I recently received an email from a reader, bemoaning the brown spots on her face, asking my advice on ways to treat them.
“Aside from wrinkles and dry skin, I’m now finding these brown spots popping up on my cheeks and forehead. It seems that every time I look in the mirror, there’s a new one. Any advice is welcome!”
Aside from doing a lot of health-related research, I do my fair share of beauty research, both online and on myself.
I reached out to NYC dermatologist, Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of the book, Skin Rules. Here’s some info from her expert medical perspective:
The Story. People who have taken a lot of sun without sunscreen are most prone to brown spots, especially those with lighter skin tones. They’re caused by damage to the skin from the sun and the melanin collecting in the skin in a non-uniform fashion.
The Details. Medically, we call brown spots lentigos…but others call them sunspots. Brown spots increase with age because as we age, all of our sun damage comes out from all our many years of sun exposure.
(If you’re guilty and you know it, raise your hand…)
Ammunition. The best prevention is to wear an SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen every single day of your life, rain or shine (Italics mine... a lesson I wish I’d taken to heart many years back!) I prefer one with a high concentration of zinc oxide. You can treat them with hydroquinone, azelaic acid or even retinol. Try Obagi Sun Shield Broad Spectrum Matte.
Splendiferous. Probably the most effective way to treat brown spots is with a laser. The process of laser skin resurfacing has proved effective in dealing with skin texture, tone and coloration without the need for any invasive procedures.
Going, going, gone. If you have just a few spots, you can use a spot laser like Accutip. Each spot could take one to two treatments.
If you have a lot of spots you may have to use a Fraxel and resurface the whole area. It will take one treatment.
If you don’t want the downtime you can gradually get rid of brown spots with an IPL, which could take anywhere from one to three treatments done four weeks apart. The IPL will initially darken all of your brown spots, but then over the course of a week, they’ll eventually peel off.
Recently, I visited the offices of NYC dermatologist Dr. Jody Levine to experience a laser treatment called Picosure, which she described as “like Fraxel, but without the downtime.” First developed and FDA-cleared for the removal of tattoos (for those suffering from tattoo regret, I suppose) and hyperpigmentation, Picosure, which can also treat wrinkles and acne scars, uses ultra-short pulses of energy to enable changes within the dermis, and is safe and gentle. “It’s not the heat that’s producing the skin’s reaction, it’s the speed at which it’s delivered,” according to Dr. Levine. My take: It was totally comfortable (a numbing cream was applied first, but some people do it without being numbed first, Dr. Levine told me). One treatment is not enough (which I was told in advance), so I wasn’t disappointed when I noticed a slight improvement in my brown spots after about two weeks. To achieve the full effect, I plan on doing a few more sessions with Picosure.
Stay tuned for another beauty post all about how to hide or minimize those brown spots with some over-the-counter cosmetics & treatments.
Do you wonder about beauty treatments? Have a question about cosmetics? Curious about certain procedures? Let me know…I can do the sleuthing for you!