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Plenty of people are blessed with beautiful freckles, but it’s generally the only welcome variety of hyperpigmentation—a condition when skin produces extra color pigments to create noticeable dark spots. The good news is that whether it’s a post-acne mark or brown spots from excessive sun exposure, hyperpigmentation can often be minimized, faded and even prevented with the right skincare ingredients and proper care. But what do you look for in your products to keep your skin even and bright? How can you avoid the formation of spots as much as possible?
Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is Hyperpigmentation?
In a nutshell, hyperpigmentation is a darkened area on the skin, typically in the form of spots. The spots manifest because ofoverproduction of melanin, the skin’s pigment. This occurs for different reasons, either because melanin has been stimulated by external factors such as the sun or because someone has an unusually high concentration of melanocytes. (Melanocytes are the cells responsible for melanin production.) Hyperpigmentation can affect anyone, whether you’re Caucasian, Asian, Mediterranean or African, and appears on almost any area of the body, notably the face, neck, hands and arms.
The Main Types of Hyperpigmentation
- Lentigenes:Those light or dark brown freckles are a form of hyperpigmentation. This is often hereditary.
- Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation: Injuries to the skin cause inflammation, which then result in dark spots. Acne marks and scars are common forms of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- Solar Lentigenes:Age spots (sometimes referred to as liver spots or sun spots) are larger than freckles and darker in color.They appear as uneven oval or circular shapes.
- Melasma:Other hyperpigmentation comes from hormonal changes in pregnancy and menopause. It takes the form of a blotchy area and normally appears on the face.
The PrimaryCauses of Hyperpigmentation
As mentioned, you might be more susceptible to hyperpigmentation because you have overactive melanocytes, stimulating excess melanin production in your skin. However, there are other reasons why your pigment levels might be altered on certain areas of your body.
- Sun Exposure: When you’re exposed to the sun,your skin produces more melanin as a form of protection.In short, the melanin absorbs the energy of the sun’s UV rays in order to guardthe skin from overexposure and free radical damage. Even if you use a high-factor sunscreen (which you should always do), it won’t stop melanin production, which is why pigmentation isoften quicker to developin the summer. In addition to a superior-quality face antioxidant-rich cream and sunscreen, it’s a good idea to limit exposure to the sun, sit in the shade, wear a good-looking sunhat and always wear a pair of UV-protective glasses.
- Hormonal Changes: Hormone changes can play a part in the appearance of hyperpigmentation, especially during peri-menopause and menopause. Women older than the age of 40 tend to be more prone to hyperpigmentation due to aging and hormonal imbalance. Equally, if you’ve been prescribed hormone treatment or take oral contraceptives, both of these contribute to potential hyperpigmentation.
- Inflammation:Your skin is vulnerable to hyperpigmentation any time it experiences inflammation—typically due to superficial damage. Picking skin and over-zealous use of certain face treatments (chemical peels, facial scrubs and microdermabrasion for example)have been known to cause hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation Treatment: The Best and Safest Ingredients to Combat Hyperpigmentation
After years of extensive research, testing and using our combined medical and experiential expertise, Nazelie has committed to usly only ingredients that were proven or credited with superior performance comparable to traditional ingredients that may be effective (but not safe). All the ingredients below have been credited with their effiacy as well as safety to the human body. Nazelie products include a combination of these, as they work harmoniously to combat hyperpigmentation.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a superb anti-aging antioxidant ingredient that also helps brighten skin by evening skin tone and fading dark spots. Vitamin C is known to inhibit tyrosinase(a key enzyme involved in the hyperpigmentation process), which helps stop melanin production. You can find Vitamin C in Nazelie’s Youth Illuminator Cream, a potent blend of antioxidant fighting vitamins, anti-aging ingredients and pomegranate extract designed to illuminate, refresh and rejuvenate skin.
- Ellagic Acid:Ellagic Acid is a powerful antioxidant contained in pomegranate extract. Research shows that it can promote repair of skin damage and slow down collagen loss when skin is exposed to the sun. Some research shows that Ellagic Acid could even hinder the melanin producing action, acting as a natural skin lightener. When it’s used in combination with Salicylic Acid, the effects are all the more potent. In fact, according to a 2013 study published in Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, it was shown that these two acids together were more effective at reducing hyperpigmentation than hydroquinone (more on this below).You can find Ellagic Acid and Salicylic Acid in Nazelie’s Youth Illuminator Cream
Licorice Extract: Licorice can help reduce the appearance of dark spots thanks to its active compound called glabridin, which helps inhibit tyrosinase. You can find Licorice Extract in Nazelie’s Youth Illuminator Cream and Radiance Enhancing Day Cream.
