“Age spots” are often the result of sun damage. Use sunscreen to prevent more from forming.
Along with smoothing fine lines, retinoids may improve skin tone. But for melasma, dark spots that often come from pregnancy, birth control pills or sun damage, you need topical hydroquinone, a lightening agent. It can take up to six months to see modest results from over-the-counter products, which contain just 2 percent hydroquinone. Prescription-strength hydroquinone will produce results in about three months.
To refresh the skin, consider microdermabrasion. The devise blasts microscopic aluminum oxide crystals on the skin. Then a vacuum sucks up the crystals, dislodged dirt, dead skin and debris. Results are superficial. “It’s really good for removing some pigmentation issues,” Balakhani says.
Intense pulsed light (IPL), sometimes dubbed a PhotoFacial, works on age spots, redness, brown spots, fine lines and large pores. It’s not a laser; instead it emits a spectrum of light with each pulse. You’ll need a series of treatments—up to six—to see results. A numbing cream helps with the sting. There might be some redness or swelling but no real downtime.
Lasers can zap a problem spot, no matter the hue. In the old days, there were certain products for specific tasks. Many devices now have removable heads and programmable strengths for an all-in-one approach.
A medium-strength peel addresses fine wrinkles and improves superficial discoloration. For scars and precancerous growths, doctors may recommend dermabrasion and dermaplaning—surgically scraping the skin’s top layers.
Fractionated laser treatments—Fraxel or Pixel are brand names—can be effective on wrinkles, surface scarring, pigmentation and sun damage spots. Instead of blanketing an area, which can lengthen the recovery time, the laser makes tiny dots in the skin. “They are so small you can’t see them,” Malek says. Expect redness and swelling, along with some scabbing. The treatment should also result in some skin tightening.
An aggressive treatment with the CO2 laser, which removes skin layers, will take care of wrinkles and discolorations.