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How Can I Erase the Brown Spots on My Face, Hands & Chest?

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How Can I Erase the Brown Spots on My Face, Hands & Chest?

sunspots on the face can be fixed

Thomas Northcut for Getty Images
Question: How Can I Erase the Brown Spots on My Face, Hands & Chest?
Those annoying brown spots that show up on your face, hands and chest in your 30s and older are known as liver spots or sunspots and are largely caused by sun damage. Some brown spots on the face (called "melasma") can be caused by a surge in hormone levels due to pregnancy, oral contraceptive use or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause. Unlike sun spots, melasma spots tend to fade once hormones moderate. A dermatologist can diagnose melasma by using a special light. Brown spots are mainly a cosmetic problem -- they cause no health risks -- but they can be annoying. There are ways to tone them down and camouflage them.
Answer: To minimize the appearance of brown spots, you have a few options:
  • Ablative laser resurfacing is perhaps the most effective (and costliest) way to remove brown spots. These target the melanin in your skin and are highly effective. The best way to describe the way it works is the top layer of skin where the spots are is removed via lasers. The procedure takes about 20 minutes. Scabs will form within 24 hours where you were treated. You can use Vaseline on the spots to protect them. You'll find your spots will have faded with the treatments and some may disappear. Once the skin heals, it's much smoother and sunspot-free. Keep skin out of the sun after a laser treatment.
  • OTC skin lightening creams can be effective in lightening your brown spots. Look for products with 2% hydroquinone in them. Popular over-the-counter creams include Porcelana and Esoterica. Apply these to your brown spots twice daily. These should help lighten your brown spots, but they likely won't go away completely.
  • Prescription-strength creams contain 4% hydroquinone and are arguably more effective. They are also harsher on your skin. Popular products include Obagi Clear, Glyquin, Tri-Luma, and Solaquin. Usually anything over 2 percent hydroquinone requires a prescription.
  • Some doctors prescribe Tretinoin to combat sunspots. Tretinoin is a form of Vitamin A and is used to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots. It comes in many brand forms including Renova, Retin-A, Avita, Retacnyl or Stieva-A. There are also generic versions available.
  • Glycolic acid peels administered by a doctor work by removing the top layer of skin. You may need to be treated more than once and you should always keep skin out of the sun after a chemical peel.
It's highly recommended that you wait until after pregnancy or breastfeeding to treat melasma or sunspots and always, always, keep your treated skin out of the sun by wearing sunscreen of at least SPF 50 and a hat.

Read more about melasma.

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