Have you been using sunblock since you were a teenager? I most certainly did not use one, as a youngster. Sunblock was something I wore when lying by the pool (with SPF 15, with the teenager-y intention of turning nut brown–eek). Occasionally when my college-age sister handed me down her half-used bottle of Olay SPF 15, that went on my face…or not. Predictably, by the time I got to college, I got a constellation of spots along the sides of my nose and cheeks. Thus began my “skin concern” (in Sephora speak) of uneven skin tone.
First off though, let’s define freckles, sunspots, and age spots. Are they actually different, or just different names for the same thing?
Freckles are flat, light brown or red, and most frequently appear on people with fair skin. They are triggered by overproduction of melanin upon exposure to the sun. Genetics play a role in the appearance of freckles, and they can fade with age or sun avoidance. Freckles are also most commonly found on children before puberty. They tend to have more pattern-like appearance, whether they are concentrated (like the bridge of the nose) or more spread out (arms, shoulders, chest, etc).
Sunspots are caused by long-term exposure to the sun and most frequently appear later in life (not children). They range in size, shape and color, from tiny red dots caused by overgrowth of blood vessels, to the tan to dark brown dots. They tend to be less regularly patterned. People of all complexions can get sunspots.
Age spots, also called liver spots, work basically the same way as sunspots, although they frequently are associated with larger-than-pencil-eraser discolorations.
Based on these definitions I have sunspots rather than freckles! The process for preventing or lightening existing spots is basically the same across the board.
1. Encourage cell turn over with alpha hydroxy acid treatments.
Peels are no longer something scary and drastic, administered at the doctor’s office. Latest acid treatments have low dosages of several different acids so that it works underneath the visible top layer of skin. You won’t see a visible peeling or redness, but you will feel a fresh, “exfoliated” feeling; and they are also suitable for daily use. I swear by Invigorating Night Gel by Ole Henriksen (which is one of a few skincare items that I’ve bought consistently for a few years). It has lightened my sunspots and even acne scars, and just overall made my skin tone look more even.
Try Ole Henriksen Invigorating Night Gel, $45 (cruelty-free; formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates)
2. Add antioxidant rich facial oils to your routine.
Vitamin A and Vitamin C are your best friends when it comes to correcting uneven skin tone. Vitamin A increases cell turn over and Vitamin C is brightening. Try rose hip seed oil–it’s no longer that ‘It’ oil everyone is talking about, but it’s still incredibly powerful. I also really love Kaeng Raeng After Glow Serum, which is a blend of grapeseed, argan, rosehip, as well as frankincense and neroli oils for repairing spots and scars. Over months of using it my skin has definitely become more even toned–love!
3. Layer your sunscreen.
The best policy is still prevention–and remember, if you are actively treating your skin, it’s more vulnerable to the sun so you need even more protection. The best way to do this is to wear a dot of facial sunblock, then layer other SPF containing makeup you wear on top, such as tinted moisturizer, BB cream, or foundation. (In spring and summer I also apply facial sunblock to my chest and neck). Most people don’t wear enough of either sunblock or makeup to fully get the benefits listed on the label; by layering your products, you get both a more natural finish and higher protection.
To even out my sunspots, I prefer using a good coverage foundation rather than a concealer. Note: Using concealer just on your dark spots can have an odd patchwork effect, because your skin is not one shade across your entire face. Applying a buildable foundation over wider areas of the face results in more even finish. One of my favorite foundation discoveries is Hourglass Veil Fluid Makeup SPF 15, $65 (oil-free, vegan, formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic fragrance). It provides a really great coverage (for hiding said spots!) but has a totally natural and luminous finish, if I may say so myself.
4. Embrace the spots!
Last but not least: it’s always an option to let your spots show! I’m really inspired by freckled beauties like Lucy Liu showing how gorgeous different types of skin can be. Your skin doesn’t have to be perfectly clear and spotless to be beautiful. I admit, I don’t like how my skin looks under certain harsh lights (looking at you, Sephora), but at other times it looks totally fine as a skin of a normal, non-slave-to-beauty twenty-something. On good days, I like to take a natural light selfie wearing no makeup at all, to remind myself that my skin is doing just fine. 🙂 Being confident in your own skin (literally) is your best beauty asset!
Do you guys have freckles or sunspots? What do you do to lighten them–or do you just let them show through?
Related: How to Minimize Your Pores
Photo: mexico rosel via Flickr; peaceful dumpling; http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/pa-gillet/le-bordel-du-vendredi_b_2176659.html