Latina skin and brown/sun spots.

Hello Dr. Irwin, I am a 46 year old Latin female and over the past 8 years I’ve been developing Sun spots on my skin. I’ve heard many things that may cause them such as the sun damage or hormones. My question is: what products can I use that will help diminish the spots and is there a particular sunscreen you recommend? Thank you very much!

All dermatologists and patients wish there was a magic wand for these pigment problems.  For women, most are related to either sun exposure or hormones (melasma) or both.  For men, it’s almost always sun exposure.  Also, low level chronic irritation from skincare products can aggravate this as well.

Here’s a 3 step plan for controlling and improving these.

Step One – Stop Injuring Your Skin More:

  • You must avoid exposure to natural light on your face.  Think light, not sun.
  •  Wear a brimmed hat  (brim goes all the way around, or at least a big visor)  every time outside – this covers the forehead, eye area, nose and upper cheeks.
  • Wear UVA & UVB sunglasses every time outside.
  • Daily sunscreen use and the sunscreen needs to have 10-20% zinc.  See the zinc sunscreens in our shop, HERE.
  • Oral contraceptives, estrogens, and pregnancy make pigment worse.  Please discuss with your doctor if you might need to change the first two.

Step Two – Check and reevaluate all of your current skincare products:

  • Many skincare products may be irritating, and the irritation may be just slight reddening, or slight scale……but it will make pigment problems worse.
  • Skincare products that burn, sting or feel irritating for longer than a minute should be discussed with your doctor or stopped.
  • Many retinoids (like Retin A, Differin, Renova, retinol, etc) may cause a little peeling for the first week.  After that, they shouldn’t!  You may need a different formula or can’t use them.
  • All glycolics, alpha or beta hydroxys may be irritating.  Try stopping them for a month and see how your skin does.
  • Propylene glycol in the base is a common allergen, as is fragrance and preservatives.
  • There are many chemicals in some skincare products.  Try to find products with shorter ingredient lists.
  • Don’t over scrub.  A gentle one, once a week is fine.

Step Three – Add products that decrease pigment:

  • Prescription (4%) or non prescription (2%)  hydroquinones used daily are effective, but 10-20% of people using them get irritated.  The irritation will make the brown spots worse! So watch your skin closely if you use these.
  • Follow sun protection steps in Step One.
  • Try the non prescription lightening creams twice a day like Lytera by SkinMedica or SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense.
  • Vit C based antioxidants have been shown to decrease pigment.  Try the Phoretin CF or CE Ferrulic by SkinCeuticals.
  • Retinoids should not be used unless using the sun protection in Step One.
  • Watch your skin closely and monitor progress over a 3-6 month period.
Hope this helps!
Dr. Brandith Irwin
Founder, SkinTour
Director, Madison Skin & Laser Center
Follow my skin tips and travels on Instagram!





Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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