Beauty Guru: Guide to Getting Rid of Dark Spots

I have long been on a quest for beautiful, blemish-free skin. It started in my teens when I was battling cystic acne. In my twenties the cystic acne subsided, but I had to deal with clogged pores, the occasional hormonal breakout, and the scarring left behind as a memento of my teen years. I'm in my thirties now, and I am overjoyed by the fact that zits have become a rare occurrence, so there is hope. Overcoming that skin issue is certainly a blessing; however, recently my complexion has been troubled by a new skin issue: discoloration, hyper pigmentation, dark spots.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, pigmentation problems in fair skin are mainly caused by sun damage and mostly affect the top layer of skin (Callender). The dark spots that have recently appeared on the surface of my skin are concentrated on my forehead, my cheeks and on my nose, areas that receive the most sun exposure and are sites of previous sunburns. These dark spots are a different sort of animal than my acne, and I have been experimenting with different tools, techniques and products to try to treat this new problem. Here are the steps and products that I have been using to combat dark spots and discoloration on my complexion.

1. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. So, the first step in truly fading surface spots and smoothing my skin's surface has been to use an exfoliating cleanser. I like to lather up with Nuetrogena Oil Free Grapefruit Foaming Scrub $10, which has 2% Salicylic Acid, a key ingredient to unclogging pores and skin cell renewal. Rather than lather and rinse immediately, I leave the cleanser on my skin for a minute to let the active ingredient work its magic. I like to do this once a day, preferably at night when skin cells have the opportunity to rest and renew. Over-exfoliating can damage skin, leave it exposed and more likely to burn.

2. Protect. So all those pretty new skin cells I just brought to the surface by exfoliating are super vulnerable to the elements, so I slather on a protective sunscreen. I love Elta Clear SPF 46, which is formulated for acne prone and sensitive skinned individuals. The added bonus of this sunscreen, aside from the broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, is that it helps to reduce the appearance of discoloration. It's not cheap at $23 a bottle, but a little goes a long way, and if you order from you can save a few dollars off the cost.

3. Treat. I have been playing with a couple different topical treatments sold over the counter that claim to fade dark spots. The drugstore options thus far that I have tried are: L'oreal's Youth Code Dark Spot Corrector Serum ($24.99) and Garnier Clinical Dark Spot Corrector ($16.99). L'oreal's was the better of the two. I noticed slightly smoother skin with a slight reduction in the amount of discoloration in the two months that I have used it. With Garnier's Dark spot treatment, I noticed no improvement in the two months that I used it, and the formula caused clogged pores and breakouts on my sensitive skin. If you have delicate skin like me or are allergic to fragrance, definitely stay away from this product. Currently, I am using Olay Pro-X Even Skin Tone Spot fading treatment. It's only been a few days, but I can comment on the texture which goes on smoothly and dries clean with no sticky residue or fragrance (a huge plus for me). It is pricy, at $34 a bottle and costs more than both L'oreal's and Garnier's offerings, but I waited until I got a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon for 20 percent off and used it towards the purchase of this item, saving about $7.

4. Take cover. For days when I am just hanging out around the house, I don't really bother with makeup. I just follow my skincare routine as usual and let my face be naked. But if I'm running out to see friends or run errands, I want to have some coverage for my blotchiness. I'm not one to wear heavy foundation, and light liquid formulas don't give me the coverage I want. So in place of foundation, I have been using Maybelline's Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Spot Concealer. I don't know that it actually fades spots as it claims to, but it does cover them without leaving a heavy, cakey mess. I like the sponge tip and the turn and click delivery system. At $9 this is definitely the best bargain on my list.

What have you tried that works on fading discoloration? What beauty issue has been bugging you?

Jennifer Rose Griffin has been a Yahoo Shine Beauty Guru since April 2009. She is a self professed product junkie and a sucker for pretty packaging. Jennifer Rose is also an artist specializing in ink drawing and portraits. She works out of her home in beautiful Westchester County, NY. For more on Jennifer Rose Griffin's fashion and beauty obsessions follow her on Pinterest and Twitter. Please also visit her art website to see examples of her work and find out about upcoming shows.