Hyperpigmentation is one of those skin conditions that doesn't discriminate—and for some, no matter what you do or don't do to your skin, it can feel like dark spots on your face are inevitable. Chemical peels, serums, actives, cleansers, and moisturizers claim to help even out your complexion and fade hyperpigmentation, but one of the most effective (and affordable!) options for preventing dark spots is using sunscreen daily.
Hyperpigmentation is caused by excessive production of melanin (your skin's natural pigment) and can be triggered by inflammation caused by acne, eczema, aggressive skin-care products, genetics, sunlight, and even certain medications, says Jenny Liu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Minnesota. And although prescription medications are often used to treat hyperpigmentation, wearing sunscreen all the time—yes, even when you're staying indoors—can help prevent and reduce further discoloration of the skin, she says.
"UV radiation induces melanocytes to increase melanin production. Studies have shown that sunscreen by itself can be helpful [in preventing the exacerbation of hyperpigmentation] without additional lightening agents," says Dr. Liu. If you already have dark spots, wearing sunscreen will inhibit the UV rays from increasing melanin production and making the appearance of the spots worse. If you don't currently have dark spots, sunscreen acts as a shield, preventing the overproduction of melanin.
Either way, to see results, you can't wear sunscreen once every blue moon. Instead, you need to wear it daily. Dr. Liu recommends sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher, using one teaspoon (or two fingers' worth) for the face and neck, and reapplying every two hours as needed. "For skin of color, I recommend tinted sunscreen to block visible light from [the] sun as well."
In addition to wearing sunscreen to prevent and reduce hyperpigmentation, Dr. Liu says you should use gentle skin-care products to minimize any irritation. And although there are lots of tips and tricks floating around social media, she says it's best to consult a board-certified dermatologist "instead of trying products at home that have a high risk of further worsening hyperpigmentation. I do not recommend playing chemist at home to try DIYs."
- Jenny Liu, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at University of Minnesota Medical School
Overwhelmed with all of the sunscreen options? We've got you covered. Find out the best sunscreen for your skin type in the helpful video below:
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