Have you started to notice there are various brown spots showing up on your face, neck and chest? Maybe you’ve wondered where they came from or how to get rid of them, or maybe you just keep adding more concealer and not giving them not thought.
One thing that all those brown spots have in common is the sun. They are either caused by (or made worse by) prolonged, unprotected UV exposure.
First, what exactly are those spots? The color or pigment in our skin is created by cells called Melanocytes, which contain Melanin (pigment). Those with darker colored skin have a greater number of Melanocytes than those with fair skin. Sun tanning occurs when the Melanocytes become activated by UV light and rise to the surface of the skin. The tan then fades as the skin’s normal renewal process sloughs off the pigmented cells.
When you see a dark spot on your skin, this is caused by an abnormal concentration of Melanin. What causes that concentration is different for each type of brown spot. Once the process of abnormal melanin has started, the process will continue as long as there is exposure to free radicals (bad cells) caused by UV light.
Freckles are usually genetic but are stimulated and worsened by the sun. They are most common in fair-skinned people. They look like tiny, reddish or brown colored spots, spread over the skin and not usually touching one another. Freckles are harmless and can be lightened with lasers or topical creams. Those with freckles typically have more sensitive skin and are more prone to sunburns, so make sure to apply a mineral sunscreen daily and reapply often during sun exposure.
Age Spots / Sun Spots / Sun Damage Spots / Solar Lentigines / Actinic Keratosis:
These spots have many different names and forms. They usually show up in adulthood and range from light brown to black in color. They show up on areas that have direct sun exposure, like face, neck, chest and hands and are directly caused by unprotected UV exposure over a long period of time. They can be lightened or eliminated with various laser treatments. To prevent them, apply sunscreen every few hours during sun exposure.
Although Melasma isn’t caused by UV rays, it is definitely worsened by them. Melasma resembles larger ink blot spots, usually on the upper cheeks, nose, forehead and upper lip (pregnancy mask). It is usually lighter in the winter months and more prominent in the summer.
Melasma can be triggered by hormone changes like birth control or pregnancy and it is stubborn and tricky to treat. To learn more see: Melasma Blog (Insert link)
Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
PIH is a darkening of skin cells after an injury, like a cut, surgical wound, acne lesion or burn.
It is caused by exposure to UV rays and occurs more often with darker skin types. The darkening of the skin will usually resolve itself after several months or can be treated with topical creams such as Hydroquinone, which lightens the skin. This pigmentation can be avoided by covering injured skin and using daily mineral sunscreen.