You look back at pictures of yourself in your relative youth and you marvel at how clear, taut, and evenly toned your skin used to be. As your body’s primary protector, your skin endures quite a bit as it shields you from the world, and the effort can take a toll.
If you’ve developed dark patches on your face and you want to know why, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Bruce Saal and our team here at Los Gatos Dermatology are devoting this month’s blog post to facial discolorations like these. Let’s take a look.
The most common type of dark patches on your face are sun or age spots. The reason these are interchangeably called sun or age spots is that both sun and age have everything to do with their appearances.
When your skin is exposed to the sun, your melanin jumps into action to absorb the harmful ultraviolet rays. These cells contain pigment, which is why you can tan or darken in the sun.
After years of protecting your skin, your melanin can malfunction and begin to clump together, creating the dark patches on highly exposed areas of skin, such as on your face. The good news is that these spots are not cancerous.
The even better news is that we can easily eliminate age spots from your face with a number of different treatments, from cryotherapy to intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments.
A hormonal issue
Another road to darker patches in your skin are hormonal changes that lead to melasma. This condition is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy,” as the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can lead to light-to-dark brown patches on your face and abdomen.
Melasma can also form if you're taking birth control pills, which influence your reproductive hormone levels.
Melasma often goes away or fades once your pregnancy is finished or you stop taking birth control pills.
If the brownish patches of skin don’t fade away, we can treat melasma the same way we do age and sun spots.
Let us take a look
If you develop a dark patch on your skin, the odds are good that it’s harmless and we can clear away the problem, quickly and easily.
That said, it’s important that we take a look so we can rule out skin cancer, just to be on the safe side. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and affects 1 in 5 people in the United States by the time they reach the age of 70.
For definitive diagnosis and treatment of dark patches that appear on your face, and peace of mind, we invite you to contact our office in Los Gatos, California, to schedule an appointment.