September 17th 2019
Sarah Vine: Browned off
August 24th 2013 / 4 comments
After years of trying creams and cover ups, Sarah Vine finally zaps her sun spots
There are some things in life I regret not doing sooner. Getting a proper bra fitting, for example, or finally getting around to buying a decent steam iron. Best £340 I ever spent (that's the iron, not the bra, by the way). Things that seem like a bit of an unnecessary extravagance; but which actually make a huge difference in the long run.
For a while now, I have been fretting about a few patches of dark pigmentation on my arms and face. They appeared, much to my irritation, in my early forties - even though I've been a fairly assiduous user of sun protection most of my life. Not harmful, my doctor assured me, just unsightly; just part and parcel of the ageing process.
I don't normally worry about this sort of thing too much; but these dark spots, sun spots, hyperpigmentation (whatever you want to call them), they really started to bug me. I would see them on other women and think, that doesn't look so great. I took to covering them up with foundation and concealer, but somehow they would find a way of breaking through. So I began to think about getting them zapped.
Thing is, I'm quite a coward about anything that involves a knife and/or the smell of burning flesh (it's the reason why, despite being as blind as a bat, I have not yet got around to having my eyes lasered). Stalling, I tried a few creams. Some of them helped, but all failed to get rid of the problem completely. The spots would fade, but then gradually darken again.
And so it was that a few weeks ago, at the height of the summer holidays when my diary was empty and most of my friends were safely tucked away in Spain or Italy or on far-flung beaches in Scotland, I decided to go for it. And yes, it was a definite steam iron moment: I should have done it ages ago.
There are not many people I would trust with my face, but Dr Vicky Dondos of Medicetics is one of them. Sadly, she doesn't do this sort of procedure - but her partner (in both senses of the word), Mr Geoffrey Mullan, does.
Like all surgeons, Mullan has an air of laid-back confidence about him, the kind of assuredness that only comes with knowledge and experience. There's me, flapping like a wuss over a bit of pigmentation; there's Mullan, for whom this kind of thing is probably about as exciting as a three-day-old ham sandwich. Still, he listened intently to me warbling on about my concerns, smiling indulgently as though talking to a small, confused preschooler. And then he just went right ahead and zapped 'em.
It took all of about a minute. It was a teeny bit stingy (liquid nitrogen), but otherwise no pain at all. At first, the dark spots went red and blistered; but I did as I was told, and applied medical barrier cream. Within a couple of days they were beginning to heal, and after 10 days they were nothing but a bit of flaky skin and a tiny bit of residual redness, which Mullin says will fade.
Admittedly I did look like I had been attacked by a swarm of wasps for a while, but I was able to safely cover up the worst of it with a bit of Lycogel Breathable Camouflage. This is amazing stuff: water-resistant, with an SPF of 30, and in 10 shades - and you can use it on broken skin without fear of infection. Also, around day two I stopped using the barrier cream and switched to Annie De Mamiel's Summer Facial Oil, £60, massaging it into the affected areas, and this really seemed to help, not least because it feels and smells a lot nicer.
Why didn't I do it sooner? No idea: it was a small thing, but it's made me very, very happy indeed.
Top five creams to fade brown spots
Lancome: DreamTone Ultimate Dark Spot Corrector/Beautiful Skin Tone Creator
Clinique: Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector
Lancer: Fade Serum Intense
£190 at Harrods and Harrods.com, Launches in September
Estee Lauder: Idealist Even Skintone illuminator
No7: CC Cream