What’s the best way to deal with brown patches?

Darkened areas  on the cheeks, dark circles under the eyes, age spots, and  hyperpigmentation  are all basically  the same problem– excess melanin production in the skin.  It  can happen at any age, but as  we grow older  it becomes more of a problem.  While we often focus on lines and wrinkles as signs of aging, clearing  brown spots and splotches  can erase years from your skin. 

While there seems to be a boatload of options, there are basically two different approaches:

1.  Products that inhibit the skin cells from producting melanin.

2.  Procedures that actually remove darkened skin.

One of the  most powerful tools against hyperpigmentation  has been hydroquinone, but  many doctors use it cautiously.   There were reports of increased pigmentation and  allergic reactions  with hydroquinone and  but according to Dr Wendy Roberts  these problems were often due to contamination of hydroquinone products. Doctors found that it was the addtion of mercury to the hydroquinone in unregulated products from Asia and Mexico that was causing the problems.  Mercury is banned in the United States and is never part of skin lightening products made in the US. 

If you still feel uncomfortable about hydroquinone,   there is a  buffet  of new ingredients including azaleic acid, licorice and vitamin C  that have been demonstarted  some ability to remove pigmentation, but not as effectively as  hydroquinone.  However when the two or even three  are combined they can work better than when  used separately and  with  lower risk of side effects.

Lasers of different sorts  have been used to treat hyperpigmentation and  one of the best new  is intermitment  pulsed light or IPL.  This type of light literally explodes freckles and without affecting  normal  skin color.  Dr  Marmur treated my BFF Judith with IPL and the before and after pix  are impressive.

Often the best treatment plan is a combination of therapies.  A camera shy friend,  used IPL to remove post pregnancy  dark  patches near  her hairline and  made sure they stayed away with  a vitamin C  serum at night  to discourage melanin production.  I used a YAG lser  for my bigger lumpy sun spots,  nightly treatment with Retin A to gradually fade small freckles and IPL to even off  skin  color.   You can seem my results in the photo album on my facebook pages.  Just  click the Facebook button.

Curent wisdom seems to be that  there is no one single silver  bullet for unwanted pigmentation.  Best results usually  occur  when  different  products and tools are used in combintion.  And remember, whatever  you do, you must be diligent  using sunscreen every day.  Even a single sunny day can provoke their return.  I know this the hard way.

5 thoughts on “What’s the best way to deal with brown patches?

  1. Just when I’m feeling so depressed with my brown spots you have given me hope. Can you recommend a vitamin C serum and a hydroquinone-free product?

    • Oh please don’t be discouraged. I am working my way through new products which seem to be based on good science. Have you tried Retin A Micro. Its only available by prescription, but it made a huge difference in my brown spots and helped to keep them away. I will be doing frequent posts on dark spots and we’ll find the right one for you.

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