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Treatments for Brown Spots on the Skin

by
author image Cindy Ell
Cindy Ell began writing professionally in 1990. A former medical librarian, she has written materials for hospitals, medical associations, the "Nashville Scene" and "Coping Magazine." She received her Bachelor of Arts in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts and her Master of Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute. She is currently a full-time freelance medical writer.
Treatments for Brown Spots on the Skin
Older woman examining her face in mirror wearing bathrobe. Photo Credit ColorBlind Images/Blend Images/Getty Images

Overview

Brown spots on the skin become distressingly common after the age of 40. They pop up in places that are most exposed to the sun. Most brown spots on the skin are unsightly but harmless. However, they can be confused with cancerous growths. Your doctor can inspect and biopsy them if there's any doubt. A number of treatments are available to fade and even completely remove your brown spots.

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Over-the-counter fade creams are available in drugstores, department stores through online retailers. They can help lighten brown spots, but the results aren't instantaneous. In fact, it can take weeks or even months for improvement to be apparent. According to the Mayo Clinic, the best over-the-counter treatments for brown spots contain deoxyarbutin, glycolic acid, kojic acid or hydroquinone. In order for the treatment to be successful, the cream must be absorbed through the the topmost layer of skin. Persistent brown spots might need more intensive treatment than what's available over the counter, but fade creams are an inexpensive place to start.

Prescription Bleaching Creams

Your doctor can prescribe strong bleaching creams for brown spots. Most contain hydroquinone, either alone or in combination with retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A. Hydroquinone inhibits the production of melanin, the primary pigment in human skin. Sun protection is highly recommended if you use prescription creams. Although it is very effective, hydroquinone is considered a controversial ingredient by some, and its use is banned in several countries. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to use.

Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion, also known as skin planing, can be performed in a dermatologist's office as a treatment for brown spots. Your doctor will use a high-speed rotary instrument to plane down the age spot after the skin has been anesthetized. A burning sensation similar to that of sunburn typically follows. Scabs may form, and the skin may be a redder than normal for up to 12 weeks. Healing takes about 10 days. The results are generally long lasting.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy uses an intense beam of light to target the extra melanin-producing cells responsible for brown discoloration. Laser therapy won't damage the skin's surface. Results are typically seen two or three weeks after treatment, but the effect is gradual and full results might not be seen for several months. Laser therapy is usually painless and only takes a few minutes. No skin numbing is required. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, brown spots can be diminished by 50 percent with only one treatment. They may fully disappear with additional follow-up treatments.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels can diminish age spots and simultaneously improve your skin's texture. They're available from cosmetologists or dermatologists. Chemical peels cause the topmost layer of your skin to peel off, stimulating new skin growth. Trichloroacetic acid, salicylic acid, Jessner's solution and glycolic acid are several of the substances used for chemical peels, according to The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. You might have redness and scaling similar to that of a sunburn for as many as five days following superficial chemical peels. Intensive chemical peels can take two weeks or longer to heal. After healing, your age spots will no longer be apparent.

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