Creams for Spots on the Face

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Spots on the face may result from aging, overexposure to the sun, acne or an injury, such as a cut to the skin. Whatever the cause, the spots are accumulations of melanin, the pigment that gives skin and hair its color. Certain substances in prescription creams and over-the-counter products can help fade and lighten unwelcome facial discolorations.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Creams and lotions containing alpha-hydroxy acids -- glycolic acid from sugar cane, lactic acid from milk, tartaric acid from grapes, malic acid from apples and pears, and critic acid from oranges and lemons -- are available over the counter for helping fade age spots and other irregular pigmentation as well as treating fine lines. To lessen the chances of irritation, the over-the-counter product should contain concentrations of no more than 2 to 10 percent of AHA and should be used every other day to start, working up to every day. Prescription formulations contain 12 percent glycolic acid. (See refs 1 and 2)

Hydroquinone Bleaches Spots

Some bleaching creams contain hydroquinone and can be bought over the counter, while a dermatologist or other physician can prescribe a product with a higher concentration. These products can fade such hyperpigmentation as age spots and dark spots, called melasma or chloasma, related to pregnancy or hormone therapy. (See ref 1)

Retinol Fades Them

Retinol, a natural form of vitamin A, is an active ingredient in a number of over-the- counter products. The molecular structure of Vitamin A is small enough to get into lower layers of skin where it can improve hyperpigmentation, fine lines and skin tone. Retinal palmitate is similar to retinol but not as strong. A stronger version of retinol is a chemical related to vitamin A, known as tretinoin, found in Retin-A and Renova. These products help repair sun damage including spots and fine wrinkles. (See refs 1 and 2)

L-Ascorbic Acid is Vitamin C

While many skin-fading products list vitamin C derivatives among their ingredients, L-ascorbic acid is the most effective form. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can stimulate the production of natural collagen -- the structural protein of connective tissue that decreases with age and exposure to sun. Vitamin C may protect skin against damage caused by sun exposure.(See ref 1)

Hyaluronic Acid Treats Wrinkles, Too

Hyaluronic acid occurs in the skin of young people and in human connective tissues. The substance is destroyed as people age, and diet and smoking can also decrease its level in the body. Often used in conjunction with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid treats wrinkles as well as spots. (See ref 1)

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Fights Future Damage

Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a potent antioxidant that repairs skin damage and helps prevent future damage. Because it is water soluble, it can penetrate skin cells and protect against free radicals. (See ref 1)

Acne Can Scar

Scarring from acne occurs when collagen in the skin is damaged by inflammation, changing the skin’s texture. While professional procedures such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion are useful in fading acne scars, over-the-counter creams containing 2 percent hydroquinone, prescription products with Retin-A, or combinations of these agents can be effective. (See ref 3)