Anyone with sun spots (also known as hyperpigmentation) knows how difficult it can be to effectively treat this common skin issue. Constant exposure to sun, even through car windows and in cold months, can make the problem even more difficult as even a little exposure to sun can reverse much of the efforts made to remove unwanted pigmentation. When treating a patient with sun damage, first and foremost, I recommend sun screen. When I say I recommend sun screen, I don’t mean I recommend patients only use it in the warm months or when they are outside; I mean they are to use it religiously, every single day, making it a primary step in their daily routines. This is important not only to help protect against the accumulation of more sun spots, but also to safe guard their skin from UV radiation which is aging and potentially cancer causing. If the cancer part didn’t scare you enough, remember that sun is the biggest extrinsic aging factor! If you want to prevent premature aging, sun screen is an absolute must. I keep a big bottle in the shower and apply it over moisturizer (or instead of moisturizer in the summer). I also keep a bottle in my purse for reapplication throughout the day.
Once a patient has become diligent with their sun screen routine, we talk about treatment options to help get rid of past sun damage. First, I recommend products to use at home to help fade unwanted pigmentation. A product with lightening ingredients is a must. Unless a patient is contraindicated, I have them start on a product containing hydroquinone, which is the strongest lightening ingredient available in medical grade skincare. Patients should plan to use this twice a day for about three months. After three months, I normally have patients switch to a different lightening product without hydroquinone to give their skin a break as hydroquinone can be quite strong. I also have patients use a Vitamin C product in the morning prior to sun screen application. Vitamin C can help lighten and brighten skin and is a powerful antioxidant that protects against free radical damage. It is an added layer of protection against UV and other harmful free radicals in the environment. I further recommend patients use products containing tretinoin or retinol (both Vitamin A-derivatives) at night to help the hydroquinone penetrate better and to help correct past sun damage. Vitamin A is a must for anti-aging!
Recently, I have seen incredible results with patients using at home products and doing light treatments and chemical peels. At home products are a must for maintaining results, but for patients with moderate to severe sun damage, light therapy and peels are needed to effectively reduce sun spots. A patient of mine recently did a series of IPL (Intense Pulse Light or “Photofacial”) treatments on her face for sun damage. We were both amazed at how much the pigmentation faded after just a few treatments. We then changed up her regimen slightly by adding in a chemical peel designed to further lighten pigment. After the IPL treatment, she waited about 4 weeks until the pigment was almost done fading from the light treatment. We then did the peel to help fade the remaining epidermal pigmentation (pigment on the surface of the skin) and the results were remarkable. I now recommend this regimen for all my patients with moderate to severe sun damage. The IPL treatment was able to attack damage on a deep dermal level and the peel helped finish the job by fading away epidermal pigmenation.
In the past, single modalities were used to treat sun damage and the results were minimal. We have learned that only treating sun damage from a single angle like bleaching agents or light treatments alone isn’t always enough. Thankfully, technology is so advanced now that we have the capability to use anti-aging equipment, medical grade products and chemical peels together to deliver superior results. If you are struggling with unwanted sun damage, consult with the experts at Kalos Facial Plastic Surgery to customize a regimen that will allow you to put your best face forward.
Post provided by Bonny Domoto, L.E.