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Hyper-pigmentation is one of the most common complaints from women. Did you know that it is not only caused and activated by the sun but also by heat? This alarming truth is one of the reasons hyper-pigmentation and dark spots are so stubborn and challenging to get rid of.

So what actually happens?

Patches of skin become darker in color due to excessive melanin, the pigment that produces skin color. Types of hyperpigmentation include sunspots, which result from cumulative sun exposure; melasma, which arises primarily in women due to hormonal causes; and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which arises from an injury or insult to the skin. While these conditions are conventionally treated with toxic topical agents such as hydroquinone, natural agents may also be helpful in managing them.

“Plant-derived agents such as alpha arbutin, kojic acid and birds of paradise have been found to be beneficial in lightening the appearance of the skin and evening its coloration,” says Dr. G!

Heat is also a culprit! Heat whether outside or inside increases vasodilation, which is the dilation or widening of blood vessels. This causes more redness to appear, particularly in areas of melasma. Heat can also lead to inflammation and stimulate melanocyte pigment production. While UV sources like the sun are defiantly enemy number one, there are many other triggers. Hyper-pigmentation can occur from heat sources like overhead LED lights, a BBQ grill, a hairdryer or the temperature in a hot yoga class. Wearing an SPF daily along with an environmental anti-pollution serum and dark spot corrective treatment will help combat many of these.

How to properly protect and treat:

The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Skin: The process of exfoliation is a lot like peeling away the dry, outer skin of an onion to reveal the living layers beneath. Whether the exfoliation is done using mechanical abrasion or a controlled chemical reaction, removing dead and damaged skin cells on the surface allows the fresh new skin underneath to become visible. This newly exposed layer of skin feels much softer and smoother. Its surface reflects light better, making fine lines and other small imperfections harder to see. Age spots and other areas of unwanted pigmentation are less noticeable because the dead skin cells containing the pigment have been removed. Exfoliation unplugs clogged pores and allows for the release of natural skin oils. Regular exfoliation also helps to maintain open pores, decreases pore size, and minimizes many types of superficial scarring. In addition, removing the top layer of dead and damaged cells allows other health-promoting agents such as moisturizers, antioxidants, and collagen-boosting ingredients to better penetrate the skin and work more effectively.

As a bodyguard:

Not only does your skin shield your insides from ultraviolet radiation and other forms of physical damage, it also carries a powerful defense system that seeks out and destroys any foreign invaders that manage to get through. When you consider that every square inch of your skin can be covered with millions of micro-organisms, you can understand how vital this is.

Look at your skin as “in defense” during the day. Integrate antioxidants into your AM regimen.

The nutrient, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the polyphenols found in antioxidants that span across tea, fruit, plant derivatives, have been scientifically proven to combat the effects of photo-aging.  Cumulative exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun produces free radicals that can damage the sensitive lipids, proteins and DNA in your skin cells. This UV-induced damage to your skin can result in gradual loss of tone, wrinkling, discoloration, increased redness, and even cancer. Topical treatment with antioxidants has been shown to help prevent the DNA damage that leads to skin cancer and to support the general health and long-lasting beauty of your skin.

Dr. Goldfaden’s advanced brightening and antioxidant serum help aid against the appearance of photoaging and free radical damage while leaving skin feeling hydrated and looking radiant. Stay protected.

Don’t forget SPF. Here are some of our clean favorites from Credo Beauty. 

Effective at diminishing the appearance of dark spots , stimulating collagen production, diminishing the appearance of fine lines and boosting overall radiance. Vitamin C is the single most powerful topical ingredient that exists and everyone should be using it within their regimen. Have you ever asked yourself, ‘how does she achieve that glow?’. Look no further because we are about to tell you the secret women have been using for years…. Vitamin C. Hailed as one of the best anti-agers on the market !

Photo via @edgarraw

What is Vitamin C:

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is abundant in vegetables and fruits, particularly in citrus fruits where the Vitamin C levels are the highest. A water-soluble vitamin and powerful anti-oxidant, it helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, which enhances collagen fibers in the skin (hello firmness), fights against free radical damage and contains skin-brightening properties.

