They go by many names - age spots, sun spots, liver spots or oversized freckles. Whatever you call them, brown blotchy patches on the face, hands and décolleté are a common skincare complaint - especially among sun-doused Arizonians.
Experts blame brown spots on everything from birth control pills to those summer vacations spent sprawled under the sun's damaging rays. And once these clusters of melanin known as hyperpigmentation make an appearance, they stay like unwanted house guests. But there is hope. Med spa and dermatology office treatments like chemicals peels, microdermabrasion and IPL photorejuvenation are one route or gentle at-home regimens
First, a caveat. Most of the spots we see on our hands and face are attributable to sun exposure but some forms of skin discoloration are the skin's response to fluctuating hormones or possibly more serious skin conditions. If you have any doubts, visit a dermatologist or skincare professional to identify the cause of the discoloration before self-treating.
Over-the-counter products that treat dark spots:
Proactiv Dark Spot Corrector - New from the labs of Proactiv, this pigment correcting product contains vitamins A, C and E and 2% hydroquinone to help to fade discoloration caused by sun damage, hormones and acne trauma. $22 at discoverproactiv.com
Specific Beauty Brightening Serum - Designed for multi-hued skin tones, this paraben and fragrance-free serum treats dark spots and uneven skin tone with a complex of licorice, anti-oxidants, retinol and niacinimide. $24.99 at Walmart, specificbeauty.com and drugstore.com
Sadick Dermatology Group PM Rejuvenation Cream - From the renowned Park Avenue dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick, this hydroquinone-free night treatment relies on a proprietary complex of kojic acid and licorice root extract to diminish redness and dark spots and improve overall skin tone. $38 at sephora.com
Olay Pro-X Discoloration Fighting Concentrate - A daily spot treatment that gradually fades the appearance of overactive pigmentation while keeping the area hydrated. $47 at most drug and mass market retailers and ulta.com
SkinCeuticals Pigment Regulator - Providing an alternative to hydroquinone in the form of kojic acid and emblica fruit extract, this targeted corrective serum prevents melanin deposits from reaching the surface and breaks up melanin clusters on surface skin to diminish existing discoloration. $85 at skinceuticals.com
Darphin Melaperfect - A patented technology that calls on mushroom extract and other botanicals to micronize melanin masses and keeps future spots from appearing. A clinical study found that after applying twice a day, dark spots were visibly reduced by up to 50% after 8 weeks of treatment. $95 at select spas and darphin.com
June Jacobs Radiant Refining Brightening Masque - An at-home spa indulgence with purpose, this paraben and preservative-free mask contains a brightening complex of bearberry, mulberry, licorice and lemon peel extracts to balance overall skin tone and combat the visible signs of premature aging. $62 at select spas and junejacobs.com
Always, always (always!) liberally apply a day cream with sun protection when using pigmentation correcting products. Try L'Oreal's new Youth Code SPF 30 Day Lotion, an oil-free, anti-aging moisturizer with broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. $24.99 at most drug and mass market retailers and lorealparis.com
Over-the-counter treatments for sun spots work gently and over an extended duration of time. Follow the package directions diligently and don't expect practice patience.