Cosmetic Update

Does stain removal cream work? Correct treatment and prevention methods for age spots taught by a cosmetic dermatologist

As we get older, we start to notice age spots. There are cosmetics on the market that claim to remove stains, but can they actually remove stains? This time, we spoke to Dr. Mayumi Nomoto, director of Mayumi Nomoto Clinic Ginza, about the types of age spots and the correct treatments.

The causes and treatments for stains vary depending on the type!

–What types of stains are there?

There are four types of stains, each with different causes. When it comes to treatment and countermeasures for stains, it is important to choose a method that is appropriate for the type. First, let’s learn about the types of stains.

(1) Senile pigment spots

This type of stain is so common that it can be called the “typical stain” that many people worry about. The cause is the accumulation of daily UV damage. It often appears on areas that are exposed to the sun, such as the cheeks and backs of the hands, and is characterized by becoming darker and more defined as you get older .

(2) Post-inflammatory pigmentation
Have you ever felt that an insect bite or acne has turned into a stain? That is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It may last for a long time depending on the degree of inflammation .

(3) Melasma
Melasma is a pale, uniform stain that appears symmetrically around the cheekbones. It is common in women in their 30s to 50s, and is worsened by UV rays, physical friction, disturbances in female hormones, stress, etc. It gets darker or lighter depending on the season .

(4) Freckles
Freckles are small spots scattered from the nose to the cheeks and eyelids. It gets worse when exposed to ultraviolet rays, but it often gets thinner after your 30s .

The stains that have formed cannot be removed with commercially available whitening cosmetics!

Image of a woman suffering from age spots

–Can I remove dark spots with commercially available whitening cosmetics?

Unfortunately, commercially available whitening cosmetics cannot erase stains . The whitening effect of whitening cosmetics is to “prevent age spots and freckles by suppressing the production of melanin, which causes age spots,” so what you can do is prevent age spots .

Even if it is not possible to erase the stains, it will be difficult for melanin to increase, and if the stratum corneum is adjusted through skin care, the barrier function will be strengthened and the skin can be protected from external stimuli. Therefore, there is no need to stop using it just because the stain does not disappear.

How can stains be treated? Two major treatments for age spots

Image of a woman with spots

–What kind of treatments are available for various stains?

There are two major treatments for stains, and you need to choose the treatment depending on the type of stain.

(1) Thermal stimulation treatment
This treatment uses laser and white light to destroy melanin, the cause of age spots, and expel the age spots . This method is commonly used to treat senile pigment spots and freckles.

(2) Tretinoin/hydroquinone therapy (topical treatment)
Tretinoin is a type of vitamin A that has the ability to promote skin turnover. The effect of tretinoin shortens skin turnover from the usual 6 weeks to 2 to 3 weeks, so melanin is excreted quickly and dark spots become lighter .

On the other hand, hydroquinone is called a “skin bleaching agent” and has been confirmed to have a high whitening effect on stains . It also has the effect of suppressing melanin production and lightening melanin to fade existing age spots. The advantage is that you can perform treatment at home while receiving guidance from your doctor.

――Are there any treatments such as oral medication?

In addition to the two main treatments, oral treatments such as tranexamic acid and vitamins are also available. Oral treatment is often selected for melasma and post-inflammatory pigmentation.

Pharmaceutical products and vitamin preparations that contain tranexamic acid as the main ingredient are available on the market, but the amounts of the ingredients may differ from those of medical pharmaceuticals, and the effects may vary accordingly.

As you can see, there are multiple treatment methods, but treatments are not completely divided depending on the type of stain, and multiple treatment methods may be used in combination. We propose treatments that combine external treatments, internal treatments, and device treatments to achieve even higher results.

How to prevent stains on a daily basis. Is it NG to just apply sunscreen? 

Image of sunscreen to prevent stains

–Please tell me how to prevent stains before they form.

For senile pigment spots, a typical type of age spots that many people are troubled by, it is most important to take measures against UV rays.

The most important measures to take against UV rays are
(1) avoid,
(2) cover, and
(3) apply

Take steps to avoid UV rays such as “walking in the shade,” “using a parasol,” and “reducing going out between 10:00 and 15:00 when UV rays are strong,” as well as measures to cover exposed skin with hats, gloves, etc., and protect yourself from sunburn. Let’s take advantage of it.

There is also a paper that shows that simply applying sunscreen with the palm of your hand only applies a fraction of the amount needed. Moreover, the effectiveness of the sunscreen wears off after 2 to 3 hours, so it is important to apply the prescribed amount of sunscreen and reapply frequently. When applying it, be sure to spread it on your skin rather than rubbing it into your skin.

――Are there any other sunburn measures that you recommend?
Intake of vitamin C. If you get enough vitamin C from vegetables and fruits on a regular basis, there is no need to force yourself to take supplements, but if you are not confident in your nutritional balance, taking supplements may be an idea.

It is important to take vitamin C as soon as possible after sunburn. In my case, I take high doses of vitamin C the day before, the day of, and the day after days when I have a high risk of sunburn, such as leisure activities or driving.

On days when you get a sunburn, take 2000mg twice a day, in the morning and at night. Vitamin C is water-soluble, so even if you drink a lot at once, it will be excreted in your urine, so it is recommended that you drink it in portions.

If you feel that you are lacking in vitamin C on a daily basis, I think it would be a good idea to take a vitamin C supplement of about 2000 mg every day, and increase the amount when you get sunburned.

–Please tell us about liposomal vitamin C, which has been a hot topic lately.

Liposomal vitamin C is vitamin C trapped in spherical capsules (liposomes) made of phospholipids (fat). It has a higher absorption rate than regular water-soluble vitamin C, and it stays in the body for a long time. It may be said that vitamin C overcomes the drawback of being water-soluble.

–Finally, please give some advice to people who are worried about age spots.

It is difficult to remove stains once they have formed with at-home skin care, so it is important to take thorough preventative measures to prevent stains from forming.

Additionally, it is difficult to judge the type of stain on your own, and a specialized approach is required to treat it. If you want to get rid of your existing stains, I think you can receive accurate diagnosis and treatment by visiting a medical institution instead of deciding on your own.

In order to achieve beautiful skin that you are satisfied with, why not review your usual anti-blemish measures and visit a beauty clinic as needed.

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