How to Prevent Summer Sun Spots

For those prone to hyperpigmentation (commonly referred to as discoloration, brown spots, age spots or sun spots), you have probably noticed that during the summer, they can become more visible.

While hyperpigmentation can be a challenge, both to prevent and fade, these skin care tips can definitely help in your quest for more evenly-toned skin during the hot summer months.

Tip: Wear sunscreen–applied generously and often

The number one cause of premature skin aging is wrinkles, and certainly exposing your skin to the sun can bring out sun spots. But did you know that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to give the skin the protection it needs? The real truth to sunscreen is not about the SPF number (although an SPF 15 is the minimum you should ever wear) but it is how generously it is applied, and certainly how often it is reapplied when outdoors.

Especially for oily skin, it is key to find a sunscreen that won’t feel heavy and greasy on the skin, so you can apply it with a heavy hand without worrying about it causing clogged pores and breakouts.

Read: How to Apply Sunscreen to the Face and Neck

Tip: Limit exposure to both heat and sun…

For years, it was thought that “sun spots” were just like the name suggests – spots from the sun. But newer research indicates that not only direct UV rays, but the heat given off from the sun, that can stimulate melanin activity, resulting in brown spots. So unfortunately, no matter how diligent you are about re-applying sunscreen, wearing a hat and staying in the shade, you still may not be able to avoid pigment from forming. And for those of us who live in the southern states where it really gets hot, it makes it very frustrating. Knowing this, if brown spots are a concern for you, you’ll definitely want to limit your exposure to both heat and sun.

Tip: Keep skin as cool as possible.

Since overheated skin (from time spent outdoors or exercise) can increase melanin activity, it’s important to keep the temperature of the skin low. This can include keeping your skin care products, particularly an alcohol-free toner, in the refrigerator, so that when they are applied to the skin, they provide a cooling effect. In addition, I suggest keeping a gel-based mask (like Bio Calm Repair Masque) in the refrigerator, and applying a thin coat, leaving on for 15 minutes, not only to cool the skin, but also to help deliver water to hot and thirsty skin. Don’t have a gel mask handy? A bag of frozen peas applied to the skin for 15 minutes can also help to cool overheated skin.

Tip: Exfoliate gently

One of the keys to managing skin discoloration, particularly once it has appeared, is to use exfoliating products such as facial scrubs (using round beads, not harsh natural grains like apricot kernels that can be too irritating) and mild alcohol-free exfoliating acids such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid. These exfoliants, when used regularly, can help break apart pigmented cells to lessen their appearance. But be sure not to overdo it with exfoliating products, because during the summer when melanin cells are active, too much exfoliation may actually trigger more melanin.  So don’t go overboard. In addition, the use of exfoliating acids can increase sun sensitivity, which can make the skin vulnerable to the sun.

See our collection of glycolic acid serums and exfoliants.

Tip: Use a skin lightener

In addition to exfoliating, applying a skin lightener to the skin will help suppress melanin cells to fade and prevent brown spots. Many skin lighteners contain the ingredient Hydroquinone, which is a fairly controversial ingredient, so if you want to use something more natural, I suggest using Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, a type of vitamin C that is a proven skin lightener. Our Vitamin C & E Treatment contains this ingredient, and has worked extremely well for stubborn pigmentation.

Bonus: A Durham, N.C.-based Duke University Medical Center researchers determined that using a lotion or serum with Vitamins C and E under sunscreen actually provides four times the protection of sunscreen alone! To bump up your SPF, use our Vitamin C& E Treatment under sunscreen, like our Daily Protection SPF 30 .

Tip: Consider wearing a hat – or not.

In theory, protecting your skin by wearing a hat when outdoors is always a smart idea, but maybe not in all cases. Let me explain. As I mentioned above, you want to limit your exposure to both heat and sun. A hat would certainly help provide shading for the face, therefore limiting direct sun exposure as well. But, when worn outside, hats can create increased heat on the forehead because of the tightness from the band of the hat, which may make discoloration worse on the forehead, if you’re prone to getting it there.

For example, like many people will experience, now that I’m in my 40s, hormones can stimulate melanin activity, causing brown patches on the skin. Last summer, my husband and I rode our Harley Davidson motorcycles up to North Dakota and it took us three hot days of traveling in 90 to 100 degree weather to get up there from Texas. I wore an open-faced helmet and plenty of sunscreen which protected my skin from getting a burn or a tan. My forehead did not see any daylight, for it was covered with my helmet. After three hot, exhausting days of riding, once we got to our destination, I noticed that my dark patches on my forehead were much worse than when I had left Texas. Yet, my forehead never saw sunlight. So my theory is that wearing hats, or in my case, a helmet, created excessive heat on the forehead, resulting in increased pigmentation. So while I still always think wearing a hat when outdoors is a good idea, it is something that you may want to be aware of if you’re prone to pigmentation on the forehead. This rule could apply if you run outdoors wearing a hat or visor.

Tip: Get monthly facials.

Because professional facials can give your skin increased results above and beyond your home care products, it is a great idea to load your skin up with powerful antioxidants in a facial. Many people tend to neglect their skin in the summer, and then come back in the fall, then wanting to focus on skin repair, but prevention is always crucial. This goes for facials only, though, go easy on chemical peels, as those are best reserved for cooler months. See the facial treatments offered at Renée Rouleau Skin Care Spas.

Tip: Eat a diet rich in antioxidants.

Did you know that certain fruits and vegetables can boost your skin’s defenses against sunburn and DNA damage? German researchers analyzed the results of seven large studies on beta-carotene – a vitamin rich in carrots, sweet potatoes, kale and spinach – and found that consuming 24 to 180 milligrams a day for at least 10 weeks can increase internal SPF significantly. And in a small study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 10 subjects taking 2,000 mg of vitamin C and 1,000 IU of vitamin E each day for eight days could tolerate 20 percent more UV exposure before getting sunburned. Bottom line: Eat up, for good health and skin protection.

Read: Going to the Beach? Tips to Save Your Skin

Read: Five Essentials to Stay Burn-Free at the Beach

Read: 6 Summer Skin Care Tips

Which products are right for your skin? See our nine skin types and get products recommended.

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For more expert skin advice, check out Skin Source–the A-Z guide on all things skin. Also sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time!

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