This past summer was wonderful for me. The fantastic weather allowed for lots of fun boating, fishing, kayaking and enjoying many great walks on South Beach in Chatham. Unfortunately, even though I was fastidious about applying my SPF 30 sunscreen, for the first time in many years I allowed myself to get too much sun.
The unfortunate result was mottled pigmentation, mostly over my cheek bones. For the rest of the summer I continued with Advanced Protection SPF 30 but this time I made sure to reapply every couple of hours and use it more generously, reminding myself that if I don’t apply enough I wasn’t t going to get the protection I needed. I also assured extra protection by layering on Sheer Mineral Tint (SPF 20) over my sunscreen. This is one of our top ten most popular products. It’s a tinted moisturizer that offers sheer, even, natural color while supplying gentle effective sun protection. I also started spraying Ocean Mineral Mist on my face to keep my skin cool and well hydrated. As research shows, when you reach a certain age, heat plus hormone changes stir up underlying pigmentation – even when you are not in direct sunlight! So it is important to keep skin cool. Also, with age damage that incurred decades ago may now decide to become visible. To minimize this, regular exfoliation using enzymes and scrubs are recommended during the warmer season.
These were really helpful changes for me to prevent further damage during the summer, but corrective treatments had to wait until fall when I was sure to be totally out of the sun. Despite all my efforts, exposing my skin to sunlight after pigmentation treatments would quickly turn on melanocytes (pigment producing cells), creating more pigmentation. Light exfoliating treatments are okay during the summer, but deep skin correcting protocols must wait until fall. A few weeks later, sadly, the boat was stored away for the season. Now I could focus on what to do about my pigmentation problem.
Correcting pigmentation problems is a challenge. It takes determination and stick-to-it-ness and an understanding of realistic results. Everyone’s skin is a little bit different and will respond to different depths of peels. So, it’s important to consult a licensed professional to guide you through the best personal protocol for your skin. At Elizabeth Renee Esthetics we have formed a Beta Testing Team. This is a group of estheticians, where we do research and get together to test products and treatments and work on developing protocols that will produce maximum results for our clients. This testing continues, so we don’t have complete answers yet, but there are some promising strategies you might want to consider.
Of course you need to learn to avoid the sun. Then you need to commit to using a healthy dose of SPF daily. If you’re living in the North East as I do, you may not need an SPF 30 cream every day of your life, but you do need some sort of sun protection. Be aware that the aging UVA rays of the sun are just as strong in summer as in winter and from sun-up to sun-down. On those dry, grey, cold winter days in Boston I opt to use a sunscreen free super hydrating moisturizer, but then I make sure to use at least a 15 SPF sunscreen in my foundation. So I never let my skin go sunscreen free. With the new FDA ruling, foundations that claim to have sunscreen in them are subject to higher scrutiny regarding their sunscreen capabilities than in the past. Ours have been reformulated and relabeled and are exceptional products.
Starting around age 30, brown spots that come from age, pregnancy, medication, hormonal changes and of course the sun, will slowly start to show up on your skin. If untreated, these spots or patches tend to become more apparent and more permanent and get darker as your skin ages. Not to worry, if you start addressing this skin problem now, with the right skin care routine and a little patience, you’ll be on your way to a more even-toned skin.
Studies show that with the combination of exfoliation, skin brighteners, melanin inhibitors and daily use of an SPF, the pigmented cells will slowly start to break down and fade in color. Exfoliation is beneficial for breaking up surface pigmented cells, while skin-lightening agents like Vitamin C, Lactic Acid and Vitamin A derivatives will suppress the melanin deeper in your skin and accelerate fading. Note that pigmentation caused by internal reasons such as hormone changes or medications are much harder to lighten that sun induced pigmentation. Discoloration will always come back if ignored, so it’s important to be really committed to keeping it under control.
BEST EXFOLIATION PRACTICES
Alpha hydroxy acids: are effective for breaking apart and exfoliating pigmented cells. We’ve found that to really get into the skin you need a combination of Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. Glycolic is important because it is has the smallest molecule and can get deeper into the skin. Lactic Acid is important because it has tyrosinase (the pigment producing enzyme) inhibiting properties. But even more important is having the right delivery system to get theses action ingredients deep into the skin. (Check out Getting Even.)
Retinols are a little stronger, but can be combined with AHA’s if you use the Retinol at night and the AHA’s during the day (under sunscreen). Not everyone can use Retinols so get used to the other products in your program before starting Retinol. You should check out this really great article on Retinols found in Vogue Magazine. Our Retinol Resurfacing Treatment speeds up cell turnover and strengthens the skin in the lower layers. This is important if your pigmentation is deeper in the skin. I don’t really recommend Retin-A because the intense irritation it causes can lead to a backlash event, causing post traumatic hyperpigmentation. I also don’t like that unnatural waxy look it gives the skin.
Physical Scrubs can still be used once or twice a week, if your skin is flaky or feels tight. Just use them gently. And you may want to add a little more Lactic Acid (BOOST) to your scrub to gently boost its activity. The scrub you chose should depend on your skin’s thickness and sensitivity.
Vitamin C & E Antioxidant Serum is our number one best-selling product. This unique serum helps to smooth lines, reduce blackheads, firm skin, ease redness, and fade pigmentation. All in a no-sting formula. I would recommend using this product every day, after using Getting Even.
My favorite night time serum for fading pigmentation and reducing the unwanted effects of sun damage is our Brightening Peptide Serum. This super hydrating formula with skin firming peptides also includes botanicals like Bearberry, Licorice Root and Daisy Flower extract. These have all been studied and found to be anti-inflammatory (which is good for suppressing pigmentation) and tyrosinase inhibitors.
LED LIGHT TREATMENTS have been found to be calming and repairing for pigmented skin. We’ve discovered that the green LED light is specific to pigmentation and the best choice when having LED light treatments.
CORRECTIVE PEELS have a great effect of removing old pigmented cells and stimulating a repair response in the skin. While we continue to test which combination peels will work best for your unique skin type the ones that seem to have the most promise are LACTIC ACID PEELS, VITAMIN C PEELS and VITAMIN A PEELS (for particularly resistant skin types). All our peels are mild enough that they require little or no down time. Sometimes we combine these with Microdermabrasion or Ultrasound exfoliation to get deeper results. LACTIC ACID combined with ULTRASOUND is what works best for my skin type. We’ll keep you informed as we do more testing.
HYDRAQUINONE is a skin lightener that is still sold in products and prescribed by many dermatologists. We do not agree with the use of this ingredient. Japan and many countries in Europe have now banned the use of this bleaching agent. Hydroquinone was actually a very effective skin lightening cream, although sometimes it resulted in a backlash of pigmentation after using it for a while. Now, it has been found to be toxic and carcinogenic, but it hasn’t yet been banned in the United States. So start reading labels to make sure it’s not part of your lightening formula.
Although many of our clients prefer to bypass medical treatments, sometimes (especially if you have specific dark spots) you need to check out laser or liquid nitrogen to burn off these spots. There are also deep exfoliating treatments that destroy pigmented cells in precancerous lesions. You can get these treatments from your dermatologist. These may require some down time but may be indicated for your personal situation. It is also extremely important to have yearly full body mole checks for potentially dangerous skin lesions.
Feel free to post questions or talk to one of our estheticians to develop a strategy that’s right for you. Post your questions on this blog or on our Elizabeth Renee Esthetics’ Facebook Page. Let Elizabeth Renee Esthetics be your guide to complexion perfection.