So your understanding of why dark pigment areas appear after years of clear skin is- shall we say- spotty? Read about what causes them, what active ingredients actually diminish them, and what products contain them, below. OR- consult with your esthetician to determine the best plan of attack without heading for laser or other invasive, expensive, and temporary medical options.
The term “dark spots” is a generic description for multiple forms of hyperpigmentation including sun damage, age spots, melasma, discoloration, uneven tone and more. Hyperpigmentation is caused by a variety of factors, but is typically a result of cumulative sun exposure, environmental stressors and hormones –making it a challenge that nearly everyone faces as they age. The appearance of dark spots is also associated with aging, in fact,studies have shown that the degree of hyperpigmentation is directly linked to a person’s perceived age, even in the absence of wrinkles.
Despite being one of, if not the most common signs of aging, hyperpigmentation is one of the most difficult conditions to address and can take months to show improvement. Improvement requires addressing current concerns with proper home care and may also require treatments including peels . Preventing future dark spots into the future requires a combination of sun protection and use of a proper home care regimen with proven topical products.
Hyperpigmentation is defined as any abnormal increase in genetically programmed skin pigmentation. Many factors can contribute to changes in skin color or uneven pigmented patches. These include: UV light (did you know that even fluorescent office lights can be a source of UV exposure?), chemicals, genetics, age, local infection, hormones, drugs, and acne. We can now add to the list the harmful effects of Blue Light (watch that screen time!)
Common hyperpigmentation concerns are usually focused on solar lentigo (areas of discoloration from sun exposure). Areas most affected are the face, the decolleté ( literally translated as the “uncollared area”) and the back of the hands. How many of us remember to reapply sunscreen every 80 minutes? Do you apply it daily to the back of your hands which receive constant exposure while you drive?
Melasma, another form of abnormal coloration, is characterized by blotchy brown hyperpigmented patches that have an irregular shape and may be distributed over the cheeks, forehead, upper lip and neck. Frequently, this condition occurs during pregnancy, at menopause, and in those taking hormones or oral contraceptives. It can also rarely occur in men. Sun exposure and certain topical or oral medications can worsen the appearance of the discolored areas dramatically. Melasma can affect either the epidermal (superficial) layers of the skin, the dermal (deep) layers of the skin, or both. The distinction, visible through a Woods Lamp, is important because epidermal pigmentation may respond well to being lessened or resolved with topical agents while dermal pigmentation may need to be addressed more aggressively.
It is a fact that pigment plays a role in protecting the skin from damage caused by ultra-violet light (sun exposure). Recent studies indicate that this protective action is due to melanin’s ability to act as a potent free radical scavenger. Apparently, free radicals that are triggered through sun exposure are neutralized by melanin which in turn aids in preventing cellular DNA damage. However, continuous UV exposure (without protection) creates a cycle of pigment production at the dermal (deeper skin) level, causing inflammation, melanocyte activation, melanin synthesis, and melanin transfer. The result, in plain terms, is uneven, blotchy skin tone, detracting from the overall clarity and youthful even tone of your skin.
Non-Prescription (non-Hydroquinine) Product Solutions
Glycolic Acid : SOTHYS GLYSALAC Dermobooster and JAN MARINI BIOCLEAR LOTION OR CREAM
Starting at the most basic level, medical studies indicate that glycolic acid assists in resolving hyperpigmentation by breaking down the cellular bonds of the dead layers (stratum corneum), causing a lifting of over-pigmented areas.It is also proven to act as a delivery “carrier” for other topical products and medications, thus enhancing the effects of lightening agents. It can be found in Jan Marini’s Bioclear Lotion and Cream (which are both comprised of 12% glycolic, 2% salicylic and 2% azeleic acids) applied as Step 3 of the Skin Care Management System. I recommend SOTHYS’ Glysalac Acid Dermobooster as a gentler, but still very effective option for epidermal exfoliation.
Alpha Arbutin, Hexylresorcinol and Glycyrrhiza Glabra Extract (Licorice Root) JAN MARINI LUMINATE FACE LOTION
LUMINATE FACE LOTION i- this dynamic alpha-arbutin face cream combines concentrated all-trans-retinol with advanced NON-hydroquinone technologies to lighten the appearance of discoloration and reduce the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles – helping to restore your skin’s youthful complexion. It is a powerful cocktail of the following safe ingrediients for skin lightening:
Extracted from plants such as bearberries, blueberries, and cranberries, alpha arbutin is a safe skin brightening ingredient which helps to fade scars and pigmentation left behind by breakouts and sun damage. According to LA Dermatologist Michael LIN: “Arbutin is a molecule extracted from the bearberry plant that prevents the formation of melanin,” Lin explains. He compares arbutin to two other gentle brighteners: kojic acid (derived from mushrooms) and licorice root (derived from the licorice plant). “[They] are derived from different natural ingredients, but they all function as tyrosinase inhibitors to provide skin lightening and brightening effects,” he says. Basically, brown spots come from pigments that are produced in cells called melanocytes, which contain enzymes called tyrosinase. They can activate anytime they come in contact with UV light, which is why you’ll notice freckles and sun spots starting to develop if you spend too much time in the sun.3 That’s when arbutin comes in—it blocks tyrosinase and keeps dark spots at bay.”
Hexylresorcinol has long been recognized as a highly effective, non-toxic lightening agent has been shown to have efficacy comparable to or greater than 4% hydroquinone. It is a powerful tyrosinase inhibitor, exceptional at addressing overly pigmented areas and brightening overall skin tone. So safe, this ingredient has been used in cough drops!
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, and is the source of licorice extract used topically for skin. It’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects have been proven to help fade dark spots. It is most importantly a much safer alternative to hydroquinone, previously thought to be the gold-standard brightening ingredient, though banned in many countries for its unwanted side effects and even potential safety concerns.
LUMIRA™ by COLORESCIENCE
A few years back COLORESCIENCE developed a patented active ingredient UV Complex known as LUMIRA™ which brightens by addressing underlying causes of skin pigmentation, and preventing future pigmentation. LUMIRA™ counteracts the cycle of pigment production at every level, addressing inflammation, melanocyte activation, melanin synthesis, and melanin transfer. What does this mean for those of us who aren’t chemists? LUMIRA™ addresses current pigmentation, as well as pigmentation in progress.
Getting at the root cause of pigmentation with the newest addition to the Colorescience treatment line-up is EVEN UP MULTI-CORRECTION SERUM, just launched in March 2021 to diminish the appearance of dark spots, age spots and other discoloration. An added benefit is a more balanced, luminous and uniform skin surface combined with enhanced hydration levels. Applied as a lightweight serum before your moisturizer, just a few weeks will reveal a more radiant, even-textured complexion.
This new serum can be paired for maximum texture and radiance results with Colorescience’s classic 3 -in-1 SPF50 EVEN UP CLINICAL PIGMENT PERFECTOR in a beautiful universal tint that doubles as a primer while it works on brightening the complexion with – you guessed it- LUMIRA™ complex!
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Serious skincare treatments, paired with a serious home care regimen will achieve the results I seek in partnership with my clients. Let’s design your new skin program together, with award-winning, rejuvenating skin care products and professional as well as at-home peels that offer a multi-faceted approach to reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, resulting in a lighter, brighter, more youthful looking complexion with improvement visible in as little as a month!