What are these dark discolored spots on my face and what can I do about them?

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Dark discoloration on the skin is caused by the sun, hormones, and inflammation, all of which play a role in increasing your skin’s melanin production. This results in darkly pigmented skin conditions like freckles, sun spots, post-inflammatory pigmentation, and melasma.


What causes skin discoloration?

We all have varying amounts of melanin pigment, which contributes to the color of our skin. Melanin is produced by melanocytes, which are pigment containing cells that are dispersed in the skin. When exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, our skin darkens as melanin is produced in higher amounts to shield our skin cells. Regardless of skin color, the cause of discoloration is the same: sun or inflammation leads to production of melanocyte stimulating hormone, which activates an enzyme inside melanocytes called tyrosinase that initiates a chemical reaction to produce melanin. The end result is brown or even black skin discoloration.


Will it naturally fade away?

According to Dr. Joe, discoloration caused by inflammation from acne or rashes can lighten over time, but sun-induced discoloration like melasma and sun spots requires intervention from skin-lightening products and procedures.


What are the different types of discoloration?

  • FRECKLES: small in size and fairly light in color, freckles are an early sign of excess pigment that begins in childhood, and are brought out and made darker by sun exposure. There is also a genetic tendency for freckling.
  • MELASMA: This common, brown-to-black patchy discoloration can affect the forehead, cheeks, and upper lip, and often occurs with pregnancy or birth control use. The hormonal fluctuations in these conditions are thought to make melanocytes more sensitive to sunlight and sometimes even regular indoor lights. It is one of the most troublesome skin conditions that affect women.
  • POST-INFLAMMATORY HYPERPIGMENTATION: following a strong amount of skin inflammation caused by acne, rashes, or skin injury, dark spots can be left behind at the affected site. If you have a darker type, you will be more prone to this type of discoloration.
  • SOLAR LENTIGO (SUN SPOTS): usually larger and darker than freckles, sun spots are mutated DNA that occur after repeated sun exposure. The lighter your skin is naturally, the more likely you are to have sun spots.


Treat discoloration at your dermatologist’s office

Treating discoloration effectively requires a good skin care regimen to reduce the sun’s effect on your skin on a daily basis. This is especially important in Houston where it is difficult to truly escape the sun. Dr. Joe recommends sunscreen as a foundation for the discoloration skin care regimen, especially the EltaMD sunscreen line, which utilizes mineral-based sunscreen over chemical ones and is not oily or tacky on the skin.


Dr Joe and the providers at Clear Lake Dermatology also utilize a combination skin-lightening regimen that includes prescription hydroquinone as well as the new SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Corrector, which is a next generation blend of powerful skin-lightening agents including transexamic acid, a potent blocker of melanin production in the skin. This unique product has been shown to decrease stubborn hyperpigmented patches by 60%. Dr. Joe also recommends taking the oral supplement Heliocare Ultra, to boost your skin’s UV protection and DNA repair capacity with a powerful anti-oxidant from the medicinal fern polypodium leucotomas. Heliocare has been proven to enhance the effectiveness of skin-lightening products.


In addition to an at-home skin-lightening regimen, you will want to consider in-office professional treatments to gain the most immediate and significant reduction in your skin discoloration. The SkinCeuticals Advanced Pigment Corrector and Micropeel chemical peels are safe and effective professional peels that are performed in a series to slough off excess melanin that has accumulated in your skin cells. Peels also give the added benefit of luminous, smooth, glowing skin.


Lasers are the quickest and most effective way to reverse discoloration. The Clear + Brilliant treatment is a fractional laser designed to reduce pigmentation and is especially beneficial if you have melasma or a darker skin type and are wishing for more even skin tone. While not a laser, IPL (intense pulsed light) harnesses the power of focused light waves to remove sun-induced freckles and sun spots. What makes IPL unique is it creates a uniformity of tone and texture, producing youthful radiance.


Just like facial skincare, treating the pigmentation on your skin requires an individualized approach. Meet with our aestheticians so they can help you prepare for the upcoming spring and summer sunshine and develop a corrective plan.


Physician, Skin expert Dr. Joe and his Aestheticians will evaluate each prospective patient and recommend a customized treatment plan. Dr. Joe supervises, instructs and certifies appropriate ancillary staff utilizing the most advanced ultrasound energy-based tools and training in the latest techniques- all for your maximum results.


For your complimentary consultation call our office.



* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.