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Dark spots—why do they appear, and can it ever fade? Or is it too late? Now you won’t be in the dark for long as all your questions about dark spots are answered below!

How do dark spots appear?

First things first, it’s no secret that the sun helps us, but too much of it also harms us, and that shows on our skin. Dark spots appear because of melanin.

Melanin is the pigment-creating cells that are responsible for your skin color and your susceptibility to dark spots. Melanin acts as a shield that, once your skin is hit by the sun’s UV rays, protects other healthy cells by absorbing those rays. The sun’s rays can be classified as UVA, UVB, or UVC. UVC does not reach the earth’s surface. UVB is what causes our skin to burn and react quickly. UVA can penetrate deeper into our skin and cause dark spots and premature aging later on.

Are all spots the same?

No. Dark spots vary in size and appearance. Age spots are also called sun spots, senile lentigo, solar lentigines, or liver spots. These are flat and may come in different shades of brown, tan, or black. It can develop on the face, hands, shoulders, arms, or back. It also varies in size. Freckles, on the other hand, are smaller in size than age spots, and are triggered by sun exposure. This is why some freckles appear in the summer and fade in the colder months. It is also more common among fairer-skinned individuals compared to darker-skinned ones who produce a tan. They also show up on sun-exposed areas such as the face, shoulders, chest or decolletage, and the back. The differences between age spots and freckles are their size, as age spots group together to form bigger patches, and when it appears, as freckles fade over time, while age spots show as one gets older. Another type of dark spots is melasma that is caused by hormonal changes such as pregnancy, sun exposure, genetics, taking certain medications, or having a health condition such as thyroid problems. While melasma is more common among darker-skinned individuals, it may also appear on other skin types.

How do we keep ourselves protected from dark spots?

The best way to keep your skin free from dark spots is to protect yourself from the sun. Applying sunscreen every two to three hours daily is essential, regardless if you stay indoors or go outdoors. Avoiding the sun at its peak, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., is also important, and wearing UV-protective clothing and eyewear, hats, long-sleeved shirts, and umbrellas also help.

Help! I already have dark spots. What skin care products should I use?

Before trying anything, consult with a dermatologist immediately. Only a professional can determine what kind of spots you have, as well as the best treatment for your skin. Since these are benign most of the time, it does not necessarily have to be removed. If you decide to do so for cosmetic reasons, your doctor may prescribe the following:

• A change in your skin regimen, such as adding topical vitamin C that can lighten the spots and brighten your skin. Vitamin C is a tyrosinase inhibitor that means it can stop the enzyme tyrosinase from producing melanin, thereby lightening the skin. Other products that can inhibit melanin production include arbutin, Kojic acid, and hydroquinone, among others.

• Chemical peels and lasers may also be recommended by your doctor, depending on the location of the spots. Note that treatments differ for the face and body. Chemical peels lighten the spots by shedding the outer layer of the skin to reveal new skin underneath. Lasers, on the other hand, use energy to target the affected areas until the spots fade. Several sessions may be needed for both chemical peels and lasers to achieve the desired results.

Should I be scared of dark spots?

Yes and no. All of these dark spots usually do not pose a health risk. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, however, may be harder to detect if you have any of these spots. To determine whether it is cancerous or not, your doctor may perform a visual examination or, in other cases, a skin biopsy, wherein a small patch of skin is removed and tested in a laboratory. This is why any changes in your skin must be checked immediately. Observe your skin regularly. Any changes whether it is a new spot or an unusual freckle must be checked by a professional. Also, do the best you can in adopting or maintaining good skin care habits, especially as you grow older. Remember, skin cancer is not uncommon, so it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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