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What Are the Treatments for Discoloration on the Face?

By Cynthia Myers ; Updated July 18, 2017

Sun damage, hormonal changes, medications and injury can cause facial discoloration. Melasma, also known as chloasma or pregnancy mask, appears on the face as dark patches that are more pronounced after sun exposure. Wearing sunscreen or staying out of the sun can help prevent melasma.

Chemical Peel Tips

Chemical peels use mild acids to slough off the top layer of skin cells. During the treatment, the technician or physician applies trichloroacetic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, carbolic acid or lactic acid to damp skin. This can refresh the look of the skin and minimize fine lines, but according to the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, you'll need medium-depth to deep peels to deal with facial discoloration. Medium-depth peels use stronger acids to penetrate further into the skin. Deep chemical peels need to be performed under local anesthesia and require five to 10 days for recovery. You'll need to wear sunscreen and avoid the sun after treatment to help prevent new discoloration. After treatment, you may require bandages for three or four days on your treated skin to encourage healing.

Microdermabrasion Treatments

In microdermabrasion, tiny abrasive particles scour the face, sanding off the top layer of skin cells. This reveals new skin. You may need a series of several microdermabrasion treatments for the best results. If microdermabrasion is successful in removing your facial discoloration, you'll need to protect your face from sun exposure by wearing sunblock to keep the discoloration from reappearing. Treatment side effects may include, redness, skin tightness, skin sensitivity, small skin abrasions and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Intense Pulse Light

Intense Pulse Light or (IPL) treatments use brief pulses of very strong light waves to fade discoloration and even skin tone. You may need multiple IPL treatments to realize the best results. Liesl Nottingham and W. Russell Ries, writing in "Current Opinions in Otolaryngal Head and Neck Surgery," reported that IPL was effective in treating facial discoloration in both light and dark skin patients.

Laser Treatments

Laser resurfacing uses a laser to peel off the outer layer of skin. This encourages growth of new collagen, which can lessen the appearance of lines and wrinkles. The laser can also lighten discoloration. Different types of lasers are used to treat facial discoloration. African American patients, who have more melanin in their skin, may not respond as well to laser treatments. The additional melanin in their skin affects the absorption rate in their skin, according to Nottingham and Ries.

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