Safe ways to lighten your skin

Dark spots begone! Here are tips from a dermatologist on how to lighten your skin the safe and effective way.

By Colleen Tully

Skin lightening: The basics
Lovely laugh lines and silver streaks are gracing the media lately, finally showing that age and wisdom can be sexy, beautiful things. But from head to toe, these models of middle age have not one speckle, freckle or spot. Though older models can now embrace wrinkles and a touch of sag, you have to wonder -- are they lightening their natural skin?

Hyperpigmentation -- melanin deposits such as brown spots, lesions and excessive freckling caused by too much sun -- is a significant sign of aging, along with wrinkles and greys, but remains largely hidden from view. Considering that modern UVA/UVB sunscreen was not around until the 1980s, anyone in their 30s and beyond (especially those "beyond") have soaked up a lot of harmful rays.

In effect, today the look of uneven, spotty and sun-damaged skin has become the new grey hair. And don't think the cosmetics industry hasn't noticed. Selling out as fast as wrinkle remedies, products and specialized procedures abound to promise even skin tones, lightened areas and radiant skin.

First of all, save the skin you're in
What's the best remedy? Dermatologist Dr. Benjamin Barankin, from Cosmetic Dermatology on Bloor (http://www.unlockyourbeauty.com/) in Toronto, says protecting your skin against the sun cannot be overemphasized "The proof of this is that even in elderly people, their buttocks have great skin tone and colour, so [uneven skin] is not as much an age problem as it is a sun exposure problem," he says. So be sure to keep sun exposure to a minimum (just enough to get your vitamin D) and to wear sunscreen and protective clothing if you're going to be outdoors for any length of time -- whether it's sunny out or not. Additionally, he stresses that smoking cigarettes will make skin sallow in colour while adding wrinkles.

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