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Getting Rid of Dark Spots on the Skin

With aging, many people develop dark spots on their skin, particularly in the sun-exposed areas of the face and back of the hands. Others develop dark spots after pregnancy or trauma, such as an abrasion, insect bite or cut.

If you have dark spots on your skin, check with a dermatologist to make sure that they are harmless and can be left in place. If you hate the way they look, your doctor can remove most elevated dark spots by burning them with an electrocautery, freezing them with liquid nitrogen, destroying them with various acids or removing them by scraping them off. You can go to a dermatologist several times to have your skin peeled with weak acids, such as glycolic acid, which usually remove most of the pigment, but sometimes can make the skin darker.

If the dark spots are not elevated, your doctor can prescribe a special combination cream made by mixing one ounce each of 4 percent hydroquinone cream, any sunscreen and 0.05 percent tretinoin cream. You can buy the first two without a prescription. The third component, tretinoin cream, requires a prescription, but you can get along just with glycolic acid, hydroquinone and a sunscreen. The brown spots usually fade after you apply all three creams twice a day for several months.

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News

1) RL Burns, PL Prevostblank, MA Lawry, TB Lawry, DT Faria, DP Fivenson. Glycolic acid peels for postinflammatory hyperpigmentation in black patients - A comparative study. Dermatologic Surgery 23: 3(MAR 1997):171-174. Serial glycolic acid peels provide an additional benefit, with minimal adverse effects, for the treatment of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation in dark-complexioned individuals.

2) JTE Lim, SN Tham. Glycolic acid peels in the treatment of melasma among Asian women. Dermatologic Surgery 23: 3 (MAR 1997):177-179. cream containing 10% glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone (Neostrata AHA Age Spot and Skin Lightening Gel)

Checked 1/13/17

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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