Sun Spot Removal

Written by Sarah Provost
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Sun spots, or lentigines, are a primary cause of older-looking skin. Fortunately, there have been several techniques of sun spot removal developed recently, most of which are far more effective than your grandmother's use of buttermilk. Sun spots, as their name implies, are a result of exposure to UV rays. Unlike freckles, which can appear even in children after brief sun exposure, lentigines appear in later years as a result of cumulative lifelong exposure.

Sun spots are superficial concentrations of the skin pigment melanin. The first thing you should do when you notice sun spots appearing is start using a good sunscreen--which you should have been doing all along. Prevention is easier than getting rid of them after they appear, but there are methods of sun spot removal that can help.

Sun Spot Removal Techniques

Hyperpigmented sun spots are treated in one of two ways, either by destruction of the superficial layers of the skin or by bleaching. Repeated treatments of microdermabrasion, in which the skin is "sanded" with tiny mineral crystals, can lighten spots and eventually remove them. Chemical peels can have the same effect, but in darker-skinned people, they may leave a white spot that is equally unattractive. Lasers can selectively remove the pigment without damage to the surrounding skin, and are thus less likely to cause scarring than electric needles or freezing.

Bleaching creams are the other mode of sun spot removal. Some, such as hydroquinone, are actual bleaches, and best used for people with fair skin. Alpha-hydroxy creams are also commonly used, but these are not, strictly speaking, bleaching agents. Instead, they act like a very mild chemical peel, gradually exfoliating the affected skin.

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