Have Hyperpigmentation? Learn How to Get Rid of Dark Spots
In our new series, Derm Tagalong, we join our editors on a trip to visit top New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. In this episode with Rebecca Gruber, Vice President of Branded Content at POPSUGAR, we tackle how to get rid of dark spots.
Dark spots — often dubbed age spots — are a very common skin concern. Whether caused by acne, air pollution or sun exposure, dark spots can seem impossible to get rid of, but there are steps you can take and products you can use to help reduce their appearance. With help from board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant Dendy Engelman, M.D., we’re sharing all of the skin-care tips and tricks for getting rid of dark spots. Read on and watch our video for more information.
What Are Dark Spots?
Dark spots on the skin’s surface occur when melanin — the pigment that is responsible for the skin’s color — is produced in excess. Because of their nature, this can make dark spots difficult to get rid of for good and even tough to cover up with makeup and concealers. But by using products formulated to help fade their appearance over time, and by following expert skin-care tips to help prevent more hyperpigmentation spots from appearing, a brighter, more even-looking complexion is possible.
What Can Cause Dark Spots?
Before you learn how to get rid of dark spots on your skin’s surface, it’s important to know the factors that can cause dark spots to occur in the first place . An array of things can cause dark spots to form on the skin’s surface, like air pollution and hormonal fluctuations, but the biggest culprit is sun exposure. Not only can UVA and UVB rays cause premature fine lines and wrinkles to pop up on your skin, but they’re also the leading cause of skin discoloration.
Another common cause is acne and more specifically, acne scars. Scarring is usually a result of picking or popping a pimple. Long after a pimple is healed, inflammation on the skin in the form of a brown or reddish spot can be left behind.
Ways to Reduce the Appearance of Dark Spots
Now onto the good news: Dark spots, while tricky to treat, are not permanent. Here are some important skin-care tips to fade their appearance and achieve a more even skin tone.
Tip #1: Wear Broad-Spectrum SPF Every Day
Your number-one defense against dark spots (and all other signs of aging) is sunscreen. “We have to look at sunscreen like a treatment,” says Dr. Engelman. “If you’re not giving your skin daily protection, the pigment is going to stay.” The order of your morning skin-care routine should goes as follows: serum, sunscreen, then makeup. And don’t think for a second that just wearing SPF in your foundation is enough. “The reality is, when they’ve tested foundation with sunscreen, you would have to put between 7 and 10 times the amount of the foundation on your face in order to convey the SPF that’s on the bottle,” she says. Meaning, wearing a foundation with sunscreen in the formula is fine as an additional layer of sun protection, but it isn’t effective enough to protect your skin from sun damage and hyperpigmentation on its own.
Dr. Engelman’s sunscreen recommendation: SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. It protects the skin with physical, 100% mineral filters to block UV damage before it has a chance to penetrate your skin. “Most dermatologists prefer physically blockers because of their effectiveness,” she explains.
Tip #2: Never Pick at Pimples
Because minor skin irritations — like picking, popping or scratching at blemishes — can trigger excess melanin production, it’s important to avoid picking at breakouts and touching your face altogether. Instead, if you have a breakout, reach for a spot treatment to clear up the issue.
Tip #3: Use a Dark Spot Correcting Serum
If you have dark spots and discoloration you’ll want to invest in a dark spot correcting product, like an antioxidant-rich serum. Dr. Engelman recommends SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic With 15% L-Ascorbic Acid because it neutralizes environmental aggressors and helps to stop damage that occurs at a cellular level.
Tip #4: Exfoliate With Acids
Chemical exfoliation with alpha-hydroxy acids — like glycolic and lactic acids — can help to gently slough off built-up dead cells on the skin’s surface and by default, slowly but surely remove hyperpigmentation. When this buildup is removed, more even-looking skin can be revealed and dark spots can appear lighter and less visible.
Tip #5: Reach for Retinoids
Retinoids are as powerful and potent as anti-aging ingredients come. When used the right way — and under the watchful eye of a board-certified dermatologist — retinol can effectively reduce the appearance of dark spots on the skin’s surface. Retinol can address a variety of skin issues — acne, wrinkles, fine lines, discoloration — as well as increase skin-cell turnover and collagen production. But if you’re new to retinol, Dr. Engelman explains that it can take some time for your skin to become “retinized.” When your skin finally is adjusted to this powerful ingredient, you should experience little to no irritation, dryness or redness upon application.
Take a trip to your dermatologist to find out if retinol is right for you and your skin-care needs, and to receive a prescription-strength dosage. “If your skin is having trouble tolerating the retinol, you can use an over-the-counter product or ask your doctor for a lower dosage,” adds Dr. Engelman. To start, we recommend giving the SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 a try and slowly working your way up to the 0.5 and 1.0 concentrations.