Ever wake up one day with dark spots along your cheeks, wondering how they got there? For women, dark spots or hyperpigmentation is a common problem that can hit at any age. Sensitivity to sunlight, inflammation, and most commonly hormones are the culprits of these dark blotches. While you can take steps to prevent hyperpigmentation, once it’s there it takes more than concealer to get rid of it.

So what’s a girl to do?

Here’s some good news about dark spots. You don’t have to live with them forever! There are ways to lighten dark spots safely and effectively with skin whitening products.

Why Do I Have Hyperpigmentation?

You have hyperpigmentation if an area of the skin is visibly darker than the surrounding skin. The condition can have many causes, but many individuals find that the biggest culprit of skin discoloration is sun exposure. Spots caused by sun exposure may appear anywhere on the body that was exposed to elements, but many of us take notice of the discoloration when it appears on our face.

The sun’s rays wreck our skin. And the result—over time—is hyperpigmentation in the form of little dark blotches. Some call these “sun spots,” but as not all sun-induced discoloration is benign, you should consult with a dermatologist when noticing any new mole or skin changes. Most of us have some degree of sun damage from failing to apply sunscreen, so annual visits to a dermatologist are a must even before worrying about the cosmetic implications.

Preventing Hyperpigmentation and Sun Damage

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 to keep sun damage away. While, yes, many of us use sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, sun damage can take many forms–including dark spots or other discoloration. Using a daily broad-spectrum SPF protects the skin from damaging UVA/UVB rays and their harmful effects on the skin. You should use SPF on the face year-round when you’re in the sun, even when it’s chilly!

Hyperpigmentation and Inflammatory Skin Conditions

Although sunlight is the biggest enemy of our skin, certain inflammatory skin conditions like acne, psoriasis or eczema also may cause hyperpigmentation. You might have noticed that the area where a pimple has healed suddenly looks darker—this is a typical case of hyperpigmentation. If your skin has suffered from discoloration after healing from acne or another skin irritation or condition, a good sunscreen can help prevent further discoloration. Skin whitening products also can help reduce the visibility of discoloration and even out skin tone.

Stop Hyperpigmentation with Skin Whitening Products

While these spots aren’t always completely reversible, you can easily brighten your skin tone and even out blemishes. Choose products that are a good fit for your skin type and won’t result in skin damage. (Stay away from skin bleaches!) There are products that may help reduce the look of hyperpigmentation. With daily use on the affect areas, like sun spots, you’ll see a dramatic difference in as little as a week. With continued use, you won’t have to worry about using foundation to cover up your skin.

The Sour Side of DIY

Skin whitening products and cosmetics that help brighten may lessen the appearance of hyperpigmentation and are often the best choice to help reduce (or conceal) discoloration. However, there are some who hope to DIY a solution for their sun spots and skin discoloration. While online resources may suggest at-home treatments, it’s best to use proven products or talk to your doctor.

One common DIY treatment shared on Pinterest encourages the use of lemon juice to lighten dark spots. However, lemon juice can cause the skin to become sensitive to the sun and it may even cause dark spots. The AAD doesn’t list lemons as a recommended lightener. So before you start squeezing lemon slices on your face, talk to a dermatologist first!

While dark spots may be a nuisance, don’t bury your face and hide from the world! Most of us have hyperpigmentation from sun, hormones, age or our genes. There are numerous skin whitening products on the market that you can use to help lighten or brighten. Once you commit to a treatment plan, remember to always protect your skin year round to prevent future dark spots from ruining your day.