Brown spots on skin can make your skin tone look like the speckled outside of a quail egg. They look like a tan. But they’re not. They look like moles. But they’re not. They look like they won’t ever go away. But they can. If you know… first, what can cause brown spots on skin… and second how you get rid of brown spots on skin.
First we will get you prevention, then we will get you resolution.
Although… know this first. You my friend, are absolutely beautiful with brown spots on your skin. You really are. Having brown spots on your skin does not take away from your beauty… and it especially doesn’t take away from your inner beauty. Just think how sought after quail eggs are. This article is simply about giving you the power to decide.
Ready to get brown spot savvy? Let’s do this…
What Can Cause Brown Spots On the Skin?
The brown spots you have on your skin are commonly known as liver spots or age spots. Their cause has absolutely nothing to do with your liver (funny that ‘eh) and absolutely everything to do with your skin’s exposure to sunlight.
Do you love the sun?
Do you love a good tan?
Do you really, truly hate rubbing in sunscreen?
Answering yes to one or more of these questions is almost definitely the reason why you have brown spots on your skin.
It is extremely common to get liver spots on your face. It is more than extremely common to get brown spots on your hands. What causes brown spots on your face is the same thing that causes brown spots on your hands. Anywhere sunlight (and to a smaller extent, pollution) gets to date often, will as you age, become prone to brown spots. It’s that simple.
What Causes Brown Spots on Your Face?
Why do you have brown spots when your friend (who also loved the sun with you) doesn’t? What’s different? What’s working for them, that isn’t (…yet) working for you?
First, you need to understand what it is your skin’s doing when it makes a brown spot. See, every day your skin is active. It’s like a kitchen. Food goes in and meals go out. It prepares the basic ingredients, it makes pies/roasts/puddings and best bit, it cleans up after itself.
Your skin has 3 chefs responsible for making your skin tan.
First-up it has a chef called monsieur melanocyte. This guy is a specific type of skin cell. One which makes your skin turn brown. Monsieur melanocyte is the head chef who makes your skin’s brown colour. Whenever you catch a tan, your melanocyte cells have become activated and they cook up a brown pigment known as melanin. It’s what makes you tan. It’s also what makes brown spots on skin.
Firstly you have Madame melanosome. While the melanocyte cells will spend all day hollering instructions, it’s the melanosomes which actually do the leg work. Melanosomes make melanin. They store melanin. They transport melanin. Whenever and wherever something is happening to the brown pigment of your skin, melanosomes are responsible.
Secondly you have sous-sous-chef called monsieur tyrosinase enzyme. Madame melanosome can do nothing without a fully equipped kitchen, she needs bowls, mixing spoons and a stove. Monsieur tyrosinase enzyme is the stove. He helps cook your brown pigment. Without a stove, your skin can’t make the brown stuff (this is the way a lot of age spot removal creams work – we’ll be delving into this soon). Turn the stove on and you have a triple layered, chocolate fudge brownie cake. Switch it off and you have a puddle of eggs, flour and chocolate.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 25 September 2017
Melanocyte skin cells are the space your brown spots are made in.
Melanosomes are the worker bees.
Tyrosinase enzymes are the tools.
When your brown spot making kitchen is open, It makes your skin tan… but it can also give you brown liver spots on your skin.
What Can Cause Brown Spots On Your Skin?
While dermatologists know what causes brown spots on skin, they don’t yet 100% understand skin’s underlying brown spot causing biology. Instead they know this;
- If you have an Asian skin type, your skin will be prone to brown spots
This therefore means there’s a genetic key (or vulnerability) to developing brown spots. Take a look at your ma or pa, do they have brown spots on their skin? If they do, it’s likely you have a vulnerability to developing them. Ask them when they first started seeing age spots, just before this age will be the perfect time for you to start using brown spot removal creams.
- If you went sun crazy when you were young, your skin will be prone to brown spots
Sunlight can make skin cells hyperactive, so you have a strong influence on whether or not you develop brown spots. UVA light is able to travel into the deepest layers of your skin. This is where your melanocyte cells live. UVA light will not cause you a sunburn, so even if you don’t see or feel sun damage, your melanocyte cells are still being sent a little crazy. There’s a very simple way to stop this – find the answer in our how to get rid of brown spots: part 1 section.
