Brown Spots on Face (Probably From Sun) Keep Getting Darker... Any Help Lightening?

Katydid705 asked...

is there any way to lighten brown spots(old age/sun damage) on your face?

Expert Answer

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology, including Mohs micrographic skin cancer surgery. In addition to her work in private practice, Krant is assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Katydid, Brown spots on your face can be caused by several different things. The first thing to do is to see a dermatologist to make sure none of them are thin or early patchy melanoma skin cancers. If they are determined to be only benign sunspots, or lentigoes, and nothing dangerous, there are a few different effective treatments.

Before starting any treatment, make sure you are using a moisturizer with at least SPF 30 daily, and for brown spot management, ideally SPF 50 or higher (Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with SPF 50 is easy to use). This is because if we fade the spots and then they get sun on them again, they will darken very quickly.

The most effective treatment for sun spots will be laser treatment with the brand new picosecond Alexandrite laser (Picosure by Cynosure). Alexandrite lasers all work to remove pigmented spots, but most operate with nanosecond pulses that deliver more heat to the tissue. Picosecond pulses are faster, so they hit the target spot and break up the pigment more efficiently, without heating the skin as much, thus reducing the risk of scarring. The brown spots crust up and peel off very effectively.

A second treatment option, which may be effective, but slightly less effective, depending on your skin type, is another form of light-based treatment called IPL, or intense pulsed light. This is a device that looks like a laser but instead uses a broad spectrum of light wavelengths to target discoloration (browns and reds). It's great for many issues, and will help with sunspots, but not as directly as the Picosure Alexandrite Q-switched laser.

If you aren't ready for a laser or IPL treatment yet, depending on your spots, they may be fadeable with a light freezing or burning treatment, but this may tend to leave more white marks or scars in the area.

Finally, prescription bleaching creams, carefully supervised by your dermatologist, may be helpful for some types of pigment, but do not work on all types very well.

For more information about the Picosure Laser you can see