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Sarah Vine: Browned off

August 24th 2013 / Sarah Vine Google+ Sarah Vine / 4 comments

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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

£69, www.lancome.co.uk

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Clinique: Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector

£40, www.clinique.co.uk

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Lancer: Fade Serum Intense

£190 at Harrods and Harrods.com, Launches in September

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Estee Lauder: Idealist Even Skintone illuminator

£65, www.esteelauder.co.uk

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No7: CC Cream

£14.95, www.boots.com
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  • Alison Phillips
  • May 20th 2014

I have followed this advice, visited Mr Mullan (who is everything Sarah Vine suggests in terms of his professional and expert approach) and my unsightly pigmentation has vanished, one week on...can't recommend this more!

  • Anna Tuckett
  • September 17th 2013

I am gobsmacked. Could it really be as easy as that? I have struggled with hyperpigmentation for 8 years, saw 2 different specialists, including the celebrity dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe, who recommended very expensive Fraxel laser treatments, and used lots of different whitening creams and serums, but I have never heard of zapping the spots with nitrogen. Thank you for sharing.

  • Roisin Ryan-Flood
  • August 28th 2013

Thanks for this very interesting article Sarah. I'm afraid I don't quite understand what the treatment was that you had though. There's no mention of liquid nitrogen on the clinic's website. Can you please clarify?

  • helen arnold
  • August 25th 2013

I'd have to recommend the Obagi Nu derm skin care range to your recommendations Sarah. It's prescription only, it's not particularly aesthetically pleasing (functional packaging, doesn't smell particularly pleasant) - BUT - it works wonders. I haven't ever suffered from skin pigmentation; I started using Obagi because of recurrent chronic acne, which it cleared impressively within 12 weeks, but it is also renowned for its ability to successfully fade sun spots, and a couple of my friends have started using the products for this purpose and rave about how effective it has been. As for me, I can only say that having suffered from acne from the age of 13 until my mid 40's, Obagi has been a revelation to me. Now i get complimented on my skin, which I still find bizarre. When people say to me (which they often do) that my skin looks lovely, I still turn round and wonder who they're addressing. surely not me?? But they are, and it's brilliant.

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