If you have hyperigmentation spots due to breakouts and sun exposure, the good news is you're not stuck with them forever. Follow the tips below and you'll start to diminish the appearance of dark spots in as quickly as four weeks and prevent new spots from cropping up. Read on for your spot-fading game plan.
1. Do not (I repeat, do not) pick that zit.
Yes, it's hard to resist. But if you've given into temptation in the past, you know the ugly aftermath: a red or brown mark that could scar your face forever. Instead, treat your marks with a 1 percent hydrocortisone cream multiple times a day (you can pick up a tube at any drugstore). Hydrocortisone is an anti-inflammatory, so it'll soothe redness and swelling. It's a better bet than traditional zit zappers that use salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to dry out pimples, which can potentially dry out your skin and lead to more irritation.
2. Use a skin-cleansing brush every other day.
Using a powered cleansing brush every two days not only cleanses your skin more deeply than your fingertips can, it also gently gets rid of dead skin cells that can sit on your skin. Sloughing away dead cells also removes the top layer of skin that's ready to be exfoliated away, making your skin better able to absorb the spot treatment you'll apply to eradicate any brown spots from past breakouts or overexposure to the sun. Just remember to take good care of your brush head, washing it after each use and swapping it for a new one every month.
3. Treat your trouble spots nightly.
Spots, whether from your handiwork (i.e. picking your skin) or the sun, take weeks to fade. So, while treating existing hyperpigmentation, make sure you're also taking steps to prevent spots from forming by using products that contain skin-lightening ingredients like niacinamide, a non-irritating vitamin B3 ingredient.
4. Fade spots fast with a retinoid.
Retinoids are a powerful form of vitamin A proven to speed up cell turnover, which helps erase spots faster. (Bonus: The vitamin also helps your skin produce more collagen, which helps your complexion looks smoother and diminishes the appearance of fine lines.) The most potent form is retinoic acid, which is only available through a prescription from your derm, although it might cause slight irritation and flaking. It's also a bit pricey.
If you don't have extra cash to shell out on the regular, you can opt for the over-the-counter form, retinol, at any drugstore. The milder version offers similar results and minimizes the chance of redness or flaking. Regardless of the retinoid your derm recommends, start out using it once a week and then build the usage from there to ensure your skin stays calm, and then use your skin-brightening cream on the other nights.
5. Wear SPF 30 daily.
If there's only one thing you do, make it this: Use broad-spectrum SPF 30 daily, a guideline recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. Not only does it help prevent skin cancer, it protects your skin from harmful UV rays, the culprit behind most dark spots. In response to the sun's UV rays, our cells send out protective pigment (or melanin) to naturally keep your skin from getting burned. This is what you know to be a "tan," but it's really your skin trying to protect itself. You might be into your glowing bronze color, but deep in the layers of your skin, the damage has occurred and will later surface in as tiny brown spots (aka freckles). To keep your skin brown spot-free, don't skip the SPF!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.