Blot out your sun spotsCome back from holiday with blotchy skin Don't panic – you CAN repair the damage
02:28 GMT, 3 September 2012
Magic fades: After the post-holiday glow, almost half of us are left with discoloured skin
We all enjoy that healthy post-holiday glow, but after our tans fade, 43 per cent of us are left with a less welcome reminder of sunnier times: hyperpigmentation — patchy brown spots and discolouration left on the skin.
Although they’re sometimes called age spots, too much sun can leave anyone, of any age, with signs of pigmentation. But fortunately, a number of new skin creams that help brighten the dark blotches have hit beauty counters.
And about time, too. Recent studies have shown that brown age spots and patchy pigmentation play as big a role as wrinkles in making our skin appear older.
Until recently, the most effective
solutions have required a trip to the dermatologist for prescription
skin cream, or a costly course of intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment,
which breaks up the clumps of pigment.
Creams from the beauty counter simply didn’t make much difference. But skincare companies are using new ingredients, and clinical trials have proved them to be effective.
So how does hyperpigmentation happen Unfortunately, it is hard to avoid because the two key triggers are sunlight and hormones.
They make skin cells called melanocytes overproduce the brown pigment melanin and transfer it to cells near the surface, called keratinocytes.
Leading dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams says: ‘Problems only occur in sun-exposed skin, such as the face, hands and forearms — you never see irregular pigmentation on, say, the buttocks.
‘Patchy pigmentation, known as melasma, and age spots can become worse when combined with hormone fluctuations associated with the Pill, being pregnant and the menopause.’
Tackling hyperpigmentation is a three-step process involving slowing the production of melanin, regulating the transfer of pigment to the keratinocytes, and increasing the turnover of skin cells to get rid of the older, pigmented ones.
La Roche Posay Biomedic Pigment Control Serum (27.50, 0800 055 6822)
Contains pigmentation- fighting kojic acid, which fades brown spots
No7 Lift & Luminate Day & Night Serum (24.95, Boots)
A trial found it was similar to hydroquinone cream after two months
NeoStrata Bionic Skin Lightening Cream (32, aestheticsource.com)
Contains hydroquinone at lower concentrations than prescription creams
‘The strongest treatment is hydroquinone, which you need a prescription for because it is so powerful,’ says Dr Williams.
‘Using it for longer than two months can leave skin very irritated. Many of the new creams contain low doses of hydroquinone, as well as a by-product of fermented rice called kojic acid, and arbutin, which is derived from the leaves of cranberry and blueberry shrubs.
‘These natural ingredients are surprisingly effective.’
Whatever cream you choose, make sure you use it scrupulously for months. ‘Pigmentation responds very slowly to treatment, so expect to wait three to six months before significant results,’ says Dr Williams.
‘No treatment can break up the existing pigment in our old skin cells. We can only slow down production of new pigment in the melanocytes and try to accelerate the shedding of existing pigment with our old cells.’
It is also crucial to remember that treated skin will be more sensitive to UV light, so it needs scrupulous protection. Wear SPF30, every day, even in gloomy weather — otherwise the brown spots will return, possibly worse than before, warns Dr Williams.
We’ve looked at three of the best new dark-spot solutions to try (above, left).
Though fairly pricey, they last for months so you do get real value for money.