JANIGA MDs

Plastic Surgery & Cosmetic Center

How to Remove Brown Spots on the Skin

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How to Remove Brown Spots on the Skin

Brown spots on the skin have been called many things over the years including sunspots, liver spots, lentigos, sun damage and of course age spots.  No matter what you call then, most people don’t want them on their skin.

Sunspots lentigos

The most important thing to do for brown spots is to try to prevent them. The brown spots or solar lentigos are directly related to sun exposure. They are more common in Caucasians than in darker skinned patients and increase in number as we age and our cumulative sun exposure starts to catch up to us. Sunscreen and sun protective clothing will decrease the amount of sun exposure that you accumulate over your lifetime and decrease the number of brown spots you develop.

If you have already developed brown spots there are ways to treat these.

1. First, continue to wear your sunscreen, as even with treatment, the brown spots you have will darken up over time if you do not keep them protected from the sun.

2. Second, we can use bleaching creams or brightening serums. These include hydroquinone, Lytera, and Kojic acid.  Hydroquinone is one of the prescription products that can be used to lighten these brown spots.

There are some nonprescription formulations also, my favorite is Lytera by Skin Medica.  It has a combination of brightening cream and a small amount of retinol to help penetrate. It is hydroquinone free for those people who may have a sensitivity or allergy to hydroquinone or just want to remain hydroquinone free for other reasons.

Kojic acid is one of the few lightening products that can be used during pregnancy, this is available in different formulations including pledgets and cream.

3. The third type of topical treatment that can help with brown spots are exfoliators. Exfoliators such as glycolic and salicylic acid will also improve the overall appearance of sunspots.

4. The fourth type of topical preparation to help with brown spots are antioxidants.  Certain antioxidants are known to decrease cumulative damage during the day and may even lighten sunspots.

5. The last topical preparation that I recommend for brown spots is a retinoid.
Retinol Cream
We have discussed previously the benefits of retinoids from decreasing fine lines and wrinkles to shrinking pores, but it also slows down the transfer of pigment in the skin directly as well as allowing your other lightning and brightening serum is to penetrate better. Most of my patients are on combinations of these products based on their specific situations and skin type.

6. Once you have maximized your sunscreen, photoprotection, and your topical therapies, most people still need laser to treat brown spots.  There are a few lasers that are available to treat brown spots including KTP, NdYAG, PDL, BBL, and IPL.

Each of these different types of lasers and light therapy treat pigment in the skin very well. There are more effective in Caucasians and have more side effects on dark skinned patients. In experienced hands, any of these lasers will work to treat brown spots.

In our Reno Dermatologist office we have both pulse dye laser (PDL) and intense pulse light (IPL). Both are very effective in treating brown spots, and it depends on your individual situation as to which I will use and what settings I will choose.

Most people require more than one session for brown spot treatment with these lasers, but we can usually make a significant improvement in the overall appearance of these sunspots with 2-3 treatments. Most of my patients who have significant problems with sunspots have two lasers per year to keep the number and intensity of their sunspots to a minimum.

Living in Reno at over 4000 feet elevation and it being a city with a lot of outdoor activities and exposure, most of our population will struggle with some sunspots or pigment problems. Visit our south Reno dermatology office to see what combination is right for you. If you do nothing else, make sure you are wearing sunscreen with SPF of greater than 40 when exposed to the sun.

~ Dr. Jennifer Janiga