Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Treatments for Pigmentation on the Face

Dark spots or patches on your skin are often associated with getting older--they're even called age spots--but their real cause is too much sun exposure. Over time, your skin produces pigment to protect itself against skin damage, says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in Cambridge, Mass., in Good Housekeeping magazine. It's always a good idea to have a dermatologist check out any large or unusually shaped dark spots to rule out the possibility of skin cancer.


Hydroquinone is the most effective self-treatment for dark spots on your face, Amy Wechsler, M.D., assistant clinical professor in dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City, tells Allure magazine. Hydroquinone--which is available over the counter as well as in prescription-strength versions--bleaches your skin by interfering with your body's ability to produce melanin. For best results, Wechsler recommends combining hydroquinone treatments with retinol or alpha hydroxy acid treatment, since retinol and alpha hydroxy acids can speed up the process of shedding skin cells and even out skin tone. Expect hydroquinone to take four to eight weeks to completely lighten dark spots, and be vigilant about wearing sunscreen after treatments or your dark spots are likely to reappear.

Laser Therapy

For stubborn dark spots, O, The Oprah Magazine recommends asking your dermatologist about laser treatments with a Q-switched ruby laser. The laser breaks up the pigment, creating a scab that will fall off after about a week, leaving clear skin behind. The number of treatments you'll need and the cost depends on how many dark spots you have and how severe they are, but O, The Oprah Magazine says many hyperpigmentation issues respond well with just one treatment and estimates that an average session will cost between $300 and $700.

Chemical Peels

Glycolic acid and salicylic acid peels gently erode the top layer of skin, making discoloration less noticeable, says Jeanine Downie, M.D., a dermatologist in Montclair, New Jersey, in "Elle" magazine. Peels may be a good option if you have uneven skin texture or acne in addition to pigmentation issues, since they can address all three of these skin problems. For best results, Downie recommends combining in-office peel sessions with milder at-home peels.

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