- Brown spots aka age spots turn up on your skin with age
Which means when you’re young, your skin has the ability to resist age spots. It could be your skin’s high levels of antioxidants. It could be a very healthy skin cell turnover. It could be your skin’s ability to stay hydrated and therefore perform as it was born to. It’s likely a little of all 3, plus a whole lot more. Keep your skin behaving youthfully and you’ll help your skin get rid of brown spots.
- People who live in an area with high air-borne pollution levels, are prone to brown spots on their face
Meaning it’s not just sunlight which makes brown spots on skin. It’s also other skin stressors. Think of it like this, do you have a magic button that makes you go crazy? Is it someone stealing your last mouthful of chocolate? An unplanned 4am alarm call, snoozed 5 times by your partner? Maybe a delayed commuter train with the expected arrival time rolling on 5 minutes for every 2 you stand at the platform.
We all have a magic button. It’s normal.
We also all have lots of smaller buttons. Aka someone asking to share a chocolatey dessert. A 4am roll over cuddle from your partner. A seat only available in first class section of the commuter train morning.
This is what pollution is to your skin. Sunlight is the magic button to the brown spots on your skin. Pollution is the next magic button in line.
You have brown spots on your skin because of one or more of the above brown spot causes.
How Do You Get Rid of Brown Spots: Part 1
Getting rid of brown spots on skin is a 2 part solution. First stop: prevention. Without preventing your skin from making more brown spots, using a brown spot removal cream will be like putting bath water into a tub with no plug.
Preventing brown spots is all about stopping sun and pollution damage.
You can help stop sun damage to your skin by;
- Using a UVA protecting sunscreen daily (if you love natural try this, if you hate rubbing in sunscreen, try this)
- Using skincare with lots of antioxidants, or a daily antioxidant serum (try The Ordinary’s Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% £5.50/30ml)
- Avoiding very intense sunlight e.g. between the hours of 10am to 2pm
You can help stop pollution damage to your skin and specifically your face by;
- Wearing a BB cream, foundation or powder (this helps trap particles of pollution holding them away from your skin)
- Cleansing thoroughly but delicately (a wash away oil cleanser like this one is perfect) – the longer pollution particles are in contact with your skin, the greater your risk of getting brown spots
- Using an antioxidant serum daily (like the one above), pollution particles make ageing free radicals and oxidants very close to your skin, using an antioxidant serum helps stop this
How Do You Get Rid of Brown Spots: Part 2
Next step: Getting rid of the brown spots you already have. The brown marks you can see on your skin are melanin pigment. The same brown colour which makes your skin become tanned. It’s just when you have an age or liver spot, your melanin pigment has become extremely hyperactive in one area.
Helpfully, your skin has a natural answer to this. It’s why you lose a tan. And it’s because your skin sheds constantly. Roughly fully every 30 to 40 days.
However, if your melanocyte kitchen is still switched to hyperactive, even if your skin is shedding and exfoliating well, you’ll still have brown marks on skin.
This is how brown spot removal creams work. They interrupt your melanocyte kitchen, most often by temporarily engaging your skin’s oven aka monsieur tyrosinase enzyme.
Without a working oven your skin cannot keep making brown spots.
Brown spot removal creams which work like this are known as tyrosinase inhibitors.
You’ll probably know their active ingredients by names like these;
- Vitamin C
- Niacinamide aka vitamin B3
- Kojic acid
- Liquorice extract
- N-Acetyl Glucosamine, which works extra especially when paired with niacinamide
- Retinoids also known as vitamin A
Brown spot removal creams which work, have one or more of these tried, tested and proven brown spot removal actives.
- The Ordinary’s Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA (£7/30ml)
- Dr Dennis Gross Skincare’s C + Collagen Brighten + Firm Vitamin C Serum (£72/30ml) – with vitamin C, niacinamiade and hexylresorcinol
- White RX, activated serum (£35/30ml)
Once you start combining active ingredients, brown spot removal creams can get expensive. Top tip; The Ordinary do separate products for vitamin C, vitamin A, niacinamide and alpha-arbutin and most are under £10. They can be combined in the right order to make your brown spot removal as purse friendly as it is effective.
So my friend… now you’re clued up on brown spot removal, do you have questions? Wondering which products to use? How to use them or how long they should take to work? Chat to me in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.