April 11, 2017
Uneven pigmentation is one of the most common skin care concerns I’m contacted about. It doesn’t make it easier that every magazine ad from makeup companies shows glowing, even-toned skin with zero imperfections – and obviously this is not a realistic ideal. All of us have areas of varying pigmentation, whether it be from acne scars or sun damage. So how can you minimise this, and create a complexion that’s brighter and more even-toned?
What causes pigmentation?
‘Dark spots’ are caused by the over-production of melanin; the pigment that gives our skin its colour. Sometimes after a blemish or lesion, the skin produces too much melanin during the healing process. Over-production can also be caused by UV exposure (resulting in what we commonly refer to as ‘sun spots’). And finally, a specific type of pigmentation called ‘melasma’ can result from excess oestrogen in the system – so it often happens during pregnancy.
What do 'brightening' products actually do?
Well, a few things. Some ingredients inhibit the formation of melanin, preventing pigmentation and sun spots before they occur. Others work to inhibit inflammation, which in turn has the same effect (it prevents the over-production of melanin). Some ingredients lighten skin that’s already pigmented, either by ‘bleaching’ it, or by exfoliating it at a micro-level so that the darker surface layers of skin are removed.
What are some skin brightening products & ingredients I can look out for?
- Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that is known to reduce melanin formation.
- Licorice contains a component, glabadrin, which also inhibits the production of melanin.
- Vitamin A is an antioxidant too, but rather than inhibiting melanin production, it stimulates the growth of new skin cells, replacing damaged (darkened) cells with new ones.
- Fruit enzymes, willowbark and hydroxy acids do the same thing by acting as non-abrasive exfoliants and helping to speed up skin cell renewal.
- Citrus ingredients work to lighten or ‘bleach’ the skin (they do the same thing for hair).
What else can I do?
- Stay out of the sun (especially in the middle of the day), and if you have to be in it, always wear a natural sunscreen and try to cover your face by wearing a hat.
- If you have active acne, do your very best not to pick at it! Let it heal itself naturally & don’t further damage the skin by aggravating it.
- Be gentle with your skin during pregnancy, and make sure you’re getting all your essential vitamins and nutrients, as well as staying hydrated (all things that go without saying!).