THE MANY CAUSES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION
OXIDATIVE DAMAGE FROM UV RADIATION FROM THE SUN
The #1 cause of hyperpigmentation is UV damage from the sun. Freckles, age spots, and other darkened skin patches become even darker when skin is exposed to sunlight. This happens because melanin absorbs the energy from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays and tries to protect your skin from overexposure. The usual result of this process is a tan, but it also tends to darken areas that are already hyperpigmented. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 is essential. Use it every day and reapply hourly when in a sun situation. The key with SPF is not so much the number written on the bottle but applying the correct dosage. If you’ve read my other posts on sunscreens you’ll know that at Elizabeth Renee we recommend using a “two-peanut approach”. Every morning at the end of your skincare routine you should apply about the size of a peanut to your face. That amounts to about a quarter of a teaspoon. Go get dressed and when you come back, apply the second peanut. In this way, you’ll get the full ½ Tsp of sunscreen that the FDA requires to achieve that SPF number written on the bottle. Anything less and you are not fully protected. Nothing is more important for managing hyperpigmentation than diligent use of sunscreen.
We are now finding that exposure to high energy visible light (HEV light) contributes to sun damage and hyperpigmentation. Just as UVA and UVB light triggers a cascade of oxidative damage (free radicals) on and within the skin so does HEV light. HEV light not only comes from the sun but from your smartphone, smart TV, computers and ambient lighting. The startling difference is that HEV blue light can penetrate even further into the skin than UVA, causing deeper damage that eventually shows up as wrinkles, rough texture and brown spots. Traditional sunscreens do not protect against HEV light. This is a good reason to wear foundation over your sunscreen. Many foundations contain iron oxide. Iron oxide has been found to help minimize HEV light damage. One that’s super popular at Elizabeth Renee is our Medium Tinted Primer which has iron oxide plus an SPF of 20. Just remember, you cannot count on foundation alone to give you enough UV protection to act as a true sunscreen. Would you really apply ½ tsp of foundation to your face to get that SPF number promised on the bottle? Instead, think of SPF in foundation as supplemental sun protection. There is a form of plant melanin called Liposhield that is exceptionally effective against HEV light. You’ll find this ingredient in our age correcting formula called Ageless Longevity Serum which should be applied under sunscreen. Ageless also contains Niacinamide which is brightening, calms inflammation and breaks apart melanin pigment before it reaches the surface of the skin.
Surprisingly, stress hormones contribute to hyper-pigmentation because they increase your body’s inflammatory response. Stress reduction techniques like yoga and meditation might help. When you are stressed, your body produces increased levels of the hormone cortisol. Higher cortisol levels stimulate melanin production. To fight the damage from stress, you can calm some of this inflammation by arming yourself with an array of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet. These foods are rich in polyphenols; superior antioxidants which are also anti-inflammatory. If you find your life is particularly stressful, exposed to environmental stress, or sometimes miss eating your daily 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies a day, Sunrise Solution is a good addition to your skincare regime. This morning serum is packed with protective superfoods like coffee berries, acai berries, gogi fruit, noni fruit, mangoes and pomegranates. They are amongst the most powerful sources of natural anti-inflammatory antioxidants available.
THE PILL & PREGNANCY
Nearly 50% of pregnant women show some signs of the “mask of pregnancy.” Brightening ingredients like Retinoids and Hydroquinone should be avoided during pregnancy. Niacinamide and Azelaic Acid are safe and effective alternatives. These brighteners are good for calming sensitive skin, especially in rosacea prone skin types. While pregnant, it is doubly important to use sunscreen, wear protective clothing and avoid the sun during peak hours from 10AM to 2PM.
Whether or not you are pregnant, you should make sure to include one or more tyrosinase inhibitors in your skin brightening regime. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that transports melanin to other cells. Tyrosinase inhibitors prevent “misfiring” or over-overproduction of melanin. The most common prescription tyrosinase inhibitor is Hydroquinone. Know that one should limit the use of Hydroquinone to four months of use. Hydroquinone can be irritating and may result in a rebound effect (more pigmentation) and is banned in some Asian countries for bring a possible carcinogen. There are many natural gentler tyrosinase inhibitors such as bearberry, licorice root found in our Peptide Firming Serum. These are very gentle natural alternatives for sensitive skin. The ingredients used are derived from plant sources and can reduce the overproduction of melanin in the skin. Vitamin C is also a tyrosinase inhibitor that can brighten the skin with regular use.
Melanocytes have a memory. Pigmentation tends to fade during the cooler months but as soon as it gets warm again, melanin production speeds up. If you’re asking, “Where did these dark spots come from?” then ask yourself, “How was I treating my skin in my twenties?”
Dark spots are also the result of a slowdown in production of ATP; the energy producing molecule in your body. Less ATP means a slower metabolism, and slower removal of senescent cells which lead to the appearance of “liver spots”. At the same time your overall coloring fades because there is less energy to create an even skin tone. Poor circulation results in a gradual reduction of less of that nice pink glow.
Products like jagged edged scrubs as well as too strong peels, Tretinoin (Retin-A), and even lasers may have a negative effect on pigmentation if your skin if it isn’t gently coaxed into tusing hese skin lightening treatments. Make sure the scrub you use is a smooth surfaced scrub like Papaya Enzyme Buffing Beads. And, don’t be too aggressive. If you get red easily you might even opt out of physical scrubs all together and focus on chemical exfoliators like a Vitamin C Ester, Encapsulated Retinol, or Azelaic Acid. These are gentle, slow release formulas that can be gradually introduced into your routine to avoid inflammation.
Liver spots are associated with age. As we grow older our body has a diminished ability to handle toxins in our diet and pollution from the environment. The reason brown spots are sometimes called “liver spots” is possibly because the liver has a harder time ridding the body of toxins as we age. As I said before, there is an energy slow down. Your mitochondria produces only half the energy at age 60 that it produced at age 30. This means we are not as good at detoxifying as we once were. Toxins build up in the skin and its accumulation may shows itself as brown pigmented spots. One way to energize skin cells to self cleanse and recycle cells is to create a state of autophagy. Autophagy is a way of clearing away old senescent (zombie) cells and recycle their proteins to produce newer, younger acting cells. You can also stimulate energy in skin cells by including niacinamide in your serum. Niacinamide is a multifunctional form of Vitamin B3 found in First Light Lotion. Sweating also helps rid the body of toxins, the tricky part is you need to keep your skin cool. Azulene Soothing Masque is a gentle cooling mask to use after workouts or sun exposure.
Glycation is a yellow cast, a loss of firmness and skin rigidity that is caused when certain sugars bind to proteins in your skin. The effects of glycation becomes visible around age 35. Glycation leads to changes in collagen, elastin and fibronectin structures. It produces “crème brulee” like effect on the skin – making proteins brittle and stiff and causing dark yellow shadows and wrinkles to appear on the skin. Red Algae (from Palmaria Palmata) in First Light Lotion targets glycation to lessen age spots, ashiness, dullness, and a yellowish cast on your skin. The most common cause of glycation is eating too much sugar, combined with heat and sun. If your skin is drier try you might prefer Ageless which also contains a fair amount of Red Algae). Now that you have graduated from understanding the root causes of hyperpigmentation problems, you may be interested in knowing a little bit more about what you can do at home to minimize spots and blotches, from a skin care point of view. Click below:
WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION ? – Part One
HOW TO MANAGE HYPERPIGMENTATION AT HOME – Part Three