Treatments for Skin Darkening Problems
Lightening Skin Under Eyes
I am a 34-year old African American woman and I have just had my first child.
I have noticed that the dark circles under my eyes are getting darker and darker as I get older and I am also starting to notice small black moles on my face.
I have heard a few things about chemical peels and microdermabrasion.
Would either of these treatments my skin darkening problems?
First, congratulations on your new baby!
Sorry, but the answer to your question is "no".
Chemical peels and microdermabrasion are not recommended for either skin darkening or mole removal.
Don't be discouraged though; there is good news for you.
Are you aware that some skin darkening is not uncommon during pregnancy and the post-natal period? This is true for the under-eye area as well as for pre-existing moles.
The skin darkening is caused by the dramatic hormonal changes in your body and is exacerbated by sun exposure.
So it may diminish on its own in a matter of months.
In the meantime, always use sun protection and avoid the sun (especially the mid-day sun) when possible. This will prevent the skin darkening from getting worse.
Learn more about sun screens here.
The sun may further darken your moles and under-eye circles. Both are caused by proliferation of melanocytes in distinct areas.
Contrary to popular belief, dark skin does not provide much barrier to the sun's damaging rays. This is especially true in dark skin which already has areas of hyperpigmentation. These areas of concentrated melanocytes act like sun magnets because of the excess melanin they contain.
[ Under-eye circles can also be caused by thin skin and congestion in the blood vessels under the eyes. This is usually hereditary and common in fair-skinned individuals; so is not likely the cause of your under-eye circles. Your doctor can tell you for sure.]
As for your moles, most moles are benign and will fade with time. Most non-congenital moles appear during the first twenty years of life, though they may continue to develop into the thirties and forties.
It is not unusual to have up to forty moles by age forty. The majority disappear with age.
Some types of moles respond well to laser treatment. Others do not, and in fact can be worsened if improperly treated. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a risk with any laser treatment.
The only other way to remove moles is to excise (cut) them out or shave them off (if they are raised). This is mostly done when they look as if they could be malignant.
It is sometimes done for cosmetic reasons, but be aware that a small scar will be left that would be more obvious on dark skin.
If you decide to keep your moles and let nature takes its own time with them, just be alert for any changes that may indicate malignancy: change in a mole's color, height, size or shape; tenderness or pain; bleeding or oozing; itching or scaling.
There are topical treatments to fade hyperpigmentation - the patches of darkening skin. Your doctor may prescribe Retin A or hydroquinone.
If you prefer something gentler, there are several hyperpigmentation treatments available over the counter.
Read my recommendations about them in Skin Lightening Solutions.
Check the label ingredients. Do not use skin lighteners or bleaching creams containing steroids. These can cause skin damage including permanent redness, thinning of the skin and spider veins.
Also avoid skin lighteners or bleaching creams containing mercury which can result in mercury poisoning, nerve and brain damage.
Remember the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland? That's why he went mad.
Mercury-containing skin creams are illegal in the U.S., but sometimes they sneak in.
Read a scary mercury story in Cosmetic Safety.
Medical Evaluation of Your Skin Darkening is Key
Before beginning any course of treatment, talk to your obstetrician. Ask for her advice and referral to a dermatologist if indicated.
The doctor who saw you through your pregnancy is in a good position to diagnose your skin darkening problem. Also she can tell you if it should fade with time and perhaps will even prescribe medications to speed the process.
Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion for Dark Skin
Since you specifically asked about chemical peels and microdermabrasion, here are some things you should know.
Black and Asian skin and other dark complexions may become permanently discolored or blotched after a deep peel, whether chemical or laser.
Don't even think of a deep phenol chemical peel. They always leave a line of demarcation where the peel ends, even on fair skin. The darker the skin, the more obvious the difference will be.
Further, the peeled area will never tan; so if you spend any time in the sun, the line of demarcation will become more pronounced.
Microdermabrasion is suitable for black skin since it removes only the top few layers of skin. Microdermabrasion is effective for treating skin blotchiness and wrinkles - though not for removing moles.
Several treatments may be required for the desired results.
The professional who evaluates your skin's condition will recommend a course of treatment.
A typical regime is five to ten treatments, every two to three weeks.
Following the initial series, maintenance treatments may be recommended every few weeks.
Medical strength skin care products may be prescribed during treatment, so be sure to factor that into your budget.
If you decide to go for skin resurfacing treatments, ask around for an expert in treating dark skin.
In inexperienced hands, these more complex skin therapies can end up ruining rather than rejuvenating your appearance.
This article is for informational purposes only. It does not purport to offer medical advice.
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