Spots, Blotches, Uneven Pigmentation – Part Three

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

#1 SUNSCREEN PROTECTION: This is your main protection against sun damage and hyperpigmentation.   
  • Wearing sunscreen is an absolute must. Every day, year-round. Rain or shine.
  • Choose a “broad spectrum” formula (blocking both UVA and UVB light).
  • Purchase an SPF of 30 or greater.
  • Use the 2-peanut approach (1/4 tsp. before and another 1/4 tsp. amount after your skin care regime).
  •  Re-apply hourly when in sun situations.
  • Use a foundation with SPF and iron oxide.

    (Recommended Sunscreen Formula: Gentle Screen)
 #2 EXFOLIATING ACIDS: These remove layers of pigmented cells to create a brighter complexion.  Try one or more of the following:
  • AZELAIC ACID 10%

One of the most versatile exfoliating agents because it is gentle, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, helps with clogged pores and helps with breakouts. It works by attacking abnormally hyperpigmented cells, while leaving normally pigmented cells alone.  Azelaic Acid is great for acne clients, rosacea clients and those skins sensitive to other acids.  It does not cause sun sensitivity so it can be worn safely during the day.  If you’re using Retinoids or AHAS at night, you can boost their brightening effects by adding Azelaic Acid during the day.  An sophisticated Azelaic Acid formula will also contain tyrosinase inhibitors.

(Recommended Azelaic formula: First Light Therapy)

  • AHAS (Alpha Hydroxy Acids)

AHAs exfoliate by dissolving the glue that sticks surface cells together revealing newer, brighter skin.  If you have skin that is not particularly sensitive you can speed up brightening by including an AHA blend. AHAs include glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, tartaric acid and malic acid.  A time released formula should boost exfoliation without irritation. Choose a slow time release delivery system. AHAs should be used only at night to avoid sun sensitivity.  Two or three times a week should do it depending on your skin type.

(Recommended AHA formula: Getting Even)

  • RETINOIDS (VITAMIN A)

Some of you can handle Tretinoin (Retin-A) but you must totally remove yourself from the sun.  Retin-A can be very irritating and thins the epidermis to the point where many skins develop an artificial, red, waxy “Saran Paper” look.  So, let’s reserve this treatment to skin types that have built up a tolerance for this ingredient or have very tough.  Retinol is a gentler form of the anti-aging Vitamin A.  It is one of the most proven anti-aging ingredients because there are actually receptors in the skin for Vitamin A. Retinol offers scientifically-proven age-fighting action for: retexturizing, firming, smoothing surface wrinkles and evening out skin pigmentation.   Retinol works differently from AHAs.  Instead of removing cells from the skin’s surface, retinol filters down to the basal cell layer where it speeds up cell production in both the dermis and epidermis.  In the epidermis, it speeds up new cell layers to push off those older, pigmented cells.  In the dermis, it stimulates collagen production for firmness and wrinkle repair.  After using retinols for a while one can progress to a slightly stronger formula. Sensitive skin types should stay with the gentler formula. You don’t have to use retinol every night either.  Three nights a week works well for most users. But, use only at night to avoid sun sensitivity. 

Recommended Starter Formula: Retinol Resurfacing Treatment Recommended Advanced Formula: Level Up

#3 TYROSINASE INHIBITORS: Tyrosinase is the enzyme responsible for transferring melanin to pigment in and around cells.  Tyrosinase inhibitors help control and reduce overly pigmented spots. The following Tyrosinase inhibitors are gentle enough for daily use.

  • VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is a wonderful, bioavailable, molecule that goes to work immediately to protect skin’s integrity by neutralizing surface free radicals that lead to accelerated aging. Vitamin C supports healthy collagen production. It discourages sun-induced pigmentation by evening out discolored darkened spots.  Vitamin C is also a great daytime antioxidant.  But, Vitamin C can also be very unstable. Choose and ester version like magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate that will stand up to increased reactive oxygen species from the sun.  For brightening you can use this alone or layered over Azelaic acid, or under a calming serum containing a tyrosinase inhibitor like Niacinamide. 

Recommended Vitamin C Formula: C & E Antioxidant Complex

  • NIACINIMIDE

Niacinamide is best known for calming sensitive skin because it promotes production of ceramides.  Ceramides are the main components of our skin’s protective barrier. This reduces irritation and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. More sophisticated formulas should include energy boosters (Ergothioneine) and anti-glycation (Red Algae) ingredients as well as anti-inflammatory antioxidants (Green Tea).

Recommended Niacinamide Formula (oily, sensitive, problem skin):  First Light Lotion
Recommended Niacinamide Formula (dry, mature, sensitive skin): AGELESS Longevity Serum


This information can be very confusing. The easy answer for dealing with pigmentation problems homecare is: Protect, Correct and Calm. If you need more help, schedule a facial with an experienced licensed esthetician at Elizabeth Renee Esthetics, in Wellesley, MA. In-Spa gentle but regular peels should be considered. Talk to a knowledgeable licenced esthetician or your healthcare provider.

Part One – What is Hyperpigmentation?

Part Two – The Many Causes of Hyperpigmentation.

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