As the good weather returns, so do the risks for your complexion and health: sun spots. They are preventable by using proper protection, and, with the proper treatment, they can be cured.
Freckles, dark spots, chloasma, liver spots. A dozen names for the same blemish: those spots which appear in sun-exposed areas of the face, neck and hands. They are a sign of chronic solar radiation-induced damage, and as such they increase with age, especially in lighter-complected people. Except for chloasmas and melasmas, i.e. spots which affect fertile women and are associated with pregnancy, oral contraceptives or any other hormonal imbalances which make the skin vulnerable to solar damage.
Many patients are convinced the only treatment for these blemishes is laser removal. In reality, sun spots are only the tip of the iceberg of a more generalized solar sensitivity involving both the epidermis and the dermis. Instead for looking for a clear-all solution, one should realize sun spots are in fact a warning sign for how deeply wrong our solar exposure habits are.
First of all, revise your relationship with sunscreen. If you suffer from sun spots, the products you use should also have UVA filters in addition to a high UVB filter. Furthermore, opt for vitamin- (E, F, C) and antioxidant- (glutathione, selenium, polyphenols) enriched formulations: these substances block the havoc wreaked by free radicals. Sunscreen should be used in all seasons (summer and winter) and should be applied in the morning and early afternoon on sun-exposed skin.
Regarding the treatment of sun spots, one should consider the following: 1) depigmenting cosmetic ingredients aren’t effective enough to bleach the most evident of spots; they are still useful from a preventive or coadjutant point of view; 2) the pharmacological treatment of sun spots consists of using topically applied active ingredients, better still in association, usually in the same galenic formulation (i.e. prepared by the pharmacist from a dermatologist’s recipe). The same formula usually contains at least two active ingredients, whose relative concentrations can vary based on the characteristics of the spot and the patient’s skin type; 3) chemical depigmenting peeling should be performed by a specialist, if necessary in combination with cryotherapy; 4) laser removal (some of the most suitable for the treatment of sun spots are: diode laser, Q-switched ruby, Q-switched alexandrite, Erbium Yag) should be a last-resort treatment, and should carefully consider the patient’s skin type: both efficacy and side effects (hyperpigmentation and a worsening of the spots, even months after the treatment) depend on it.
The treatment of sun spots has different degrees of intervention: it starts with using sunscreen and depigmenting cosmetic products, then pharmacological treatment at home, which to be honest requires dedication and continuity. When patients don’t respond to topical pharmacological treatment, the next step is chemical peeling, alone or in combination with topical therapy. Only particularly resistant spots and selected patients need laser treatment.
After all this, the remission phase of the spots needs to be maintained: a combination of solar protection, topical pharmacological and/or cosmetic treatments, diet supplements and proper lifestyle should keep those pesky spots at bay.
Article of Dr Adele Sparavigna for https://4me.styl