This is THE #1 skin concern that our clients have - and it might be yours too. Millions of us that were born before the age of sunscreen (or before when the use of it became more popular) are seeing sun damage show up on our skin. Myself included as a child of the early 80's. In my teens, the "in" thing was SUPER tanned skin, so my friends and I would spend summers baking our flesh at any lake we could find, and in winters we were in tanning beds. As an Esthetician now, this makes me cringe knowing how much life-long damage I was really doing (Mom, you were right to warn me!). Now I spend my days in the treatment room trying to repent my past sun-sins by educating my skincare clients on the joys and benefits of daily sunscreen use. Welcome to my Ted Talk...
OK, now that we've chastised ourselves for not wearing sunscreen, let's move on to understanding WHY brown spots form, and what we can do NOW to remedy these signs of ultraviolet damage we see in our skin (or are about to see, if you are approaching age 30).
Why does sun exposure result in brown spots?
Simply put, the sun's powerful ultraviolet rays penetrate deep enough into our skin that it stimulates our melanin-producing cells (Melanocytes) to create bursts of darker-pigmented melanin. This is what we call a tan, but it's actually our skin's defense mechanism against UV damage. The darker your skin, the more it can absorb UV light and therefore save your deeper layers of skin from burning. When we are young, this mechanism works perfectly and those melanin-producing cells evenly distribute the darker pigment for an even tan. But like anything, these cells wear out and get damaged through this process. The more often you force your skin to produce a tan to protect you, the more likely that they will default in the future. Just like using your car's brakes over time will cause them to wear out. Unfortunately, though there's no replacing our melanocytes. Once they are damaged, they will never work the same again. The result is that they start spurting or overproducing melanin in an uneven pattern in some areas (hyperpigmentation) - usually in the areas of the most cumulative sun exposure.... nose, forehead, cheeks, chest, arms, legs, shoulders... and in some cases, they stop working altogether and result in little white dots on the skin (hypopigmentation). Why now? Age. The older we get, the less well our cells replace themselves with perfect replicas. Just like how your old high school volleyball knee injury is now presenting itself again. Our bodies essentially rust as we age and damage of the past often becomes damage of the now.
How do I "fix" my brown spots?
Babes, I'm here to tell you, you're about to embark on a long, steady, but achievable process. I'm willing to bet your brown spots did not appear overnight. They became slowly apparent over YEARS, right? So the damage mitigation is going to take time too. Months. Even over a year for some. Why so long? Because the path to lightening those dark spots includes training those pesky melanin-producing cells to NOT overproduce anymore, and these cells are like 2-year olds and husbands - they don't like to listen.
This is a multi-step process, and we attack the issue with 5 approaches:
1) Exfoliate existing dark spots.
Using AHA's (alpha-hydroxy-acids), enzymes, and/or mechanical exfoliation (gentle scrubs, microdermabrasion, or dermaplaning for example) will help to polish away existing visible pigment on the surface of the skin = Instant gratification!
2) Interrupt the enzyme transfer process that stimulates the melanin production.
This one takes time. Using professional skincare products (no, you will not see results from drugstore brands, you need the big guns) that contain ingredients that inhibit tyrosinase (the enzyme that stimulates the melanin). This will s-l-o-w-l-y decrease the amount of dark pigment you see on the surface of your skin. I say slowly, because it does not shut off the melanin hydrant, but it decreases the flow. What are these magic ingredients? There are some lab-created and some botanical substances. I personally am one for the best of both worlds - science + nature for the win! 🙌 Look for things like licorice extract, lactic acid, vitamin C in all of its forms, mandelic acid, bearberry, SymWhite, Rumex Occidentalis extract, Alpha-Arbutin, and ChromaBright among others.
3) Brighten existing spots.
Essentially, we try to bleach (in a natural way) the existing dark spots. This is where spot-treatment serums come in handy. They help to brighten & lighten existing pigmented areas.
4) Stimulate the production of fresh, new cells to replace the pigmented ones.
This may cause your spots to look worse before they look better. Hang with me on this one... Imagine an oil spill on the ground. We know the oil probably goes down beyond what we are seeing on the surface of the ground, right? We would have to dig under the stained area that we see in order to get to clean dirt. Since cells form in the lowest layers of skin and push themselves up toward the surface of our skin, stimulating new cells that form under the melanin (or oil spill in this example) will initially make the ground look darker as it unearths everything that was there. But over time, it's pushing it all out the only way it can go out, which is up to the surface. But after all that underground melanin is purged, your skin will look brighter! Patience is key.
The best product for this is a Retinol product. Retinols need to be used every 2-3 nights at first - if your skin shows signs of irritation then decrease the frequency of use until your skin builds up its tolerance. Once your skin acclimates to the retinol ingredient, then you can increase usage.
5) Wear sunscreen daily.
I don't want to hear any excuses like it's cloudy outside, or it's winter, or I'm only inside all day today. Unless you're in a window-less room, there's UV radiation hitting your skin. The key is finding a sunscreen product that you enjoy wearing & putting on every morning. We carry TIZO brand mineral sunscreens. They feel wonderfully light on the skin, and come in lightly tinted, more tinted, or un-tinted. All are SPF 40, which provides great protection.
When you stick to a daily professional skincare regimen, get monthly facial treatments, and wear your sunscreen diligently, you're going to see results. But GIVE IT TIME & don't give up! We'd love to see you for a consult or your first facial with us.
Book online (choose skincare consultation or the 60-minute Signature Reverie Facial) or give us a call or text: 970-235-2022.
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If you ever notice changes in your skin that are NEW, CHANGING, or UNUSUAL, get checked by a Dermatologist immediately. It could be skin cancer. Get it checked because it's always better to be safe than sorry & if caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable!
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