Your Questions About Skin Discoloration, Answered

April 13, 2020
Claire Rodgers
By: Claire Rodgers | by L'Oréal
Your Questions About Skin Discoloration, Answered

Whether you call it skin discoloration, hyperpigmentation or dark spots, having an uneven complexion is a common skin-care concern for many people. With varying causes such as sun exposure, skin trauma or genetics (just to name a few), it can be challenging to figure out how to get rid of these dark spots. Ahead, our skin-care experts are answering some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding skin discoloration, including what it is, what causes it and what products can help reduce its appearance. 

What Is Skin Discoloration?

If you notice dark spots or patchy discoloration on your complexion when you look in the mirror, it’s likely due to hyperpigmentation. According to board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., “hyperpigmentation is an increase in pigment [melanin] that your skin cells have produced.”

What Causes Skin Discoloration?

The most common factors that cause skin discoloration are genetics, hormones, skin trauma such as a bad breakout or cut, pollution and sun exposure. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), time spent in the sun causes our skin to go into protection mode and increases its melanin production in order to shield itself from the damaging effects of the sun’s harmful UV rays.  

The AAD also states that melasma, a form of skin discoloration that typically appears on areas of skin exposed to sunlight can appear elsewhere on the body as well. While sun exposure is one of the factors related to melasma, other factors like hormonal fluctuations, like during pregnancy, can also be to blame. If your discolored patches are due to melasma, it’s possible they may fade on their own.

Recent studies suggest that there may be a correlation between traffic-related air pollution and dark spots. The research from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that those who were exposed to nitrogen dioxide experienced more dark spots on their cheeks, but those spots were even more evident on the cheeks of women living in urban areas with increased polluted air.

How Can I Identify the Difference Between Freckles and Dark Spots?

Sun spots and freckles can look practically identical, but there are a few things to look for if you want to spot the difference. “Freckles are highly active cells that have an increased production of melanin,” says board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. “When exposed to the sun, [these cells] can darken and fade with age.” Sun spots are also caused from sun exposure, but are usually bigger in size. “After time in the sun, our cells’ melanin production goes into overdrive trying to combat UV/UB damage,” Dr. Engelman adds. “When a cell overproduces melanin, it causes the area to look darker, thus forming a solar lentigo or sun spot.” If you need more help differentiating between spots on your skin, visit to your dermatologist. 

How Can I Prevent Skin Discoloration?

If your discoloration is caused by environmental factors, such as excessive sun exposure or pollution, the best way to prevent it from getting worse is to protect your skin. This includes applying broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher each and every day and pairing it with an antioxidant product that can help neutralize free radicals, like SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. For maximum protection, it’s wise to wear protective clothing, seek shade, and avoid peak sun hours — between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.— when rays are strongest as well.


Products to Help Skin Discoloration

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to address dark spots that have already appeared on the skin, but it’s not impossible. If lasers and chemical peels are out of your budget, you can still turn to topical solutions. Consider some of these options, ahead. 

SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5   
Products with retinol (a derivative of vitamin A) can help reduce the appearance of dark spots on the skin’s surface over time with continued use. Try the SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 cream to promote cellular turnover and improve the appearance of discoloration, fine lines, wrinkles, pores and blemishes. 

Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector 
One of the best ways to help defend your skin against harmful UV rays and other environmental aggressors is to layer products formulated with vitamin C under your SPF. We love the Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector for its potent antioxidant formula that helps address uneven skin tone and fight against signs of skin aging.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Peel Pads
Regular exfoliation of skin’s surface can also help to reduce the look of dark spots, so try adding the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Peel Pads which is made with glycolic acid to gently exfoliate the skin. 

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