Changes in skin color, called melasma, is the result of increased melanin production or hyperpigmentation on localized patches of the skin, especially on the face. Find out what causes skin discoloration and how you can battle those brown spots.
2 Main Causes of Brown Spots
Sun Damage. Unprotected sun exposure can cause areas of skin discoloration. These discolored patches have many names: from solar lentigenes, freckles, sun spots, age spots to liver spots, but they basically mean the same thing.
Sun spots appear as small brown patches of freckles on fairer skins. For darker skins, they emerge as small patches of ashen-grey discoloration.
Hormones. Patches of skin discoloration can also be caused by birth control pills, pregnancy or estrogen replacement therapy. These are known as hormone masking or pregnancy masking.
What Are Those Brown Spots?
Freckles are small brown spots scattered mainly across the cheeks and are common in fair-skinned Asians who sunburn easily.
Liver Spots are caused by over-exposure to the sun and are larger and darker than freckles, often with irregular edges.
Melasma are light to dark brown blotches of pigmentation that commonly develop slowly over the forehead and cheeks. Melasma may be caused by hormone changes.
Fading Brown Spots
Lightening Products. Hyperpigmentation, especially freckles and brown spots can be effectively treated with over-the-counter skin-lightening and/or exfoliating products such as 1-2% hydroquinone, AHAs, BHAs and kojic acid. This works best for superficial discoloration that occurs in the epidermis.
Exfoliate. For superficial skin discoloration, exfoliating with AHAs and BHAs also help remove the built-up layers of melanin by increasing the turnover of cells.
Resurfacing Procedures. For discolored pigment that lies deep in the dermis, topical agents usually do not work well. Laser resurfacing procedures and chemical peels can improve the condition, but results vary from person to person. There is also a risk of worsening of the discoloration for darker individuals.
Don't Forget Sunblock!
While you're treating brown spots, don't forget your sunblock. Your lightening creams may be fading your existing brown spots, but remember to use sunblock to prevent new ones from emerging.