a doctor examining a patient's skin near her wrist

Facial Discoloration Treatment | Illinois Dermatology Institute

Facial discoloration is often caused by the development of skin conditions such as melasma or brown spots. Patches of skin on the face darken in color as a result of ultraviolet light exposure, hormones and the aging process. The areas most frequently affected are those that commonly come into contact with the sun and other harsh elements, including the cheeks and forehead.

Recommendations for improving the appearance of facial discoloration typically include the regular use of sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure as much as possible. Birth control pills should be discontinued if hormonal changes due to melasma are the cause. There are also a number of treatment methods that can diminish facial discoloration in most patients. Some of the most successful options for resolving facial discoloration are:

Bleaching Formulas
Skin bleaching formulas are often an effective form of treatment for brown discolorations on the face. Containing hydroquinone, this medication is topically applied to the spots on the skin to lighten them by reducing the amount of melanin present. Some of these products can be purchased over the counter, but they contain a lower concentration of the active ingredients than those that are prescribed by a doctor. Skin bleaching products may come in the form of a liquid, cream, lotion or gel.

Chemical Peels
Chemical peels remove damaged outer layers of skin on the face to treat uneven pigmentation and produce healthy, glowing skin. There are three types of chemical peels, ranging from mild to strong – alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and phenol – and formula strengths are tailored to each patient.
AHAs are the gentlest type of chemical peel. They are typically applied once a week, or may be mixed in a milder concentration with a cream or cleanser to be used daily; treatment takes 10 minutes or less. They may be combined with a bleach solution to thin the skin and even its tone. TCAs are commonly used for medium-depth peeling (though depth is adjustable) to treat pigment problems, sometimes in combination with AHAs. Phenol, the strongest chemical peel, treats deeper skin problems such as areas of very blotchy or damaged skin. Although quite effective at skin lightening, a facial treatment with phenol can last more than an hour and recovery may take a few months.

Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure that rejuvenates the appearance of the skin by treating discoloration caused by sun damage and other unwanted skin problems. Your physician will use a handheld device to transmit tiny crystal particles across the targeted area of discolored skin to exfoliate the surface layer. This skin is then suctioned away with a vacuum tool so that the fresh, healthy underlying skin remains.
This procedure is performed in your doctor’s office and does not require the use of any anesthesia. There is no downtime associated with this procedure, and patients can return to work or other regular activities immediately after. You may experience mild redness for about an hour after the procedure, but this usually goes away on its own. Most patients can achieve noticeable results after a series of five to ten treatment sessions spaced one to two weeks apart.

Laser Treatment
Laser skin resurfacing is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure used to reduce the appearance of skin discoloration. Laser skin resurfacing treats aging, damaged skin by removing a layer of skin through a noninvasive approach that uses short, pulsed laser light energy to strip away as much skin as is needed. This allows for a deep removal through very precise and less invasive techniques. The laser is moved over the targeted area multiple times until imperfections are no longer visible and a smooth layer of skin is visible.
This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and uses local anesthesia to help minimize discomfort. The entire procedure can take anywhere from 30 minute to two hours to perform, depending on the size and condition of the treated area. Some patients may require more than one procedure in order to achieve their desired results.

Liquid Nitrogen
Many areas of discoloration on the face can be successfully treated with liquid nitrogen, otherwise known as cryotherapy. The liquid nitrogen is sprayed onto the site of the discoloration, freezing the skin and turning it white. It will form a small blister that typically heals in one to two weeks and the excess pigmentation will disappear along with it.


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