I am a very big proponent of wearing sunscreen (SPF50 at minimum, don’t try anything less) everyday, rain or shine, indoors or outdoors. I always pick sunscreen as my must-have skincare product because you cannot have too much sunscreen, and it has been proven to slow down skin aging caused by UV rays. By now, I think most people are aware of the benefits of wearing sunscreen (whether they choose to is another matter).
Yet, for those who use sunscreen as a defence against dark spots (not as a Defence against the Dark Arts – there’s a difference 😛 ) you might wonder why you still get dark spots or pigmentation spots despite all your efforts. I used to wonder the same, because dark spots and pigmentation spots are my nemesis.
Then I learnt the sad truth – Even regular use of sunscreen may not stop you from getting dark spots. Bummer! 🙁
The reasons for dark spots or pigmentation spots showing up can be attributed to a few reasons, some of which are within our control, and some which aren’t. I am an example of someone who is very diligent about wearing sunscreen, and who still sports dark spots or pigmentation on my skin. At one time, I found it very frustrating. Why, despite my diligence, was I still getting all these pigmentation spots?
Insufficient use of sunscreen
One reason might be due to insufficient use of sunscreen. For testing purposes in a lab, I read that they use 2mm of sunscreen on an inch of skin. Try wearing that outside all over! I use a lot of sunscreen by most approximations. 1 length of my middle finger on each part of my face. Most people I know use far less. I have seen people use the same amount as they would a moisturiser. That is actually insufficient. That said, even the amount I use isn’t necessarily optimum, but it’s a lot.
The rule of thumb is approximately 1 teaspoon of sunscreen just for your face. It is a lot of product, and can feel uncomfortable, which is why I expect, most people don’t use too much. Also, I often receive complaints that a sunscreen product is too thick or too greasy or too uncomfortable. In those situations, I can do little but shrug and say, “Find a product that you find comfortable” because there are so many different formulations out there these days, its possible to find something you are comfortable using in generous quantities.
If you feel that it’s too expensive to run through sunscreen so quickly, try looking for something more affordable. Here in Malaysia, we have access to many Japanese brand sunscreens, which are affordable and easily available in the local pharmacies. My experience is that the Japanese formula are not only more comfortable, they tend to offer better protection. That said, it is quite a blanket statement as it comes down to what the ingredients are and what your skin can tolerate, but it offers you an affordable place to start.
Insufficient SPF protection
I don’t wear anything less than SPF50. In fact, I won’t even look at a sunscreen that has anything less than SPF50. That is however, my personal comfort level, simply due to where I live. Perhaps, if you live where the sun barely shines, you might feel that SPF30 is enough. But I wouldn’t do anything less. I see products claiming to be sunscreen with just SPF15 protection and I wonder why they even bother 😛 Also, I know of many people who are happy relying on moisturiser with SPF or makeup. If you ask, I’d say that’s insufficient. But since no one is, I say, do whatever you want – just don’t complain if the dark spots and fine lines hit 😛
Failing to reapply sunscreen
This is something I am guilty of. I am often asked how I reapply my sunscreen in the day. I could lie, but my honest answer is that I don’t. If I am at home, I might top up my sunscreen in the middle of the day. But if I’m out and I have a full face of makeup on, I don’t top up my sunscreen. My defence is that I am indoors a lot. It really is no excuse, because UV rays are everywhere, but I kid myself into thinking that that makes it more acceptable 😛
The only proper way to reapply your sunscreen, is to remove your makeup, wash your face, re-do your skincare, top up your sunscreen and then re-do your makeup. Not all of us have that sort of luxury. And honestly, how many of us can be bothered? These days, there are powder sunscreens that you can apply over makeup. I have seen quite a few in the market, whether coming in a loose or pressed powder form. I personally have not tried them but if you have, please do share your views on them!
Heat can cause dark spots too
It’s not only the UV rays that cause our skin to develop melanin, apparently, even heat can cause melanin overproduction. Not a good sign for those of us who live where it’s so hot! But I found this interesting, because the last few times I went to the beach, I was very diligent about my sunscreen application. I’d top up every 2 hours and I made sure I had on a big sun hat, and stayed in the shade. But I still came home with some new dark spots. Sigh.
A little research told me that the heat can also stimulate melanin production, and this might explain the new spots. Should I have just tossed my sunscreen away? No. Imagine how much worse it could have been had I not worn any sunscreen at all!
Pigmentation problems can be hereditary or genetic or age related
Here is one factor you can’t control – your genetic makeup. Some of us are predisposed to getting dark spots. Look at people in your family. If someone in your family has a problem with hyperpigmentation or dark spots, there is a chance you might have it too. I found out recently also, that Asians (of oriental descent) were also more likely to get dark spots around the tops of the cheeks. Sometimes, this is age related – they appear or appear darker as you get older. Also, the fairer you are, the higher the chances of you getting these dark spots, because any change in melanin production is more noticeable.
Should you stop using sunscreen daily?
Oh Heavens, no!
While you may not be able to avoid getting dark spots, you may still be able to slow it down, and to reduce its severity. I know I fall into this category, and if anything, it makes me more diligent than ever about wearing sunscreen. Every new dark spot I thwart is a notch on my belt! 🙂
Sunscreen isn’t only for preventing dark spots, it also protects your skin from being damaged by the UV rays. UV damage can result in lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, sunburn and potentially skin cancer. So think of sunscreen not as a beauty product, but a health product. You might still develop the odd freckle, sun spot or pigmentation spots. But think of how much worse it could be otherwise! 🙂
For me, how I “treat” my dark spots now, is to use a Vitamin C serum. I don’t use whitening or brightening products, and I only focus on using Vitamin C in the day, and an AHA or retinol product in the evening, aside from keeping to a hydrating skincare routine. For me, this has helped keep my dark spots at bay and combined with sunscreen, it might even be preventing new ones from popping up 🙂
But ultimately, as I often tell people, if it really bothers me, there is always concealer LOL! All hail the magic of makeup! 😀
Do you get dark spots despite wearing sunscreen?
Do you even wear sunscreen? Come on, be honest now! 😉