The dark spots on your face are most likely age spots or solar lentigines. They're a result of sun exposure that stimulates the production of melanin, a compound responsible for pigmentation. As you continually expose the skin to ultraviolet light, some of the melanin can begin to stick together. Over time, these clusters of melanin develop dark spots on the skin. Although there's no real need to treat these spots other than for cosmetic purposes, a few products can help improve the appearance of your skin.
Hydroquinone is one product that may help rid the skin of dark spots, according to the Mayo Clinic. Hydroquinone is considered a skin-bleaching agent. By applying this topical medication directly onto dark spots, the melanin causing the blemish begins to break down and helps it to fade.
It also inhibits tyrosinase, the enzyme needed by the body to produce melanin, explains the New Zealand Dermatological Society. Daily application can cause the spot to fade over several months.
The Mayo Clinic suggests using tretinoin, a retinoid commonly used in the treatment of acne. Tretinoin encourages cellular turnover of the skin, where old epidermal cells are replaced by new ones. These new epidermal cells are often similar in color to the rest of your skin, helping it fade the age spots over time.
Much like hydroquinone, you won't see noticeable results for several months. Tretinoin may also be used in conjunction with hydroquinone and a mild steroid.
Though sunscreen doesn't necessarily fade age spots, it's actually an important facet in treatment. Both hydroquinone and tretinoin should be used with a sunscreen, since the skin if often more sensitive than normal, increasing the risk of burning or darkening existing age spots.
The Mayo Clinic goes so far as saying that sunscreens actually help tretinoin work properly. Any time you expose treated skin to the sun, a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 should be worn. Apply sunscreens no less than 30 minutes prior to heading outdoors, recommends the National Institutes of Health.
If hydroquinone, tretinoin or other products fail to provide desired results, you can often improve the appearance of dark spots with a number of dermatological procedures. Cryotherapy is a process of freezing age spots to break up the clustered melanin, allowing the blemish to fade. Laser therapy exposes the skin to laser light energy, which also breaks apart melanin, causing the spots to fade.
Dermabrasion and chemical peels both remove the surface layer of the skin to encourage new skin growth. The new skin cells are often closer in tone and texture to the rest of the skin, helping to fade the spots.
Discuss these other options with your doctor or dermatologist to determine the best treatment if products have not removed your dark spots.