Here’s what you can do about sun-related skin discoloration

I put on sunscreen every morning, but a few weeks ago I put on sunscreen and tried a new indoor/outdoor workout class. Needless to say my SPF had melted away by the end of the hour. I also washed my face after the workout so any last drop was likely washed away. I then went for a late breakfast with two friends from the class and we sat outside. I didn’t think anything of it because it was only around 65 degrees – actually I was cold! The sun can be deceptive however and I got a bad burn – and a brown spot on my face. I flipped, as could be expected and immediately sought the help of celebrity dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross (his clients include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Olivia Palermo). What could I do!? I literally was close to tears…

Because I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found themselves in this situation, I wanted to share Dr. Gross’ fantastic insight.

Why does the sun cause brown spots? Sunspots form as a result of excess pigmentation due to too much ultra violet light.  They are also often called age spots, solar lentigines or liver spots. They are triggered after prolonged exposure to the sun. When sun’s UV rays hit the skin, they damage the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes and causing a spike in production of the skin pigment called melanin.

What can you do once you have them? My studies have concluded that a gentle combination of Alpha and Beta hydroxy acids, such as those found in Alpha Beta Peels ($16) can effectively fade both sunspots and hyper pigmentation as a result of sun damage. We commonly treat these brown spots with chemical peels to exfoliate the outermost layer of skin and remove the dark spots, light therapy and lasers, which emit energy to blast away pigment.  Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant and when applied topically in a product such C+Collagen Brighten & Firm Serum ($78), it can be extremely effective in fading those unsightly spots and blocks production of more pigment in the existing sun spot.

Is there a danger in having sun/ago spot removed and what is process?  For those getting laser treatments and peels, and/or using bleaching products, it is HIGHLY important to use an SPF daily.  All of these therapies make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.  I would recommend an SPF 30 or higher, applied in the morning, and 30 minutes prior to any sun exposure.

They say it can only take one ‘bad burn’ to have long term damage. Can you explain? One bad burn can cause injury to skin’s DNA, that will then cause damage in every future generation of skin cells.

Is there any danger that this discoloration is a sign of something more serious? Immediately alert your doctor of any spot that suddenly grows, especially if its changes in size, color or shape. Look out for the A, B, C, and D’s.

A= Asymmetry

B= Borders that are jagged

C= Color- If it is changing more than one

D= Diameter- if it is greater than a pencil eraser

Should treat brown spots on your body differently than on your face?  When it comes to OTC treatments, no, however when it comes to in-office treatments, the body could need stronger laser settings because the skin on the body is thicker than the face.

How long do you need to use OTC products to potentially see an improvement? It all depends on the severity, but you want to give a product typically 3-4 weeks to see improvement. To fade sun spots and hyper-pigmentation, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and when applied topically in a product such as the C+Collagen Vitamin C Serum, it can be extremely effective in fading those unsightly spots caused by UV damage. Also, chemical exfoliation with gentle alpha and beta hydroxy acids will help to fade sun spots and discoloration found in my Alpha Beta Peels ($16).

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