How to Address Dark Spots on Skin of Color
Are you noticing that your skin has spots or patches of darker skin on your face? You’re definitely not alone. This discoloration can appear on all skin types and tones for a number of different reasons, but it’s particularly prevalent amongst those with skin of color. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that dark spots and patches are one of the most common skin reasons patients with skin of color visit a dermatologist. The good news is that this discoloration can be effectively managed and prevented. All you need is the proper insight on how to do so, which is why we tapped plastic surgeon, SkinCeuticals ambassador, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Peter Schmid for help. Keep reading for expert tips on how to address dark spots on skin of color.
WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Before you can help improve the appearance of your dark spots, it’s important to first understand the basics behind the common skin concern. Hyperpigmentation is characterized by patches of dark skin discoloration that may be consistent with freckles, blemishes, sun spots, or melasma. “It is one of the most common reasons patients consult with me,” Dr. Schmid says. “Rest easy, because many of these conditions are able to be addressed with a commitment to regular skin care, be that with a quality home skin care regimen or advanced in-office treatment.”
WHAT CAUSES HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Dark spots and patches can appear for a number of different reasons. According to the AAD, darker skin tones get dark spots and patches due to something triggering their skin to produce extra melanin, the substance that gives skin its color. Those triggers can include certain medications, a cleared breakout, irritation from skin care products, hormonal fluctuations and more. Another trigger can be unprotected sun exposure. “The most prevalent cause of hyperpigmentation is unprotected sun exposure, subsequent sun damage, and aging of the skin,” Dr. Schmid says. “All skin types remain vulnerable to UV radiation be there cloudy skies or rain. Sun damage and pigmentation management demands preventative skin care.” Keep in mind that UV exposure can darken preexisting spots, which is even more incentive to be diligent with sunscreen use.
Dr. Schmid’s recommendation? Committing to one of SkinCeuticals’ broad spectrum UVA/UVB physical and chemical sunscreens every single day, and reapplying as necessary at least every two hours. Take your sun protection measures a step further by covering up with protective clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding peak sun hours.
Bad habits in our teen years can set us up for the future health of our skin, as the skin has ‘a memory’ to repetitive sun exposure, long hours of tanning, and burns.
WHEN CAN DARK SPOTS APPEAR?
Dark spots may appear alongside other signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, but they’re not exclusive to mature skin. Patches of discoloration can appear much earlier than you think. Dr. Schmid says he often begins seeing darks spots on teenagers and those in their 20s due to hormonal changes or daily sun exposure. Once the problem starts, it’s crucial to begin taking action sooner rather than later. “Unfortunately, most hyperpigmentation remains persistent or darkens over time if not addressed,” Dr. Schmid says. “In fact, bad habits in our teen years can set us up for the future health of our skin, as the skin has ‘a memory’ to repetitive sun exposure, long hours of tanning, and burns.”
HOW TO ADDRESS DARK SPOTS ON SKIN OF COLOR
The struggle with skin discoloration can be daunting, but don’t let that discourage you. There are simple regimens you can adopt to help improve the appearance of dark spots. As far as professional treatments go, Dr. Schmid says chemical peels and microneedling may help improve the clarity of the skin when paired with a science-based skin care regimen. “My recommended home regimens vary based upon the skin type, skin sensitivity and severity of the hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Schmid says. “A medical grade cleanser combined with SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic (or SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF if acne-prone) followed by either SkinCeuticals Advanced Pigment Corrector or SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense and a broad-spectrum sunscreen.” According to Dr. Schmid, this combination can help improve the look of a complexion with continued use.
If your skin is void of redness, broken capillaries or hypersensitivity, Dr. Schmid recommends retinol products. “Retinol therapy, however, should be prescribed under the direction of a professional,” he says. “And truth beware, product efficiency relies upon the proper timing and method of application.”
Editor’s note: Retinol use can cause skin sensitivity to sunlight. When applying retinol products to the skin, pair them with broad-spectrum sunscreen during the daytime hours to protect your skin from UV rays. For more information on how to incorporate retinol into your routine, read our beginner’s guide here.
HOW TO PREVENT DARK SPOTS ON DARK SKIN TONES
There are many preventative measures you can take against getting any dark spots in the future. Here are a few steps for you to make sure your skin’s tone stays even.
Wear Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
Since people of color have more melanin in their skin, many wrongly assume that they’re more protected from harmful UV rays. As such, many people of color tend to skip out on applying sunblock. This is a big no-no. Applying sunscreen is an absolute must across all skin tones and type. It is absolutely essential in preventing all kinds of skin conditions caused by sun exposure (both non-serious and very serious), hyperpigmentation included.
Start Your Routine Early
One trick of the skin care trade is establishing a solid skin care regimen as early as possible and continuing that routine throughout your lifetime. This may involve wearing sunscreen starting at a young age for ultimate sun protection. Additionally, be sure to research what kind of anti-aging products are available for you to start using in order to ensure the even-toned skin of your youth transitions well into your later years.
Set a Routine
Setting in place a skin routine catered to your individual needs can help reduce the risk of breakouts which can cause subsequent areas of hyperpigmentation. If you know you’re oily-skinned and more likely to experience a breakout, or the type that consistently forgoes that sunscreen, form a skin care routine that incorporates both acne-combatting products and SPF into the now to avoid