The lighter or the darker skin color defined by the amount and distribution of melanin in the superficial layers of the skin. There is a "natural" degree of pigmentation that is genetically determined, in which are added tan (hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure) and pigmentation disorders (hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation). Depending on their extent, pigmentation lesions are generally classified, as diffuses or focals.

Pigment excess

The term hyperpigmentation includes a set of different pigmentation disorders. The skin with hyperpigmentation is caused by excessive amounts of melanin in the superficial layers of the skin. But the phenomenon that we commonly call pigmentation spots is also caused by the abnormal distribution of melanin.

Because of their usually unattractive appearance, the hyperpigmentations are common causes of visits to the dermatologist, especially when they are related to the uncovered areas (face). Before each therapy, is important to determine the exact cause of the pigmentation spot.

The most common hypepigmentations are melasma and lentigines (spots by the sun).

Melasma, an unattractive pigmentation disorder

The melasma, that is also called "mask of pregnancy", is acquired hyperpigmentation, generally symmetric, that appears on the light exposed areas (mainly on the face but also the arms and neck). Furthermore, the sun exposure is important factor of melasma deterioration. The appearance of melasma is directly connected to the hormonal disorders caused by oral contraceptives or during the pregnancy but it's also caused by specific genetic predisposition. So, some populations and people with dark skin (light type IV or darker) are affected more often than people with lighter skin.

Freckles: certainly aging, but mainly sun exposure

Everyone knows about these small brown spots that appear by age, on the face, hands and neck. These "age spots", that are also called sun spots or lentigines, are direct results by sun exposure and the first sign of skin (light)aging. The first brown spots appear usually at the age of 40 and are more common on people with lighter skin. They aren' t dangerously for our health, but we should give them attention and protect them from sun exposure to avoid their mutating into cancerous lesions.

Once, we thought of them inevitable consequence of skin aging, but today we can reduce the intensity of these hyperpigmentations with various dermatological practices. The therapeutic demand is high because the presence of these spots contrasts with the beauty standards that mainly is the uniform skin color.

Treatments

Drugs: The bleaching creams, alone or in combination with retinoids and mild steroids can gradually fade the spots within a few months. The sun protection with broad spectrum sunscreen with minimum SPF of 30 is recommended for the treatment period. The treatment can cause temporary itching, redness, burning or dry skin.

LASER: Laser destroys the cells that produce melanin, without harming the skin surface. An effective therapy requires several sessions. After completing the sessions, the age spots gradually fade in several weeks or months. Laser therapy has few disadvantages, however, can cause slight discoloration of the skin.

Chemical peeling: It provides the application of an acid, which burns the skin layer up to the point where the spots are located. As the old skin exfoliates, new skin is formed in that place. They may take several treatments for the first results to be seen. The sun protection is needed after the treatment. The temporary irritation is possible, while there is also a low risk of discoloration.

Prevention

To avoid sunspots, follow the instructions below in order to limit your exposure to the sun:

  • Avoid the sun from 10am until 4pm. The rays are strongest between these hours, so it is recommended to plan your outdoor activities at other times of day. 
  • Don't go out without sunscreen. Approximately 15 to 30 minutes before you leave, wear broad-spectrum sunscreen that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Choose products with SPF of at least 15. Apply a generous layer and renew every two hours, or even more often if you swim or sweat a lot.
  • Beware. To protect yourself from intense sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat, which provides better coverage compared to baseball hats. Cover your arms and legs with tightly woven clothing. In the market, there are also clothes with special sunscreen fabrics.