Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Freckle-Free (How to be!)

A smattering of freckles can be cute, but for those of us who had to suffer "connect the dots" jokes, or developed these spots later in life, freckles often feel more obnoxious than adorable. But fear not! There’s a plethora of products and skin care procedures for removing those spots.

Freckles are just a high concentration of melanin in small areas of the skin, caused by genetics or sun exposure. No matter how you got those freckles, treatment options are pretty much the same. Natural options like lemon juice have been used for years, probably centuries, but there hasn't been enough research to prove whether these actually work.

Certain over-the-counter products can fade facial spots. Products like alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids work by exfoliating the top layer of skin, which removes the darker, more pigmented layers. Bleaching creams like hydroquinone are also helpful, but you have to be careful not to bleach surrounding skin.

Doctor-performed peels can smooth and firm your skin while gradually lightening freckles. The more superficial peels have almost no recovery time or side-effects, but deeper peels offer more dramatic results.

Laser resurfacing removes the outer layer of skin very effectively, but can cause some pain, redness and peeling. Its also quite pricey, and can be between $1,000 and $5,000.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL) uses intense, broadband light to treat the skin. Unlike with lasers, the outer layer (epidermis) of skin is unharmed, so there’s little to no recovery time or side effects. But treating freckles with IPL may take several treatments, while laser resurfacing can zap those spots in one fell swoop.

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