What causes discolored skin and how can I get rid of it?

Brown spots (aka hyperpigmentation, melasma, freckles, age spots, liver spots, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation/PIH), on the skin are caused by an overproduction of melanin. Melanocytes become damaged after overexposure to the sun or because of a hormone imbalance. Brown spots can appear anywhere on the body but is most commonly found on the face, back of the hands, the lower neckline in women and the head in men. Brown spots often begin to appear after years of sun exposure even if you no longer tan or use sunscreen. Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation also know as PIH is caused after a pimple/acne lesion has healed. Picking and squeezing acne lesions can cause PIH, often causing and/or exacerbating PIH.

age spots

ThermoCLEAR treatment for Solar Lentigo/Flat Hyperpigmentation

Types of Hyperpigmentation


Lentigenes – Lentigo simply means one freckle; lentigenes are multiple freckles.

Solar Lentigenes – widely known as ‘sun spots,’ ‘age spots’ and ‘liver spots,’ solar lentigenes are freckles caused by sun exposure.

Melasma – Often known as the ‘pregnancy mask,’ melasma is caused by hormonal changes due to pregnancy and is characterized by splotchy, pigmented areas usually on the face (except the eye area).

Melasma is the most stubborn of all hyperpigmentation.   Most of my clients with hyperpigmentation are suffering from melasma.  The appearance is brown and blotchy patches on the face in a map-like distribution of hyperpigmentation. About 1/3 of people have a family or genetic history of the condition, and usually it is the result of UV exposure coupled with hormones (including birth control) during the reproductive years. Hence the common term that is used is the “mask of pregnancy”.    As a result, this affliction affects women more often than men and is most prominent in light brown-skinned individuals. The combination of hormones combine with the sunshine and heat create the perfect conditions for “brown spots”. Melasma cannot be cured or erased, but a customized approach can result in clearer, more beautiful skin.

Chemical peels and appropriate skin care products are an excellent treatment approach when it comes to controlling Melasma and maximizing your results. They both are necessary for optimal results. It is important to be cautious using chemical peels on certain darker skin tones sometimes found in people with Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, African American, and other dark-skinned ethnicities. Overaggressive peels may cause more skin discoloration.

Melasma is facial skin discoloration that looks like brown patches. Melasma appears on forehead, cheeks, upper lip and chin. Sun exposure, birth control pills, and pregnancy are thought to contribute to melasma. Most people with Melasma have a history of unprotected daily or intermittent sun exposure. It can affect all women of any background but people with olive or darker skin can be more prone to it.

brown patches

A precancerous lesion, also known as Actinic Keratosis, is a change in some area of your skin that carries the risk of turning into skin cancer. Lesions can be skin colored, pink, red or brown. They are typically rough, dry patches that can become raised and hard. They can grow up to a centimeter or two in diameter. Caused by years of sun exposure and damage, precancerous lesions are often seen on the face, back of hands, chest, arms and lower legs.

Actinic Keratosis

TCA peels, Trichloroacetic Acid, can be effective in treating precancerous lesions. Usually requires a medium depth peel and has significant effects on discoloration. May require multiple treatments, but often significant improvement can be seen with just one. The risk factor: sometimes new lesions pop up from damage done years ago or continuing not protect your skin properly from sun exposure.

Celebrity Skin uses pharmaceutical grade skin care products designed to address brownspots on the skin.

Chemical Peels can be very effective at reducing and eliminating brown spots / hyperpigmentation, freckles and age spots on all skin types.

Celebrity Skin Scottsdale is fully equipped for all conditions and stages of Brown Spots, Hyperpigmentation, Liver Spots, Age Spots, Freckles / Precancerous Lesions!

How to tackle uneven skin tone and brown spots?


Uneven skin tone aka hyperpigmentation, brown spots, melasma and freckles, are reportedly the most hated skin flaw.  Tricky to fade, but it can be done.

You will need a few specific products in your daily routine. An alpha or beta hydroxyl acid, a vitamin C serum, a melanin suppressant and a SPF 50.  This is the winning combination.

1. Alpha or Beta Hydroxyl Acid : I mean a product that contains glycolic, salicylic, retinoic or mandelic acid.  This will help lift and shed darkened dead skin cells, smooth out texture, help with pores, help to prevent blemishes, and stimulate collagen and elastin that is great for scarring, fine lines and wrinkles!  I recommend SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense or 1.0 Retinol at night.

2. Melanin Suppressants aka bleaching creams : helps to regulate the melanocyte (cell that produces the discoloration) from producing too much color to producing the correct amount of color.  Hydroquinone is one of the more popular “bleaching” creams but has some concerning side effects associated with using it. I suggest using a safer hydroquinone alternative that produces great results with time and consistency.   I recommend Skin Ceuticals Discoloration Defense.

3. SPF 50: to help protect the sun’s rays from triggering your melanin to produce color.  I recommend Skin Ceuticals Physical Fusion SPF 50.

4. Vitamin C : is a potent antioxidant to helps protect against free radical damage that contribute to fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration.  Warning: if you are prone to acne breakouts, be careful which Vitamin C you choose (if any) because it could prompt a breakout. I recommend Skin Ceuticals CE Ferulic for dry mature skin and Phloretin CF for oily to normal skin types.