The sun shines year round, of course, and while it is necessary for our very survival, sunlight has a strange relationship with our skin. While it provides vitamin D and for many people, a sense of happiness and exhilaration, it can also cause skin cancer and age the skin prematurely. One of the most prominent changes that takes place in the skin due to the sun is brown discoloration known as hyperpigmentation, brown spots, and yes, even freckles. But brown discoloration is not just a summer concern—the same effects are in play during winter months, even though our exposure is often much lower than during summer. So what causes brown discoloration, and how can you protect yourself year-round?
What Makes the Skin Take on Brown Discoloration?
Melanin is the name for the pigment in the skin, and everyone has some, the amount of which varies. Hyperpigmentation occurs when melanin is overproduced and becomes more concentrated in an area of the skin, causing a darker patch or spot to form. While sun exposure is the most common reason for hyperpigmentation, the problem can also be caused by hormone changes or certain disorders. Even a tan is produced by excess melanin in the skin, but this is distributed evenly and is generally not considered an issue.
Types of Sun Damage
Freckles & Age Spots
No one is born with freckles, but people with light skin easily develop them, particularly in the summer. Some people have them year-round, while others see theirs fade during the cooler months, when the sun is not as strong. Age spots are generally larger than freckles, and not considered cute, as freckles often are. They appear as we get older (as the name suggests) and they are caused by sun damage.
Aside from the sun, changing hormones are the most common reason for brown pigmentation to occur. Pregnancy is the most common trigger for “melasma”, brown pigmentation that appears most often on the face. Fortunately, melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that often goes away on its own, once hormones have settled down from the pregnancy.
Age Spots and Sun Damage: A Gradual Change
Age spots do not appear overnight—they are caused over time by repeated exposure to the sun—and that does not just happen during the summer. Hyperpigmentation can occur year round, because the sun gives off UV rays every day.
Preventing Hyperpigmentation in the Winter
Of course, the best way to prevent hyperpigmentation in the winter is to take similar steps that you would during the summer months. Apply sunscreen to exposed skin, especially if you will be out enjoying winter activities, like skiing. Fortunately, protecting your skin in the winter is a lot easier than in the summer. Make sure to keep your skin hydrated during winter months, as the dry air can cause skin problems.
Solutions for Brown Pigmentation
If you already have age spots, do not despair. There are options for improving age spots and brown discoloration, including powerful treatments and products that can be provided by a plastic surgeon. Three of the best options for treatment include:
- Laser treatments
- Plasma skin resurfacing
- ZO Skincare products
Plasma and laser treatments are in-office procedures that produce great results for brown spots, but do require some recovery time. Prescription-grade ZO products are non-invasive skincare products that can achieve some patients’ goals with no downtime or inconvenience. The solution that is right for you will depend on your skin type and goals.
Your Treatment Plan
Concerned about hyperpigmentation? It may be time to speak with a board certified plastic surgeon about your treatment options. Brown spots often go hand in hand with other signs of aging, and a plastic surgeon can help you tailor a treatment plan to suit your specific needs.
If you would like to speak with a qualified facial plastic surgeon in the Boston area, come to Bentkover Facial Plastic Surgery in Worcester (508-363-6500) or Stoneham (617-247-0033) MA to schedule a consultation with renowned expert Dr. Stuart Bentkover. Dr. Bentkover is an experienced plastic surgeon with years of experience in helping patients reach their goals. Call either location today to schedule your appointment.