One of the most common misconceptions about discolored skin is that it will fade away by itself and that no treatment, of any kind, is necessary. Some types of pigmentation, like those caused by acne, can eventually lighten up over time (keep in mind this doesn’t happen overnight, but can take a few months, if not longer before you see a difference). But, the majority of discoloration needs to be treated with high-powered active ingredients and in-office treatments to fully eradicate spots on the surface. Not sure what to get done to banish your spots once and for all? We’ve got the answers here.
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During microdermabrasion, the uppermost layer of skin is gently removed to get rid of sunspots, darkness and other types of superficial and minimal discoloration. There are some versions of microdermabrasion, like DermaSweep, that offer a secondary step where specialized anti-pigment ingredients are infused into the skin to further brighten it.
Salicylic acid, glycolic acid and TCA chemical peels are often recommended to banish discoloration. Beverly Hills, CA, dermatologist Zein Obagi, MD, says that chemical peels are powerful at speeding up results and removing deeper pigment. “Their potency can be manipulated to suit the type and depth of pigment.” However, not every skin color is suitable for a peel, and if you have a history of scarring, you may want to find another option.
A popular choice for targeting sun-induced discoloration, IPL involves light-based energy pulsed onto the skin while simultaneously targeting blood vessels. The light seeks out the discoloration in the skin to lift it up and out. Expect for the treated areas to turn dark and flake off in a few days. “We sometimes do an IPL treatment following two laser treatments to really clean up the skin,” says New York dermatologist Patricia Wexler, MD.
The most intense option available, fractional laser resurfacing treatments work wonders at erasing more stubborn pigmentation. Lasers like Fraxel, Halo and Clear + Brilliant, among others, create safe and controlled microinjuries in the skin to stimulate the skin’s natural healing process. As a result, discoloration is diminished as new, fresh skin comes to the surface.
No matter what course of treatment you go with, it’s important to avoid the sun and shield your skin with sunscreen every day. “Choose formulas that protect against high-energy visible rays, as melanocytes are particularly sensitive to these,” says Dr. Obagi.