Updated 5/23/17. For those prone to hyperpigmentation (commonly referred to as discoloration, brown spots, freckles, 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 will help in your quest for more evenly-toned skin during the hot summer months.
1. Wear sunscreen—applied generously and often. I know this is stating the obvious but the #1 cause of premature skin aging is from UV light and 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 30 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 essential 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. Our best-selling Daily Protection SPF 30 is perfect as it won’t clog the pores or feel greasy at all, unlike many other sunscreens out on the market…
(Read How To Apply Sunscreen To The Face And Neck as you might be applying it incorrectly.)
2. 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, will 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 (I reside in Austin, TX) 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.
3. Keep skin as cool as possible. Since overheated skin from time spent outdoors or exercise can increase melanin activity (as well as redness), it’s important to keep the temperature of the skin low. This can include keeping your skin care products in the refrigerator (particularly an alcohol-free toner), so that when 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 layer and leave it on for 15 minutes. This will not only cool the skin, but also 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.
3. 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, non-plastic beads) and mild alcohol-free exfoliating acids such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid found in Pro Results Power Serum or Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum. These types of exfoliants, when used regularly and as directed, can help break apart pigmented cells to prevent them from getting dark and lessen their appearance if they appear. 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. Take this Skin Type Quiz to get the best products recommended exclusively for your skin’s needs.
4. Use a natural skin lightener daily under sunscreen. In addition to exfoliation, 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. Vitamin C & E Treatment contains this ingredient, and has worked extremely well for stubborn pigmentation. This is definitely a must for daily use all year round but especially in summer.
Bonus: A Durham, N.C.-based Duke University Medical Center researchers determined that using a lotion or serum with both vitamins C and E under sunscreen actually provides four times the protection of sunscreen alone! To bump up your SPF, use a vitamin C serum under sunscreen.
5. 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 in their 40s, hormones can stimulate melanin activity, causing brown patches on the skin. A few summers ago, my husband and I rode our 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, as it was completely 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.
6. 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 get lazy about caring for their skin in the summer, and then come back in the fall wanting to focus on skin repair. It’s important to know that prevention is always the best approach. See the facial treatments offered at Renée Rouleau Skin Care Spas.
7. 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.
8. If your sun spots appeared, read 7 ways to get rid of them.
One final thought, just because your sun spots or freckles come out in the summer easily doesn’t mean you are getting more sun damage than anyone else. We all have our own issues that are genetically hard coded in our skin and pigmentation is simply one of them that many people have to deal with. I hope my tips give you a new way of thinking about how to keep them under control.
Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.
For more expert advice check out the blog. Also sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGlow!