasting form of Vitamin C because of the effective delivery system. 
  • Daisy Leaf Extract - Can block the formation of melanin, effectively preventing pigmentation or dark spots. 
  • Bearberry Extract - A high concentration of antioxidants and skin-lightening compounds. Bearberry extract contains up to 17% arbutin
  • Licorice extract - inhibits tyrosinase activity making it highly effective at skin lightening
  • Alpha-arbutin - 1 to 2% concentration inhibits skin's tyrosinases enzymes which are responsible for excess melanin.
  • Niacinamide - Vitamin B3 and works best when paired with N-acetyl glucosamine to lighten skin.
  • Glutathione - Potent antioxidant. Great in vitamin C for an effective delivery system to the epidermal layers of the skin.
  • Azelaic acid - Same pH as skin and is soothing and calming as it lightens skin.
  • Glycolic acid - Often used a leave-on exfoliant but also lightens by removing melanin pigment faster.
  • Linoleic acid - Speeds cell turnover and suppress melanin production.

My favorite skin brightening combination is: Brighten the Day, Triple C + Gold and Sleep On It Vegan Retinol (PM use)

Options I Do NOT Recommend

You may have heard of hydroquinone as a skin brightener. Many years ago it was a popular option but it has not proven to be effective long term. The FDA regulates the use of hydroquinone.

I do not recommend hydroquinone because it can lead to unwanted side effects and with prolonged use causes premature aging and can lead to skin cancer. Plus, it is not permanent. Oftentimes after sun exposure, spots can come back vigorously. This is outdated protocol and no longer necessary with so many safe options available.

I do not recommend steroids in skin brightening products which can lead to skin infections, and problems related to absorption by the body.

I do not recommend skin bleaching agents because they can cause skin irritation and allergic reaction. Again, much safer options are available.

Bottom Line

The truth about sunspots is, you have options, and they CAN be treated safely! Choose your option based on what you are willing to pay and risk, and willingness to stick to a routine to achieve desired results.

There is no one size fits all treatment. If you choose a serum and creams option, you must experiment to find which ingredients YOUR skin responds to the best. Don't give up too soon! Expect to stay the course for at least 30 days. Take a BEFORE picture and compare with a new picture each week to see the subtle changes and gauge your progress. Zap those sunspots with consistent care! 





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