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Ross A. Clevens, MD, FACS

Whether you call them spots, liver spots, or freckles, areas of hyperpigmentation on your hands can be upsetting, as they make your look uneven, aging you. Although commonly associated with getting, a number of factors can contribute to hyperpigmentation.

Luckily, you don't have to live with uneven tone or spotting. If you have spots and would like to do something about them, you have several options, from tackling the problem yourself at home to seeing a plastic surgeon for a minimally invasive. Figuring out the cause of your spots can help you determine the best way to deal with them.

What Causes It?

Generally, three things cause hyperpigmentation. might be thought of as one of the causes, but actually isn't, as discoloration can occur on people of all ages. Exposure to the sun and to UV rays is a major cause of hyperpigmentation. The spots often start appearing as a person gets, but can appear on people who spend a lot of time in the sun.

Melasma is another form of hyperpigmentation. It is often connected to a change in hormone levels, particularly those that occur during pregnancy. While anyone can have melasma, it is more common in women, particularly women with darker tones.

Finally, hyperpigmentation can occur while the is healing from an injury or other source of inflammation. If a person has a pimple that he or she was picking at, the around the pimple can darken as a result of the irritation. , cuts or topical treatments that irritate the can all cause discoloration. The hyperpigmentation tends to fade as the heals.

Topical Treatments

A number of ingredients found in over-the-counter or prescription topical skincare products can help lighten or fade hyperpigmentation. One of the more commonly used ingredients for lightening is hydroquinone. In fact, it's the only ingredient that is FDA-approved for use as a lightener.

Although effective, hydroquinone isn't without its drawbacks. Some people, particularly those with sensitivity, might have a reaction to it, as it is a strong product. The ingredient can also cause what's known as paradoxical hyperpigmentation when too strong of a concentration is used. That means that if you use too much, it can actually cause darkening of the skin.

While other ingredients aren't specifically designed for lightning or fading sunspots, they can be helpful. Retinol can help fade spots, as it encourages peeling and exfoliation. The same is true of glycolic acids. You can find the ingredients in prescription-strength products, over-the-counter products, or treatments provided by a medical spa.

Laser Treatments

Another way to remove age or liver spots is to have laser resurfacing performed. During a laser treatment, an intense beam of light destroys the pigmented cells, encouraging cells to grow.

Laser resurfacing offers a number of benefits to people with hyperpigmentation, but might not be the right option for everyone. Since it does affect the pigment cells, it can cause lightening in that you don't want to be treated, and often isn't recommended for people with darker tones. The usually has no or a very short amount of downtime, but it can cause some redness or soreness during the treatment. After laser treatment, you'll want to avoid sun exposure to protect yourself and keep the hyperpigmentation from returning.

Preventing Hyperpigmentation

Whether you've been working to fade your sunspots or want to keep your tone even for as long as possible, there are a few things you can do to your risk for hyperpigmentation or to prevent it. The most important thing you can do is stay out of the sun, whether or not you're using a topical cream that makes you more sensitive or has recently had a laser treatment.

The sun is at its most intense between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Even on cloudy days, you'll want to minimize the amount of time you spend outside during those hours. When you do go outside, make sure you're wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Covering up with a wide-brimmed hat and long clothing can also protect you from the sun.

Don't let liver spots get you down. Dr. Ross Clevens, an Ivy League-educated, double board-certified plastic surgeon, can help you determine the best course of action to take to fade hyperpigmentation. To learn more about your options, contact Dr. Clevens' practice by calling (312) 727-3223 for a consultation today.

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