Meg Farris / Medical Reporter
It's not only wrinkles that make your skin look older, it's the uneven pigment caused by sun damage.
Well now there is a new generation of gentle creams that you can easily use at home to make your skin glow.
At 39, Jennifer Poulin began seeing the signs of sun damage.
"I tried to do the tanning beds when I got into my early 20's and thought that there would be a miracle to get me tan" remembers Poulin.
Her skin starting getting pigment spots.
"I'm very fair skinned and I've had a lot of sun damage from over the years," she said.
So she spent money on over-the-counter and prescription bleaches, treatments at the dermatologist, but then she discovered an easier, more gentle approach.
"I've been using the Perle for about nine weeks now and it really has taken those spots down to a minimum. Now that I don't even notice them I will go out without makeup on now," said Poulin.
What Poulin discovered is a new generation of skin brighteners. She uses Perle. There's also Elure and Lumixyl.
"People have been coming up to me recently and asking me, 'What's that foundation?' or 'What's that base?' 'What's that makeup that you wear now?' and it's really the same makeup that I've been wearing for years" said Poulin.
Doctors say as long as people still believe a tan is beautiful, there will be problems later.
"Facial pigmentation is really a huge problem in the dermatology office. I mean, we see patients with hyper-pigmentation or darkening of the skin that comes from either sun damage or it can be a result of inflammatory conditions like acne," said Metairie Dermatologist, Dr. Patricia Farris, the spokeswomen for the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
"Age has nothing to do with it. It's only age in the sense that you've had cumulative sun damage over the years. I have seen age spots, which are really sun spots, in 25-year-olds and I have seen 65-year-olds with not a sun spot to be had. So it really depends on the amount of cumulative sun exposure that you get," explained New Orleans Dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo.
Poulin's friend and neighbor Nikki Aucoin, also turned to Perle and says it's made a difference.
"And when my mom actually looked over and said, 'Nikki, your skin looks really good,' I was like, 'Okay,'" said Aucoin.
For years doctors have used prescription levels of hydroquinone to lighten and even out pigmentation, but for some that can be harsh and it can't be used continuously. They say these cosmeceuticals, Perle, Elure and Lumixyl is a new, softer approach.
"I didn't have any down time so I couldn't go and have a product where my skin was going to peel and take three days off and then go back out and pretend like nothing happened in-between," said Poulin.
"What people are excited about is these are so well tolerated and there are people who can not use hydroquinone," said Dr. Lupo.
And these skin lightening products can be used with prescription retinoids. Those are the proven best at hitting anti-aging from many angles and erasing wrinkles. But some people don't like them because they can make you flaky. But used with the skin brighteners, you're less likely to have dryness.
"Your skin gets a dewiness and a luminosity and an overall rejuvenation of the skin," said Dr. Lupo.
But for people with melasma, also called the mask of pregnancy, these cosmeceuticals will not help.
"Melasma is hormonal and hereditary and it's a much more sever form of pigmentation and requires very aggressive, vigilant treatment that has to be maintained for a number of years," explained Dr. Lupo.
And if you are someone who has been diligent about wearing sun screens and hats and don't have sun spots, these brighteners can still help.
"It gives you kind of a nice brightening of the skin that happens quite quickly," said Dr. Farris.
"They also seem to help texture and they also seem to help other aspects of photo-aging. The overall luminosity of the skin improves and the patient reports brighter skin and softer smoother texture," said Dr. Lupo.
Poulin and Aucoin have learned their lessons that sun and tanning beds, not birthdays, caused the changes in their skin.
"I started basically going outside with the 70 (SPF) sunscreen on and a big hat and I don't sunbathe any more," said Poulin.
"Now I am very, very thankful and a big fan of spray tans," said Aucoin.
Very smart say the experts.
"All you have to do is look at an area that you never expose to the sun, and you will see that that skin is smoother and more uniform in color and without age spots or sun spots," said Dr. Lupo.
The three creams can be found in doctors' offices or on the Internet.
Editor's note: Dr. Patricia is no relation to Medical Reporter Meg Farris.