The development of uneven skin tones during middle age leads many consumers to seek out skin lighteners or brighteners as a solution. Commonly seen as a sign of aging, the formation of brown age spots has been associated with poor health in addition to being considered unsightly. Clear and even skin tones are seen as the epitome of youth and health so trying to recapture that look is considered to be a reasonable approach to this problem.

Uneven skin coloration is not a problem that is strictly associated with old age however and many people combat hyperpigmentation throughout their entire lives. By learning more about your skin and proper skin care treatments, you can make informed decisions as a consumer. Beginning with the most basic information: your skin color is determined by the amount of melanin present in your skin. There are two main determinants of your skin coloring and they are constitutive and facultative.

Constitutive skin color is determined by genetics and heredity. Facultative skin color is the result of sunlight, the environment and hormones – factors beyond genetics that impact the appearance of our skin color and can change over time. By developing a clear understanding of why your skin’s appearance is changing, you can develop a plan to reverse the damage and prevent further occurrences.

Hyperpigmentation is a factor of facultative skin color issues – this could be exposure to UV radiation, prescription drug use, pregnancy, etc. Outside influences that alter our skin’s appearance and cause discolored “spots” to form. Age or liver spots (lentigines) are flat discolorations on the skin and they are usually harmless. These are different from freckles (ephilides) which are typically flat and appear as a result of sun exposure – these will typically fade during the winter (although this is not always the case for extremely pale skinned people).

Treatment options for hyperpigmentation have sparked a variety of debates or the past few decades. The most effective treatments are skin lighteners containing the active ingredient hydroquinone (in concentrations up to 2%). There are concerns however about possible safety risks because as much as one third of the population may be allergic to hydroquinone. There is also studies that suggest it is an extreme sensitizer and cause more skin conditions (including hyperpigmentation) to develop after use. Although the FDA has considered banning the use of hydroquinone because of these possible complications, they have not done so yet and it is available in many over the counter products.

Because of these issues there are some steps you can take when using a product containing hydroquinone including always wearing sun block when going outside. Your skin will be especially sensitive to environmental influences and proper precautions should always be taken. Follow all instructions with any product and contact your physician immediately if you notice any type of adverse reaction.

Alternative skin lighteners are available that do not contain hydroquinone. This is a great choice for mature or sensitive skin because there is a lower risk of negative reactions to treatment. These skin lighteners may take longer to show results but can have longer term results than their more potent counter parts containing hydroquinone. Just a thought for those who may be seeking long term solutions and don’t mind waiting a little longer.

Many people consider hyperpigmentation to be an unattractive development on their skin and will take many extreme measures to reverse this problem. Keep in mind that most skin discolorations are generally harmless and treatments should be used as directed and not overused. Research any skin lightener or brightener carefully before use and test it on a small area of your skin before applying to a larger area such as your face. Remember that skin irritations are a common side effect when using any new skin care product and it is better to err on the side of caution by testing new products first.

Final thought: although there are many skin lighteners available on the market today the best option is prevention, not intervention. Try to always use sun block when going outside and cover your skin appropriately. It is much simpler (and more cost effective) to stop the problem before it starts. If you have lighter skin naturally, freckles and spots may continue to be a problem even after treatment because of the skins natural reaction against the environment to protect itself. Keep your skin healthy and happy by taking care of it and if possible, don’t sweat the small spots.

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