When I feebly began this blog, I wanted to inform readers, and this may be the most important item I can share about hyperpigmentation, sun exposure and the ingredients used to combat dark spots and aging:
Summer is in full swing and many of us will spend more time outdoors, baring more skin, looking sultry and sexy. It’s also when we want to wear less makeup and are more self-conscious about spots and scarring. Even skin tone is the bane of many. All it takes is one acne scar, burn or simply the aging process to bring out every insecurity in all of us. Before I delve into products, here’s a quick primer:
Hydroquinone: used as a topical application in skin lightening products to reduce the color of melanin (brown pigment in skin).
Kojic Acid: derived from a fungus found in mushrooms, and studies have shown that it is effective, albeit slower, as a lightening agent, inhibiting production of melanin.
Retinol: the whole vitamin A molecule, which can be broken down into thousands of smaller components, including “retinoic acid” (also called tretinoin, the active ingredient in Renova and Retin-A). Essentially retinol is just a fancy name for vitamin A. Retinol is vitamin A in its purest and most active form. It penetrates deep into the skin, where it becomes fully operative. Wrinkles and lines are gradually smoothed, moisture and elasticity increase, the complexion glows and damage is diminished.
Vitamin C: (L-ascorbic acid) is one of the relatively few topical agents whose effectiveness against wrinkles and fine lines is backed by a fair amount of reliable scientific evidence. Unfortunately, the practical use of vitamin C in skin care presents some difficulties due to its lack of stability. This has improved, and can be used for daytime regimens.
Glycolic Acid: an alpha-hydroxy acid used to improve the skin’s appearance and texture. It may reduce wrinkles, acne scarring, hyperpigmentation and improve many other skin conditions. Once applied, glycolic acid reacts with the upper layer of the epidermis, weakening the binding properties of the lipids that hold the dead skin cells together. This allows the outer skin to “dissolve” revealing the underlying skin. Great in conjunction with Vitamin C.
Age/liver/sun spots: flat, gray, brown or black spots. They vary in size and usually appear on the face, hands, shoulders and arms — areas most exposed to the sun. Though age spots are very common in adults older than age 40, they can affect younger people as well.
Sunscreen: a lotion, cream, spray or other topical product that is supposed to protect the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Look for products that offer broad spectrum with an SPF of 30 – UVA and UVB rays.
Let me be clear: I am not a fan of hydroquinone. It’s not an ingredient designed for long-term use, and is easily misused and abused. Also, whatever you’re purchasing over-the counter (hereafter referred to as OTC), the strength is the same – 2%. Your trusty dermatologist/plastic surgeon in the United States will only be able to offer a strength of 4%. These are the legal amounts as deemed by the FDA. You know your skin better than anyone else, but if you decide to use hydroquinone in your daily skincare regimen, here’s a couple of pointers for a clear, smoother complexion:
1 – Use at night ONLY! Once you start using hydroquinone, it will make your skin photosensitive, and will make the scars and spots you’re working to hard (not to mention the cost!) to get rid of even darker – and perhaps permanent.
2 – Wear sunscreen. I will talk more about sunscreens often in posts, but the use of a daily sunscreen will keep spots/scars from getting darker, and help stop skin tags from forming. If your time outdoors is to and from the car, an SPF of 15 should be adequate. More time outside? Make it 30, and reapply, reapply, reapply! Too messy? Murad makes a great sunscreen with SPF 35 in stick form to tuck into a purse or tote.
Non-hydroquinone products do work, but require patience because they take longer (at least 3-6 months) to see results. But, the plus is they can be used continuously. Once you’ve used up that hydroquinone-based skin lightener(8 weeks), you’re seen the optimal results. And please, discontinue using without working with your facialist/dermatologist.
Here’s a few items I like, and have used with success: