Monday, October 6, 2008

Sun spots? How to lighten them

Whether you call them sun spots, age spots or liver spots, these unsightly marks are the last thing you want to see covering your shoulders, hands or face! They're most common in adults over 40, but can appear on younger skin too. Not surprisingly, they typically result from long-term sun exposure. Even if you rarely lounge around poolside or spend time at the beach, sun spots can still appear on your body. For instance, spots can form on your hands from driving in the sun.

So, how do sun spots develop? To defend itself against sun exposure, the skin reacts by generating more melanocytes, which produce melanin. When too much melanin is produced, sun spots emerge — commonly appearing on the face, chest, back, shoulders and hands.

The skin-lightening staple: Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is the most effective, well-researched skin lightening ingredient on the market. It works by inhibiting the enzyme, tyrosinase, which synthesizes melanin. Over-the-counter products are made with 0.5 to 2 percent hydroquinone; higher concentrations require a prescription.
Compared with alternatives like lasers and chemical peels, which must be administered in a doctor’s office, hydroquinone is a much more affordable option. Side effects are minor and can include itching and reddened skin.

Recent concerns: On August 29, 2006, the FDA recommended a ban on over-the-counter hydroquinone products, citing safety concerns. Specifically, "some evidence" suggests that hydroquinone poses a carcinogenic risk in animals, according to the National Toxicology Program (NTP), though there’s no evidence of a potential risk in humans. The FDA also cited a link between hydroquinone and ochronosis, a condition that causes the skin to darken and thicken. Many dermatologists strongly disagree with the FDA’s proposal, pointing to hydroquinone's well-established safety and efficacy as a lightening agent. But, if you're concerned, there are alternative treatments available.

Alternative treatments

If you would like to avoid using hydroquinone, you can choose from many plant-based skin lighteners, including kojic acid, bilberry extract, mulberry extract and licorice. Of these, one of the most popular is kojic acid, which is derived from the fungus Aspergillus oryzae. Like hydroquinone, kojic acid also inhibits the production of melanin in the skin, causing dark spots to fade.

Make sure you're using a broad-spectrum sunscreen if you try a topical lightening agent, to prevent the hyperpigmentation from returning. And, lightening takes time; it can take weeks or even months, depending on the individual and the product used.

1 comment:

Beauty said...

Is there any way to prevent sun spots from forming in the first place?