Dark spots, sun spots, hyperpigmentation… call them however you like, they always spring out all of a sudden as if out of nowhere. Ugh.
Sometimes, it’s inevitable. Hormones, injuries and simply growing older can make your skin go haywire and start pumping out more melanin than it needs.
But other times… other times you may be making some skincare mistakes that’ll give you those dark spots. Like, skipping sunscreen. Or popping those damn pimples.
These dark spots DON’T have to happen. Here are three skincare habits to ditch now to prevent all kinds of hyperpigmentation:
1. You Skip Sunscreen
Nothing triggers melanin production like the sun. Nothing.
I mean, why do you think your skin even tans? Because your body likes that sunkissed glow? I wish!
Your tan is a self-defense mechanism. It’s your body’s way of telling you, “Get out of the sun now! Don’t you see how brown I’m becoming? I’m getting fried alive here!”
UV rays force your skin to pump out more melanin than usual. At first you may think, “Ah, cool! I look like a bronzed goddess.”
But, damage your skin today, damage your skin tomorrow, it’s only a matter of time before things go wrong. All of a sudden, your skin keeps pumping out too much melanin here and there. Ugh.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Wear sunscreen every single day, rain or shine. UVA rays penetrate through clouds and windows and are even reflected on snow. You’re not safe just because you can’t see the sun!
Don’t forget to reapply throughout the day, too. Sunlight breaks down UV filters, making them ineffective (ironic, isn’t it?). If you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in the summer, reapply religiously after every two hours.
If you already have sun spots, use a skin-lightener to fade them away. I’m sharing my fave skin-lighteners and how to use them here.
- Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF30 ($36): best for sensitive skin. Available at Sephora.
- Elta MD UV Pure Broad Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): best for oily skin. Available at Dermstore and Walmart.
- Elta MD UV Lotion Broad Spectrum 30 Plus ($35.00): best for dry skin. Available at: Dermstore, SkincareRx and Walmart.
Related: The Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which One Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?
2. You Pop Your Pimples
I get it. That red, pus-filled monster that just sprung up on your nose is driving you cray-cray. You just want it to disappear. NOW.
But popping it ain’t the answer. Sure, squeezing that pimple to death is oh-SO-satisfying. But I doubt you’ll like the dark spot the revengful bugger leaves behind.
Here’s how it wreaks its vengeance: when you pop your pimples, you’re increasing inflammation. Inflammation then triggers melanin to pump out an extra dose of colour, making the patch of skin where the pimple used to be darker than the rest of your face.
Yes, pimples are mean.
Do you really want to go through that when there’s another way to get rid of that nasty pimple without any side effects?
Struggling to put together an effective anti-acne routine that doesn’t break the bank? Download your FREE “The Ordinary Anti-Acne Skincare Routine” below:
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
You have a few options here:
- Exfoliate: Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble exfoliant that gets inside the pores, removing all the dead cells, excess oil and other crap that’s clogging them up and gives birth to the pimple. It also keeps pimples from coming back.
- Spot treat: Sulfur, benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil all have anti-bacterial properties that kill P. Acnes, the bacteria that gives you pimples. They’re all pretty harsh so use them on pimples only. If you go for tea tree oil, dilute it first.
- Kate Somerville Eradikate Mask Foam-Activated Acne Treatment ($54.00): 5% colloidal sulfur. Available at Nordstrom and Sephora
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion Exfoliant ($29.00): 2% salicylic acid. Available at Feel Unique, Paula’s Choice, Selfridges and Skinstore.
- Tea Tree 100% Pure Best Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil ($6.99): 100% tea tree oil (dilute it!!). Available at Amazon.
Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin
3. You Overexfoliate
I see this so much lately. Acids are having a moment and you want to use all of them. And then you wonder why your skin is all red and flaky…
That’s not even the worst part. Irritation often turns into inflammation, which activates the same gene that’s responsible for melanin production.
In other words: every time you’re irritating your skin, you could be telling your skin to pump out more melanin.
FYI, overexfoliation is one of the biggest culprits but ANYTHING that irritates skin can give you dark spots down the road. That includes harsh skincare products, overcleansing, some cosmetic procedures like lasers (especially when done too much or by someone who’s not properly qualified to carry out the treatment), traumas and injuries to your skin…
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Be gentle on your skin. Use gentle skincare products that don’t irritate it. Don’t go crazy with cleansing and cosmetic treatments. And stop exfoliating your skin raw. Choose one exfoliant suitable for your skin type and stick to it.
- Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): glycolic acid + lactic acid + salicylic acid. Best for combination skin. Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00): salicylic acid. Best for oily and acne-prone skin. Available at Dermstore, Feel Unique, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges.
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel ($29.00): glycolic acid. Best for dry skin. Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice
- The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA (£5.50): lactic acid. Best for sensitive skin. Available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which One Should You Choose?
How do you know if you’re over-exfoliating? I’ve been using the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA liquid (on your recommendation!) daily, sometimes twice a day! Is that too much? I haven’t experienced any visible irritation that I can see, but I do have some sunspots. Also, do you have any recommendations for reapplying sunscreen over makeup? I hate to spend so much time getting ready in the morning only to wreck it all reapplying sunscreen! I work inside though, so I don’t know if reapplication is necessary in my case.
Sirena, if your skin isn’t irritated or dry/flaky, you’re not overexfoliating.
You need to reapply sunscreen because sunlight deactivates it. In summer under the sun, the degradation happens within two hours. But if you’re spending most of your time indoors and away from sunlight, reapplication may not be necessary at all.
I remember getting sun burns, not tans, but burns. I used to pour baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic Oil no. 2 all over me. The sunspots suddenly came out a couple of years ago, without any warning. I woke up one morning and looked at the mirror, and there they were sitting on my cheeks. It’s not easy to get rid of the spots. I don’t think they’ll ever go away. But I’ll be happy if they lighten up and do not multiply as I get older. To the young ladies out there, do not skip sunscreen!
JD, sorry you had to learn the hard way! Sun damage is so sneaky. For years, it seems like the sun has no effect on your skin and then one day out of the blue all hell breaks loose on your skin. It’s very hard to make dark spots go away completely but there are lots of things you can do to lighten them.