Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Anyone who has been shopping recently will know that the hottest trend in skin care is spot reducers and skin brighteners.
Every single skin care line on the market has products that claim to specifically get rid of dark spots and discoloration on the skin, and make the skin look brighter and more even. But the ingredient list reads like a walk in the grocery store — everything from mushroom extract to vitamin C is claimed to help make skin brighter.
But to really figure out how to treat hyperpigmentation, it’s important to understand why it occurs in the first place.
Dermatologist Dr. Paul Cohen, who works with skin care brand Neutrogena, explains that “the sun, skin aging, birth control, mask of pregnancy and genetics are some factors that influence skin pigmentation. Basically, due to many of the factors mentioned previously, melanin is distributed unevenly in the skin and accumulates at the surface of the skin. Outcome: skin pigmentation becomes uneven and dark spots form on the surface of skin.” To really stop the hyperpigmentation of skin, it’s important to use products that actually work with the melanin that’s causing the hyperpigmentation.
But before heading to the drugstore to stock up on the latest in skin lighteners, head to the doctor to have dark spots checked out — just to make sure that any new dark spots aren’t actually skin cancer. Even a family doctor can check for this, and, if need be, he or she can make a referral to a dermatologist. Once skin cancer has been ruled out, the treatment of dark spots can begin by addressing the melanin that causes hyperpigmentation.
Dr. Louis Grondin, medical director of Sante Medical Group, recommends using tyrosinase inhibitors. Tyrosinase is the enzyme that is responsible for the production of melanin in the skin, and if you can limit its production, then you can limit hyperpigmentation. Grondin recommends looking for ingredients like hydroquinone, azaleaic acid, kojic acid and salicylic acid. These all have a disruptive effect on the skin’s production of melanin.
Both Grondin and Cohen also recommend exfoliating to get rid of the surface layer of skin cells that can already be discoloured making your skin look dull. While drugstore products containing salicylic and kojic acid can provide some exfoliation, people who want a quicker and more effective treatment should head to a dermatologist to get a salicylic acid peel. Peels have a higher concentration of acids in them and actually work to suppress the cells that cause hyperpigmentation. The best part about a salicylic acid peel is that there’s no actual peeling and almost no down time, but the skin does turnover at a faster rate following the peel and the result is more clear skin.
Before heading down the peel route, try constructing a skin care regimen that incorporates exfoliating ingredients in it. Cohen recommends “products that contain vitamin C, which as an antioxidant that prevents and helps treat existing spots, helping to avoid free radical damage. Retinol is another one of the ingredients that is easily accessible that can help, as it helps turnover quicker. One product that actually combines both is Neutrogena’s Rapid Tone Repair Moisturizer SPF 30 that is clinically proven to help brighten skin to reduce the look of dark spots and discoloration with a powerful combination of vitamin C and retinol.”
But for some people, exfoliating may not be enough. The next option is to try a laser peel. According to Grondin, Erbium laser peels are great because they have no heat, and so can target dark spots without causing any inflammation. Finally, a dermatologist can also use a Q-Switch laser (which is a tattoo laser) to target small areas of hyperpigmentation. These lasers only target dark spots of skin and get rid of them.
Unfortunately, even after laser procedures, the treatment of dark spots is a continuous process because hyperpigmentation is caused by aging, sun damage, and hormonal changes, none of which can be stopped. Therefore, it’s important to use daily sun protection, even limiting sun exposure if dark spots are already becoming apparent. Also, apply treatment products daily. Plus, it’s important to note that some products that target hyperpigmentation make skin extra sensitive to the sun, and in that case, sun protection becomes even more important.
With the plethora of dark spot eliminating products on the market, how can you tell what works and what doesn’t?
Well, make sure you’re choosing one that contains the ingredients proven to increase cell turnover. You can also take your own before and after pictures to check if the product you’re using is making any difference. If it’s not, then head to your doctor and find out what options are available to you.