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Sun spots

How to tell the difference between freckles and dark spots...

Sun spots
24 January 2012

Q: I’m starting to get dark spots on my forehead and cheeks. They’re not freckles – more like shadows – and they get worse when I get a tan. I was hoping they’d disappear with time but they’re not shifting. What can I do? Should I see a doctor?

A: Our expert Ahmed Zambarakji answers your questions below:

The persistent dark spots that come with age and sun exposure – or sometimes a nice little reminder of an acne-ridden youth – are known as hyperpigmentation, a condition that's trickier to treat than wrinkles or fine lines. In order to clear any discolouration, you need to retrain the pigment regulating cells. And that can be a long and arduous process.

Most prescription treatments for pigment disorders contain hardcore actives that basically bleach the skin back to ‘normal’, a method I would advise against on account of the inevitable side effects.

A safer option comes in the form of whitening or ‘brightening’ products that are designed to exfoliate away superficial damage and suppress melanin production (the pigment that colours the skin). The catch is these formulas need to be used daily (sometimes twice daily) for weeks on end before you see any results.

One of my favourite formulas comes from Skinceuticals. Pigment Regulator (£75 for 30ml; is pricey but the pungent brown serum packs a potent 10 per cent of chemical exfoliants to break down clusters of pigmentation. Elsewhere, Embilica and Kojic Acid work like brighteners, to help balance skin tone and keep pigment in check. Unlike other products, the potent brightening agents used here are suitable on all ethnic skin types.

La Roche Posay have created a more affordable alternative in the form of Pigment Control (£29 for 30ml;, a biomedic conditioning serum that uses a chemical exfoliant to treat existing discolouration while inhibiting the production of more pigment. It works especially well on solar lentigo, which often looks like freckly patches on the shoulders.

As for men only formulas, Lab Series ( is set to release a Power Brightening system at the beginning of February, which will retail from £29. The range contains a spray-on lotion, a serum and an eye balm for shadows underneath your peepers.

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(Image: Getty)