- Cysteine and Glutathione: Together, antioxidants Cysteine and Glutathione are known to deactivate the enzyme tyrosinase as well as combat the free radicals that contribute to melanin formation.You can find Cysteine and Glutathione in Nazelie’s Youth Illuminator Cream.
- Rape Seed Extract: Ultra-effective skin-brightening ingredients can be created with proteins extracted from the Brassica napus(rape seed) family. This substance has been shown to reduce the appearance of age spots while brightening overall skin tone.You can find Rape Seed Extract in Nazelie’s Youth Illuminator Cream.
- Unilucent: This ingredient, which is drawnfrom Rheum Rhaponticum (Rhubarb), has been shown to decrease the production of melanin. These results could be confirmed in an in vivo study on 20 subjects, assessing pigmented spots, skin brightness and skin radiance.You can find Unilucent in Nazelie’s Radiance Enhancing Day Cream.
- Exfoliating ingredients: Ingredients that slough off dead skin cells on the surface layer of skin (the epidermis) are helpful at reducing and preventing hyperpigmentation by physically removing the melanin pigments. Papain (the natural enzymes of the papaya fruit) and Salicylic Acid are two safe and effective chemical exfoliators thatpromote cell turnover, allowing fresh, healthy cells to make homeon the visible layer of skin. You can find Papain and Salicylic Acid in Nazelie’s Radiance Enhancing Day Cream.
Common Anti-Hyperpigmentation Ingredients—and Their Risks
There are plenty of online resources recommending the use of certain ingredients for combating hyperpigmentation. However, some are not always proven to be safe despite their effectiveness:
- Hydroquinone: Banned in the EU, hydroquinone is skin “bleach”typically used to fade hyperpigmentation, but it can cause major sensitivity (e.g. redness, irritation and discomfort). On top of that, nonprofit research organizationEnvironmental Working Group claims that hydroquinone is a potential carcinogen. It is also associated with ochronosis, a skin condition that is caused by exposure to certain chemicals that darkens and thickens skin.
- Arbutin:Continued use of this ingredient causes it to turn into hydroquinone.
- Kojic Acid: According to an Environmental Working Group study, high concentrations of kojic acid have caused liver, kidney, reproductive, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and respiratory side effects in animals. Although it hasn’t been tested on humans, using effectiveingredients proven to be safe is much preferred.
How to Keep Hyperpigmentation at Bay
Hyperpigmentation may not be completely avoidable, but it is certainly manageable! At home, follow these tips to help minimize the formation of dark spots:
- Always wear broad-spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 30), even on a cloudy day and even if you’re indoors all day (UV rays can penetrate windows).
- Wear a wide-brimmed sunhat to protect from the sun’s rays, particularly if you’ll be outdoors for an extended period of time.
- 10AM and 3PM are typically considered peak hours of the sun (when the UV rays hit the strongest), so try to stay in the shade during this time as much as possible.
- Exfoliate gently using a mild exfoliation at least once a week to get rid of dead skin surface cells.
- Commit to an excellent anti-hyperpigmentation skincare. Incorporate proven and high-performing ingredients that are known to fade and prevent spots, like those described above in Nazelie’s Youth Illuminator Cream and Radiance Enhancing Day Cream.
Visiting A Dermatologist/Esthetician
A dermatologist or esthetician can expedite the process of lightening dark spots using professional-strength ingredients and devices that offer a more powerful treatment. The technique and protocol employed will ultimately be up to you and your expert, but here are some common options that may be considered:
- Topical Treatments: A doctor may simply prescribe a retinol (vitamin A) which helps with cell renewal. You will be instructed to use the cream on a regular basis until you see improvement, which can take up to several months.
- Chemical Peels:Peels are concoctions that contain exfoliating acids, such as glycolic and salicylic acids (but at higher concentrations than at-home versions). You must get chemical peels regularly before you see improvement, and the frequency is up to your dermatologist or esthetician.
- Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion treats the surface of the skin using a tool that “sandpapers” skin with tiny beads, which are then vacuumed away. This process removes the uppermost layers of dead skin along the pigments. Like with chemical peels, multiple treatments are needed to see a difference.
- Laser Treatments: There are numerous types of laser treatments, which generally involves delivering laser energy to the affected areas in a series of brief pulses. The dark spots absorb this energy more efficiently, which causes a breakdown of pigment. Fraxel and Photofacial are two types of laser treatments used for hyperpigmentation.
Looking for a great hyperpigmentation treatment? Check out our Purifying Tonic.