Any treatments meant to lighten dark spots must penetrate base of the epidermal layer of the skin. The following treatment options are commonly used.
1. Topical creams
Medications and prescription lightening creams that contains hydroquinone or kojic acid (pigment bleaching agents) with retinoids (tretinoin) and a mild steroid, tyrosinase (the enzyme responsible for melanin formation) inhibitor and a lightening agent may gradually fade the spots over several months. The treatments may result in temporary itching, redness, burning or dryness. (SPF) of at least 30 is essential with medication treatments.
2. Thermal treatments
FotoFacial or IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment targets melanin to destroy or breakup the spots without damage to the skin's surface. Treatments typically require two to three sessions. After treatment, within days, the spots appear like coffee ground speckles that flake off and gradually fade over several weeks or months.
Freezing, or cryotherapy injures the cells in the age spots by freezing them. Liquid nitrogen or another freezing agent destroys the extra pigment. Freezing is typically used on a single brown spot or a small grouping of spots. The treatment may cause skin irritation, permanent darkening of an age spot (PIH), lightening of the skin around the age spot, or a scar.
3. Chemical peels
Chemical peel removes the outer layer of your skin so new skin can grow in its place. A chemical peel involves applying an acid, which essentially burns the outer layer of skin, to the age spots. Temporary redness is likely, and there's a slight risk of permanent changes in skin color.
Microdermabrasion smoothes off the outer layers of the skin by the exfoliating action of inert crystals so new skin can grow in its place. Spots are smoothed away. This treatment may result in mild redness that will likely disappear in a few
hours and flaky skin for 3 or 4 days. This can be quite effective spot removal treatment, especially when done in conjunction with a chemical peel.
Non- ablative Laser Spot Removals. Pigments (melanocytes) are broken up by the laser without damaging the skin’s surface and set free into the body’s lymphatic system to be eliminated. The treated area will darken, may even look a little bruised in color, may form a crust that lasts for a few days and fades over the next several weeks. There is little to no recovery/down time. Several treatments are recommended.
Laser resurfacing, is an aggressive approach that removes sun-damaged cells, freshens skin and fades spots. Ablative lasers remove the outer-most layer of skin, making way for new skin to grow back. There is a considerable amount of recovery time and healing. One or two treatments can treat dark spots quickly.
A case for them all
To help avoid the reappearance of dark spots and the formation of new spots after treatment, follow these tips for limiting your sun exposure:
- Avoid the sun when the sun's rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that provides protection from both UVA and UVB light. Apply fifteen to 30 minutes before going outdoors, frequently and generously.
- Cover up. Wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs and a broad-brimmed hat. Consider wearing clothing designed to provide sun protection. Look for clothes labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40 to 50 to get the best protection.
- Never use tanning beds.
The most effective way to brighten your dark spots is to first seek the consultation of a skin care expert.