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Secrets to Looking Young: Dealing With Discoloration and Uneven Skin Tone

How to target dark under-eye circles, redness, and more.

Whether brown or red, most of the hyperpigmented areas that show up on our skin—even pesky spider veins—are the result of one thing: sun damage. (If you don’t believe us, just look at your derrière, which remains blissfully even-toned and freckle-free well into the golden years.) One exception is rosacea, a chronic condition that causes flushing and inflammation of the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead.

Dark, puffy under-eye circles

If dark circles are caused by excessive pigment, laser resurfacing can fade the color.

If they’re caused by hollows under the eyes, hyaluronic acid can fill them out.

If fat pads under the skin are the culprit, surgically removing the fat via blepharoplasty is the best option.


Vascular lasers remove broken capillaries and dilated blood vessels.

Brown spots

Mild discoloration
Chemical peels can remove mild discoloration and can smooth skin tone and texture.

Moderate/severe discoloration
Resurfacing lasers go deeper into the dermis to remove layers of sun-damaged skin.

Treating Uneven Skin Tone

Chemical Peels

Examples: Vitalize, Vi Peel, PCA, TCA (trichloroacetic acid), Jessner’s, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid).

What they are: Treatments that apply a chemical solution to the skin, causing the damaged outer layer to peel away.

Best for: Minimizing hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage and melasma and improving skin tone, texture, and clarity.

What to expect: Peels range from mild (Vitalize) to very deep (Jessner’s). After a gentler peel, redness and tingling may last 24 to 72 hours, followed by mild to moderate peeling for up to a week. Three to five peels are typically recommended. Intensive phenol-based peels are accompanied by redness, oozing, and swelling for up to two weeks. One or two treatments get good results.

When results kick in: About a week for milder peels, a month for more intensive peels.

Results last: One to two years.

Cost: $75 to $500, depending on depth.

Vascular Lasers

Examples: V-Beam, KTP Diode, Iriderm.

What they are: Specialized wavelengths of light target hemoglobin, the active component in blood, to coagulate the blood vessels below the skin’s surface.

Best for: Erasing broken capillaries and red hyperpigmentation, decreasing overall redness and flushing such as that seen in rosacea, and fading port-wine stains.

What to expect: You’ll feel a warm sensation during treatment, which typically takes up to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the area. Expect mild redness, which fades in a couple of days. The number of treatments depends on the severity of the redness. For significant rosacea, two to three sessions may be needed, four to six weeks apart.

When results kick in: One to three weeks.

Results last: About a year if you’re prone to broken capillaries or rosacea, longer if you’re treating discoloration from the sun.

Cost: $250 to $750, depending on the size of the treatment area.

Resurfacing Lasers, Hyaluronic-Acid Fillers, and blepharoplasty

These treatments can be used for discoloration, including dark under-eye circles. See write-ups in “Options for Erasing Wrinkles” and “Treatments for Sagging Skin.”

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