Why do brown spots sometimes look worse with self tanners?

Hi Dr. Irwin, I was told that my brown facial spots should no longer appear when using a self tanner on the face after I have completed 3 photo-facial sessions...wondering if you think this could be true? The spots are always much worse when I apply self tanner.

In my opinion, this is not entirely true.   What we call “brown spots” are actually several different processes and brown spots tend to get worse, unless we correct them.   More on readers questions and answers on brown spots.

When they start out, usually teens and twenties, they are  very flat and have no texture to them (lentigoes).  As our skin ages, these lentigoes start to develop surface changes (can be subtle at first).  If you run your finger over it very carefully, you can sometimes feel the texture change.  Here’s a good basic product regimen for brown spots and pigment problems.

As the surface changes the outer surface skin cells get more dense and lumpy that that’s what the self tanner absorbs into.   So if your brown spots were early ones, the IPL treatments should improve it and the self tanner go on more evently.   If they are already developing a texture, not so much. 

Options for those deeper, more resistent brown spots include liquid nitrogen (lightly), other lasers, and sometimes peels.  You’ll need your dermalogist for the best option. 

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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