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Lifestyle: How to tackle dark spots on skin

One of the most noticeable trends in beauty has been in brightening products. While eastern countries have been offering creams to lighten skin for years, there are now lots of products available here aimed at brightening and making skin tone more uniform.

Dark spots or uneven skin tone is known as hyperpigmentation and signifies an increase in the skin's normal pigmentation in a particular area. As Dr Tom Mammone, executive director of research and development for Clinique, explains the condition can be caused by exposure to UVA and UVB rays, acne scarring, age spots and hormonal changes.

"Hyperpigmentation due to exposure to UV rays (also known as age spots) occurs when, stimulated by UV rays, the normal activity of the skin's cells becomes hyperactive, triggering the overproduction of melanin pigmentation," he said.

As a result, over time skin forms these dark spots. Various forms of irritation such as over-cleansing, atopic dermatitis or even blemishes can also lead to dark spots.

"Melasma or chlorasma appears symmetrically on the upper lip, cheekbones and the lower chin in women over 20. The general understanding is that it is triggered by hormonal changes and is exacerbated by UV exposure. There is also a type that occurs only during pregnancy or when taking birth-control pills."

Another instance is hereditary freckles, which are most visible around puberty.

When it comes to treating pigmentation, there's good and bad news. "We can address the dark spots caused by melasma, chlorasma and hyperpigmentation due to exposure to UV rays or as a result of contact dermatitis or other irritation with topical skin care. We cannot treat pigmentation concerns such as hereditary freckles."

However, a good skin-care regime can help. "The twice-daily ritual of cleansing, exfoliating and moisturising can actually make or break your quest for brighter skin," says Dr Mammone. "Daily exfoliation is also crucial."

He believes the surge in cases of hyperpigmentation is down to sun damage. "I recommend using a daily moisturiser with an SPF to protect against UV rays. Clinique's Even Better Skin Tone Correcting Moisturizer SPF 20 (e52) not only has that SPF protection, but also has been formulated for those who have hyperpigmentation as a skin concern."

The Clinique Even Better range is available on counters now