Spots, spots, spots!
( Green words link to other articles or medical journal articles-hover cursor, then Ctrl click to go there)Brown spots, or hyperpigmentation, increase with age and with increased sun exposure. These spots are clusters of melanin, and the clusters are caused by overproduction of melanin due to prolonged sun exposure, irritation of the skin, and due to age.
The skin pigment melanin is formed by melanocytes. (This is a medical journal link...don't click if you don't care about the scientific definition!) Melanocytes live on the bottom of our top skin layer, and they produce melanin when triggered by either UV light or other inflammation, e.g. post-inflammatory pigmentation seen from acne break-outs.
Overproduction of melanin can cause it to form into groups...those darn spots! (Some appear as white spots, others as dark spots...aging, sun damaged skin usually presents with both types of spots).
As we age, the melanocytes need to work even harder to produce melanin to keep our skin protected from insults of UV light and other irritations. Overproduction of pigmentation is not uniform, so we end up with white spots and dark spots.
Melanin has good intentions...it is why we get tan-protecting our skin from excessive UV damage by putting on a protective coating. We see our tans fade as our sun exposure decreases after summer...this is because our skin is always turning over (although more slowly as we age).
Unfortunately, some of the melanin goes deeper into our skin, and these are the persistent age spots that we want to get rid of. But, their depth is the reason they are so difficult to get rid of.
The easiest and most effective way to avoid age spots is to prevent them. Avoid the trigger and dangers (skin cancer- this is a great link for accurate information) caused by UV light: wear a hat, sunglasses, and always wear sunscreen (re-application every 1.5 hrs is necessary if you are actually out in the sun, seek shade (although UVA-the aging rays will still get you there and through windows). Also, avoid sources of skin irritation improperly formulated cleansers, fragrance, and other irritating ingredients in skincare and makeup products.
To control or eliminate age spots, control the production of melanin and/or the transfer of melanin to normal skin cells: (Links to product pages describing their melanin calming products)
- Utilize only non-inflammatory skin care products and make-up. (No perfumes, irritating ingredients). Image foundation is non-inflammatory.
- Utilize products that are specifically designed to keep the skin healthy and calm. (e.g. all PCA products but caution: only some dermalogica, Murad, Image, Elta)
- Employ serums that target the melanocytes to keep them calm! Although these are commonly referred to as 'skin lighteners or bleaches', they don't do either of those things! They tell the melanin-producing layer of the skin to calm down, and only produce the necessary pigment to protect our bodies. They are not 'spot specific'. They will not over-lighten areas of the skin because they are not bleaches!
- Increase the rate of cell turn-over. Peels, more frequent professional skin treatments, products that promote faster cell turnover and healthier cell production (e.g. topically applied: vitamin A -retinols or retin A, niacinamide, vitamin C). The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends TCA peels (which I perform from PCA) as one of ways to treat Actinic Keratoses .