Seeing Spots?

Take a stand against pigmentation

Uneven skin tone is probably the most hated facial flaw amongst women today. And it’s also one of the most difficult to treat. Even if you have success in lightening those stubborn spots, one week in the sun can often bring them back. So what’s a gal to do? The first step is to understand how melanin works, and accepting that if you choose to fight it, it’s a battle that lasts a lifetime. Sigh.

Hyperpigmentation and Sun Damage
Inside our skin we have pigment cells called melanocytes that determine the color of our skin. They also serve as protectors, manufacturing melanin whenever our skin experiences some sort of “injury.” And just like with a tan, the melanin slowly fades away once the injury has healed. But if the skin is injured repeatedly by sunburns, sun exposure, or recurring acne lesions, the melanocytes go into a sort of permanent overproduction that never stops. Some spots can take up to 20 years to develop, and the darker your skin tone, the more melanocytes you have, thus the more prone you are to pigmenting.

Melasma
Often mistaken for sun damage, Melasma is a form of hormonally induced pigmentation that can occur any time hormones change. Pregnancy, lactation, contraceptive use, perimenopause, and menopause can all trigger the body to produce more melanin, resulting in large, dark patches that look like symmetrical stains on the skin. And while the sun doesn’t cause Melasma, it can definitely bring it out.

Treatments
Once pigment becomes permanent, meaning the Melanocytes have entered the state of ongoing overproduction, fighting it becomes multifaceted. First, you have to exfoliate the skin to bring the damaged (discolored) cells to the surface. Microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and exfoliants like Retinol are my favorite methods. But just like a penny at the bottom of a pool, as the cells rise up, they often look darker and more distinct before they fade away.

Next, you need to break up and lighten the melanin clusters in order to reduce their appearance. Vitamin C, Arbutin, and Licorice Root all do a good job in this department. Finally, you need to suppress new melanin production with ingredients like Hydraquinone, Kojic Acid, or Niacinamide.

With these simple steps, and a little patience, you can achieve some dramatic results. Just remember to stay out of the sun!

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