Move over, wrinkles. Aging's latest criminal is hyperpigmentation.
The culprit is melanin, specifically too much of it rising to the skin’s surface, causing hyperpigmentation in the form of brown spots, splotches and darkened areas. As we grow older, our bodies make less melanin—10 to 20 percent less every decade—which “means more susceptibility to UV rays, more brown spots (even white spots, too), wrinkling, a paler overall appearance and a higher risk of skin cancer.” Pregnancy, birth control pills, sun, acne and scars also cause dark spots for women of color and those over twenty years old.
Like Wechsler, also an adjunct assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, said, there are precautions to avoiding further hyperpigmentation: “Whatever you do, nothing will work for long if you don’t faithfully use a broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen.” Once you’re religiously using SPF, she suggests a mild 20 percent salicylic acid peel to remove the top layer of dead, pore-clogging cells (medium peels remove areas of hyperpigmentation, freckles and sunspots); a vitamin A-based retinol  daily to improve color and brown spots; and creams or serums (Wechsler recommends Chanel’s new Le Blanc serum ) containing polyphenols or antioxidants.
Another watchword is hydroquinone: “While the most powerful lightening agent, it actually does not bleach the skin—it inhibits a pigment-forming enzyme so new cells don’t darken.” Available in 2 percent (over-the-counter) and 4 percent (prescription) strengths, it fades dark spots and bleaches darkened areas. And a tip when using potent potions to attain a youthfully uniformed, brighter skin tone: “It’s important to only apply to hyperpigmented areas,” says Wechsler.
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