By Natalie Katsman
Freckles, age spots, pregnancy mask - these harmless skin defects can be quite an annoying problem. We all want not only silky smooth complexion, but an even and healthy skin tone as well.
Freckles. Considered cute by some, they are a real problem for others. Freckles, a.k.a. ephelides, are small brown or tan patches common in individuals with lighter skin, blond or red hair, and blue, green or grey eyes. They appear early in life, increase in number during summer months and fade in winter. After the age of 40-45 they disappear, but who wants to wait?
Another type of skin discoloration is pregnancy mask, otherwise known as chloasma or melasma. It appears during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. Women with darker skin are more likely to develop this condition. After delivery, chloasma will fade, however some traces may still remain. It can also occur in women who are taking oral contraceptives.
Age spots - lentigines - are similar to freckles. They appear later in life and can occur in any skin type.
The good news is: if you know why the discoloration occurs and take measures to prevent and treat it, you can have an even skin tone at any age.
Freckles, age spots and pregnancy mask have several things in common. They are formed in sun exposed areas: face, hands, chest and back. These unwelcome brown patches are nothing more than accumulation of skin pigment melanin which is always produced by the skin. The amount of melanin present determines the skin tone of an individual. Extra melanin is produced by the body in response to sun exposure: it absorbs UV rays and does not allow them to penetrate deep into the skin layers as it would be damaging.
If you want to avoid skin discoloration, the first and the most important thing you need to do is to avoid sun exposure and wear sunscreen. This way your body will not need to produce more melanin.
Since melanin is accumulated in the upper layer of the skin, you might want to consider skin lightening and peeling. There are different products that can be used for this purpose:
Hydroquinone has been a very popular treatment, however it can irritate the skin.
Kojic acid, discovered in Japan in 1989, is a natural product derived from fungi (mushroom). It is gentle on the skin and very effective in treating skin discoloration. Penetrating upper skin layers, it inhibits the formation of the pigment.
Alpha-hydroxy acids help to shed old cells faster, therefore they will be helpful as well. By removing the outer skin cells, which are usually darker, you will make your freckles or age spots lighter and less visible.
If you decide to use any of the above products, extra sun protection is imperative. If necessary, apply an SPF cream several times a day. By using skin lighteners and peels, you affect the upper darker layer. Lower layers are lighter, with less melanin present. If you don't protect your skin, it will launch its own defense mechanism producing more melanin. This will result in darker and more intensive discoloration, which can be even harder to get rid of.
Please remember that skin discoloration (excluding pregnancy mask, which should disappear after the delivery) require consistent treatment. Once you stop using lighteners and protection, the dark patches will be back. But keeping up with your skin regiment is not difficult: all you need is a gentle yet effective lightener and a moisturizer with complete UV protection - against both UVB and UVA rays.
Natural remedies you can use:
Wash your face with sour milk. Lactic acid will provide gentle peeling effect without irritating or drying your skin.
Lemon juice is a time proven freckle fighting remedy. It is not necessary to rub your skin with a piece of lemon. Applying the juice with your fingers will do the job.
Fruit and vegetable masks (apricots, strawberries, cucumbers, red currant).
Sour cream mask. Do not rinse this mask completely, just remove gently with a facial tissue, then apply a moisturizer. For oily skin - use lemon juice before applying the mask.
Natural parsley juice (or parsley infusion) mixed with equal amounts of lemon juice, orange juice, and red currant juice under your favorite cream will help you keep your freckles invisible.
Last but not least - increase your Vitamin C intake! It makes your skin less sensitive to the sun. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, apples, green onions, black and red currant, rosehip tea.
Please note that some types of skin discoloration are due to internal disorders. Poor liver functioning, hormonal or metabolism disorders, overactive thyroid can be the underlying reasons for unsightly cosmetic problems. If this is the case, start your treatment from the inside.
Note: Information in this article is not to be taken as a medical advice. Always consult your doctor if you need professional help.
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