Hannah Morrill, Allure magazine
They may take decades to appear, but according to dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, who founded the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, sun spots can take just a few minutes to remove with targeted treatment.
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First, they must be diagnosed. Sun spots are flat, brown collections of melanin pigment produced by cells called melanocytes. They won't fade on their own like some freckles, and they aren't black or irregularly shaped like malignant melanomas.
They're also preventable. Sun spots have only one cause: sun exposure. A daily slathering of SPF 30 or higher on the face, chest, and backs of the hands can prevent new spots. When heading outdoors (beach day!), smooth on SPF 30+ a half hour before exposure, and be sure to reapply every two hours.
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Brightening creams take time. Prescription creams containing 4 percent hydroquinone fade dark spots in 4 to 12 weeks (or more). Two percent versions, such as Ambi Fade Cream, are available over the counter; they're just not as speedy.
Freezing is fast. For about $200, liquid nitrogen-applied by a dermatologist-destroys spots on contact. The treated area scabs over, flakes off, and fades within about a week. However, nitrogen can darken spots on Asian and Mediterranean skin and produce white marks on black skin, so the doctor should do a patch test first.
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Lasers work for large areas. Intense Pulsed Light or the Q-switched Nd:YAG laser are efficient for densely speckled zones like the décolletage. Most spots will vanish after one session, which can cost $400 or more; some require a second pass.