As women in the beauty industry one of the biggest complaints that our customers express to us is chronic hyperpigmentation, or those unsightly dark spots that remain on the skin after a breakout is long gone. It seems that women are becoming more concerned about the aftermath of a bad breakout rather than the breakout itself. There has been much information circulating about acne and how to treat it, fight it, and prevent it but there seems to be little information on how to stop the discoloration of the skin surrounding the area of devastation. In response to this we’ve put together some practical solutions for those seeking to heal those pesky dark spots, and some tips on how to prevent them in the first place.
Hyperpigmentation is a darkening around an area on the skin and is caused by several factors, but most commonly an increase of melanin. Melanin is a complex group of insoluble pigments which contribute to the coloring of skin, nails, hair and eyes. Some ethnic groups produce higher amounts of melanin and are more prone to experience hyperpigmentation than others, especially after a bout with acne and sun exposure. Some people may also experience hyperpigmentation due to certain conditions such as Celiac Disease, mercury poisoning, smoking and Addison’s Disease. Pregnant women are also likely to experience patchy discolorations called Melasma due to an increase of melanin during pregnancy. The instances of hyperpigmention are definitely on the rise so, how do we prevent it from happening in the first place.
One of the simplest methods of prevention is to diligently wear sunscreen daily and to reapply as as needed while spending time outdoors. There is a myth that people with darker skin do not need sun protection because their skin will not burn as quickly as those with lighter skin. The truth is: UV rays do not discriminate. As a matter of fact, UV light stimulates melanin activity and breaks down the DNA of surrounding tissue and inflamed areas of the skin of all people. This is what often causes the dark spots on your face after your acne has healed. However, UV light isn’t the only culprit. Often times in an attempt to rid our skin of blemishes many of us put our faces through the ringer. We use chemical laden “treatment” lotions or creams that can actually cause more harm than good; or we may over-exfoliate to slough off dead skin cells, but this actually increases inflammation and exacerbates hyperpigmentation as a result. It is best to be gentle to your skin and remain patient and consistent while treating mild to severe discoloration. Products with Vitamin-C and Vitamin-E contain potent antioxidants that seem to work well on chronic hyperpigmentation.
The bottom line, to prevent hyperpigmentation we must stop punishing our skin with harsh acne treatments that simply thin the skin’s protective layers and make it more susceptible to trauma and further discoloration. While it is tempting to seek out drastic measures promising a quick fix, acid peels and other harsh treatments are huge contributors to hyperpigmentation. As an alternative, try natural acids such as, kojic acid, lauric acid, amino acids or ascorbic acid which are found in natural ingredients such as rice, coconut oil, olive oil and citrus fruits. Enzymes are also a gentle way to exfoliate skin cells without the damage of extreme exfoliants (with rough ingredients such seeds, walnut shell or plastic microbeads), which can cause tearing and micro-abrasions on already damaged skin. A few more of our favorite natural skin healing choices are raw honey which is good for cleansing , as well as products that contain bromelain, an active enzyme found in pineapple and papaya extracts. Licorice root has also been shown to be extremely helpful in gently lightening discoloration especially when due to pregnancy related Melasma. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Dermatology in 2000 found that 70 percent of the participants experienced skin lightening effects when licorice root extract was applied topically to areas of Melasma over the course of four weeks.
For a complete hyperpigmentation regiment we suggest that you begin by nourishing the skin with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. In the morning before applying sunscreen and makeup use a potent Vitamin-C serum to protect your skin from free radicals and to repair damaged cells. Vitamin-C is one of the most powerful antioxidants and is known to play an important role in collagen production, which is essential in the formation of new healthy cells. Vitamin-C has also been shown to inhibit tyrosinase production, which is an enzyme known to increase the instances of dark spots on the skin (it has a similar effect on fruits that turn brown after ripening.) After your daily Vitamin-C treatment you can further heal your skin by applying a quality face oil with high levels of Vitamin E and amino acids. No need to fear face oils if you suffer from acne and breakouts because quality noncomedogenic oils will nourish the skin instead of clogging your pores and even help balance sebum production which can trigger acne. Lastly, it’s imperative to use a safe and chemical free sunscreen. If you suffer from acne a suitable sunscreen will contain zinc (be sure to seek out non-nano sized formulations) to help combat breakouts while blocking harmful UV rays. Be sure to wear hats for further sun protection and be mindful of reapplying sunscreen while outdoors for long periods. We can’t fail to mention that eating a healthy diet that consists of leafy greens, calcium rich protein like salmon, vitamin rich fruit, and drinking plenty of water all help hormones remain balanced so the main cause of hyperpigmentation (acne) is reduced. As frustrating and embarrassing as acne and discoloration can be it doesn’t have to be the source of a lifetime of shame with alternative treatments that can significantly heal your skin with a little patience and diligence.