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Skin Science

How to improve the look of dark spots in 5 simple steps

Christina Heiser
Christina Heiser June, 01, 2020

Skincare-obsessed, fitness enthusiast, cat lover 

Now that summer is in the rearview mirror, it's a great time to reflect on the memories you made — and the changes your skin went through! While we all love a healthy glow, that time you spent in the sun may have had an impact on your complexion. When skin is exposed to the sun, your body reacts by producing melanin, a dark pigment, to protect you from the ultraviolet (UV) rays. This, in turn, leads to dark spots .


Here's your guide to why these spots appear and how to improve the appearance of dark spots on face and body.


What else causes dark spots?


Unprotected sun exposure is the main cause of dark spots (also called age spots). One day at the beach probably won't leave a mark — these spots are usually the result of years of accumulated sun damage. The sun isn't the only thing that causes dark spots, though. These spots can come from acne scars and even hormonal changes, like the ones you experience during pregnancy.


How to improve the appearance of dark spots on face: 5 easy tips


From being diligent with sun protection to adding a few new ingredients to your routine, these strategies will help you say goodbye to dark spots and hello to more radiant, even skin. Here's how to improve the appearance of dark spots on face and body.Portrait of a woman in a straw hat


1. Make sun protection your No. 1 priority. The most effective way to deal with age spots on your face is to stop them from forming in the first place. Because unprotected sun exposure is the most common cause of dark spots, applying sunscreen every day, even if it's cloudy, is crucial. Find a broad-spectrum formula you love with an SPF of 30 or higher and apply a generous layer before heading outside each day.


Pay particular attention to areas that catch the most sunlight, such as your face, your neck and the backs of your hands. Toss some sunscreen in your bag so you can reapply it every two hours (or even more frequently if you've been working up a sweat). Wear a broad-brimmed hat when you're outside as well to shield your face from the sun.


2. Use soy skincare products. Research finds that using a soy moisturizer may help lessen the appearance of dark spots and give you a more even skin tone. It can even reduce dullness and smooth out fine lines. It's easy to find soy in cleansers, exfoliators, SPF moisturizers and night creams.


3. Add other spot-fighting ingredients to your routine. Soy isn't the only ingredient that works on dark spots. If soy isn't your thing, reach for products containing vitamin C, azelaic acid, licorice extract and kojic acid, as they've also been shown to improve the appearance of dark spots.


A quick word of caution: While it might be tempting to grab things in your kitchen and whip up a mask or exfoliator, err on the side of caution. The American Academy for Dermatologic Surgery notes that at-home treatments, like lemon juice and harsh scrubs, can actually make dark spots worse.


4. Try a prescription skin-lightening cream. If over-the-counter options aren't working for you, visit your dermatologist to see what other treatments are available. A prescription cream may be able to help. Don't be surprised if you notice hydroquinone or retinoids in your prescription — these two ingredients are common in Rx dark spot creams. Both can be slightly irritating, so start slowly! Only use a prescription cream a couple times a week, or as your dermatologist recommends, until your skin builds up a tolerance.


5. Cover up with concealer. In a pinch, the easiest way to get rid of dark spots is to hide them with concealer. Opt for a creamy, full-coverage concealer for best results. And remember that you're beautiful with or without dark spots, so don't be shy about showing off your skin! While being proactive about protecting yourself from the sun is the best path to healthy skin, what you do (or don't do) about your dark spots is up to you!


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