How to Treat and Prevent Dark Spots

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Do you have dark spots leftover from a bad breakout? Have you noticed dark patches of skin on your face during your pregnancy? Are you bothered by a dark spot that has lasted long after a cut or burn has healed?

If you answered any of these questions in the affirmative, you may have a skin condition known as hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is common among all people, but can be more prevalent in those who have medium and dark skin tones. In fact, it is one of the most common reasons patients visit Dr. Straughn at Buckhead Dermatology in College Park and Atlanta. 

What is hyperpigmentation? 

Hyperpigmentation presents as dark spots or patches on the skin. It is most commonly found on the face, hands and other areas that get frequent exposure to the sun. Due to sun exposure or other underlying triggers, excess melanin develops in the skin. Melanin is the substance that gives skin its color. An increased deposit of melanin results in a darker appearance of the skin in that area. 

Hyperpigmentation can take on many forms, including melasma, age spots, liver spots and sun spots. Luckily, the condition is generally not considered harmful. There are a number of preventative measures and treatments that you can take to eliminate or reduce the appearance of your dark spots. 

What are the causes of hyperpigmentation? 

There are a variety of triggers that can cause hyperpigmentation from environmental factors to hormonal factors. Genetics can also play a part in the development of dark spots. No matter the cause of your hyperpigmentation, the sun will exacerbate the appearance of dark spots. Some of the most common triggers for hyperpigmentation include: 

  • Post-acne spots at the sites of healed pimples
  • Picking skin at the sites of acne or cuts
  • Cuts or burns 
  • Wounds from surgeries 
  • Hormonal changes due to pregnancy 
  • Hormonal changes from taking birth control pills 
  • Medications that cause photo-sensitivity
  • Excess sun exposure can produce or darken freckles, sun spots and age spots
  • Certain skin or hair care products 

What are the treatment options for hyperpigmentation? 

The good news for those suffering from dark spots and patches is that there are effective treatments available using over-the-counter products. Products, paired with certain lifestyle changes, can be very effective in preventing and treating hyperpigmentation. Like any other skincare protocol, consistency is key to getting results. With treatment, dark spots will fade; however, it can take time! You must be consistent and patient in treating hyperpigmentation. 

3 Dark Spot Prevention Tips 

  1. Protect yourself from the sun. The sun is one of the biggest instigators of hyperpigmentation. Be vigilant about wearing a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or greater. Wear sunscreen every day, even cloudy days and days when you aren’t going outside. Wear wide-brimmed hats and other protective clothing when outdoors to cover any exposed skin. 
  2. Avoid overtreating or picking your skin. It is never a good idea to pick your skin. Picking can cause infection, scarring and delay the healing of cuts, burns and pimples. Trauma to the area, including overtreating, can also result in the appearance of dark spots at the site of a wound. Being gentle with your skin can help speed healing and prevent red or dark marks after blemishes heal. 
  3. Check your medications. Some medications, like certain antibiotics, can cause sensitivity to sunlight. Read the warning labels on all of your medications to see if photo-sensitivity is a side effect of your prescription. Even though you should already be wearing sunscreen, knowing that your medication may make you extra sensitive to the sun can help you remember to take extra precautions. 

Treatment Options for Hyperpigmentation 

Skin-lightening products. Both over-the-counter and prescription skin lighteners and brighteners can be effective ways to reduce the appearance of dark spots. Topical products often contain hydroquinone, vitamin C, azelaic acid, kojic acid and retinoids. 

Make sure you choose products that do not contain harmful ingredients such as mercury. Bleach should never be used to treat hyperpigmentation. Whenever choosing a new lightening product, consult with your dermatologist so you can understand all of the side effects and possible interactions. 

Laser treatments and chemical peels. Certain laser treatments and peels can be effective in treating hyperpigmentation when performed by a board-certified dermatologist. However, not all lasers or peels will be appropriate for every type of hyperpigmentation. Some can even make the problem worse. Before scheduling a laser or chemical treatment, consult with your dermatologist so you can discuss your specific skin conditions and discover the underlying causes of your hyperpigmentation.  

Consult with an Atlanta dermatologist for your hyperpigmentation. 

People with darker skin types who want to treat their dark spots and patches should see a dermatologist who specializes in treating skin of color. Dr. Straughn of Buckhead Dermatology in Atlanta and College Park understands hyperpigmentation in darker skin tones.

With over 25 years of experience in treating dark spots and other skin conditions, Dr. Straughn knows that everyone’s skin is different and will suggest the best treatment for your specific skin type and condition. Contact her office today for a consultation