It is summer and with the beautiful sunny days  here in Minnesota, we want to soak up as much as possible in a short time!  But one of the drawbacks of too much time in the sun is the dreaded hyperpigmentation (commonly referred to as discoloration, brown spots, age spots or sun spots) that seemingly appear over night.

While hyperpigmentation can be a challenge, both to prevent and to treat, these skin care tips will help in your quest for more evenly toned skin.

1. Wear Sunscreen – applied generously and often.  The number one cause of premature skin aging is from UV light, and exposing the skin to the sun can bring out the sun spots.  But did you know that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to give the skin the protection that it needs?  The real truth to sunscreen is not in the SPF (however an SPF 30 is the absolute minimum you should wear) but it is how generously it is applied and how often it is reapplied.

2.  Limit exposure to both heat and sun.  For years it was thought “sun spots” were just as the name implies – spots from the sun.  But newer research indicates that it is not only direct UV rays, but the heat given off from the sun, will stimulate the skin’s production of melanin activity, resulting in brown spots.  So, unfortunately, no matter how diligent you are about sunscreen application and re-application, as well as wearing a hat and staying in the shade, you still may not be able to avoid pigment changes in your skin.  Knowing this, if brown spots are a concern for you, limiting your exposure to both sun and heat will be a major factor.

3.  Keep skin as cool as possible.  Since overheated skin (from time spent outdoors or exercise) can increase melanin activity(as well as redness), it is important to keep the temperature of the skin low.  This can include keeping your skin care products in the refrigerator, so when applied to the skin, they provide a cooling effect.  Another option is to use a product such as Avene Thermal Spring Water to regularly mist your face. This water has properties that heal, soothe, hydrated as well as cool the skin.  This will not only keep the temperature of your skin down, but will also feed hot and thirsty skin.

4. Exfoliate gently.  One of the keys to managing skin discoloration, particularly once it has appeared, is to use exfoliating products such as retinols, glycolic and salicylic acids.  Exfoliants with these types of ingredients, when used regularly, can help break apart pigmented cells to lessen their appearance.  Be sure not to overdo it with the exfoliation, because in the summer months when melanin cells are active, too much exfoliation can actually trigger more melanin.  It is best to have the guidance of a trained skin care specialist to help outline a good skincare regimen for you.

5.  Consider wearing a hat — or not.  In theory, protecting your skin by wearing a hat when outdoors is always a smart idea, but maybe not in all cases.  As mentioned above, you want to limit your exposure to both sun and heat.   A  hat will certainly provide you shading for the face, therefore limiting your direct sun exposure.  But, when worn outside, hats can create increased heat on the forehead because of the tightness from the band of the hat, which may make discoloration worse on the forehead, if you are prone to getting it there.

6.Use an antioxidant daily under sunscreen.  By adding in a topical Vitamin C & E serum under your sunscreen, you not only boost your sunscreen’s UV blocking power, but also provide a natural skin lightening ingredient.

7.  Get monthly facials.  Because professional facials can give your skin increased results above and beyond your home care products.

8.  Eat a diet rich in antioxidants.  Did you know that certain fruits and vegetables can boost your skin’s defense against sunburn and DNA damage? German researchers analyzed the results of seven large studies on beta-carotene, and found that consuming 24 to 180 milligrams a day for at least 10 weeks can increase internal SPF significantly.  And in a small study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 10 subjects takin 2,000 mg of Vitamin C and 1,000 IU of Vitamin E each day for eight days could tolerate 20 percent more UV exposure before getting sunburned.  Bottom line, eat up for good health and skin protection.

Many people tend to get lazy about caring for their skin in the summer, and then come back in the fall wanting to focus on skin repair.  It’s important to know that prevention is always the best approach.