How it works

Anti-oxidant

Vitamin C is the single most powerful and multi-functional ingredient in topical products. Loaded with antioxidants, brightening properties and collagen building enzymes, Vitamin C is a true powerhouse ingredient. Topical antioxidants produce much higher concentrations in the skin than nutritional supplements. In fact, applying vitamin C to the skin is 20 times more effective than oral ingestion. Simply applying vitamin C daily for three days can achieve optimal levels in the skin. It is also known that once a topical antioxidant is absorbed into the skin, it cannot be washed or rubbed off. So, even after stopping application, significant amounts of vitamin C will remain in the skin for up to three days.

Collagen Enhancing Properties

Vitamin C’s skin-health benefits are largely attributed to its benefits in supporting healthy collagen. Collagen works hand-in-hand with elastin to support the skin. Basically, it supplies the framework that provides form, firmness, and strength to the skin, while elastin is what gives skin its flexibility. A number of in vitro studies have confirmed that treating human skin cells with a topical vitamin C derivative can stimulate collagen synthesis. In addition to facilitating the hydroxylation reactions involved in collagen formation, vitamin C also stimulates collagen synthesis by enhancing collagen gene transcription. Topical vitamin C may also help preserve existing collagen by influencing the enzymes responsible for collagen degradation.

What to buy

Serums deliver the most bang for your buck as they typically are formulated with the highest concentrations of Vitamin C. A good place to start is with a formula with a minimum of 7% Vitamin C and as high as 15% as this is really the sweet spot in terms of providing proper treatment to the skin and make sure that the Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is listed high up on the ingredient deck – just another indication of the level of percentage within the formula.

One of the best anti-aging cocktails is  a mix of Vitamin C serum+ additional age-defying ingredients

Ferulic Acid: Protects your skin against sun damage and also stabilizes the Vitamin C, preventing it from oxidating (i.e. changing color) which eliminates the treatment.

Vitamin E / Tocopherol: Anti-inflammatory properties and overall skin nourishment

Vitamin B / Niacinamide: Provide brightening and anti-inflammatory properties.

*Try Brightening Elixir by Goldfaden MD

How to use it:

The ultimate youth-boosting skincare protocol involves the use of a regular exfoliator (or retinoid at night as it helps promote cell renewal and allows for the treatment serum to penetrate deep into the skin), followed by a daily Vitamin C serum, protective moisturizer and your preferred SPF of SPF 30 or higher.

Photo via @edgarraw

Our skin cells contain melanocyte cells, a cell that produces melanin, a chemical that gives skin its color. Too much melanin leads to hyper pigmented skin – including freckles, darkening of the skin in patches, and age spots. Hyper pigmentation can occur from over sun exposure, trauma to the skin (i.e. laser treatments, peels, etc.) or as a side effect of certain drugs. While hyperpigmentation is not a serious medical condition, it is one of the most common skin conditions and arguably the most difficult to treat and correct.

Picture via Total Beauty

We enlisted the expertise of Dr. Goldfaden to help us understand how hyper pigmentation occurs, what we can do to prevent it and the best and most effective treatments, both in-office and at-home.

Q: What exactly is hyper pigmentation? “Hyperpigmentation is defined as any spot on your skin that’s dark enough to effectively stand out against the surrounding area. This phenomenon is usually the result of your skin’s efforts to protect itself from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. It occurs when overexposure to sunlight causes the melanocytes in the deeper layers of your skin to produce cells that contain a skin-darkening pigment called melanin. These specialized cells known as melanosomes are picked up by your keratinocytes that are constantly migrating upwards toward your skin surface.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: What are the different types of hyperpigmentation one can develop? “Age spots or sun spots (sun damage), melasma, scarring, post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: What is post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation? “Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is usually temporary and can be caused by inflammatory acne, a severe burn or injury to the skin. While anyone can suffer from this, it is more common in dark skin types.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: What is the difference between acne scars and hyperpigmentation? “This can be very difficult to differentiate. Acne scars can appear dark and be Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which should go away (as it is temporary). However, if exposed to the sun then this may become long-term hyperpigmentation. General rule of thumb, if the acne mark or lesion is still visible after 6-12 months then it is considered a scar.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: What is the difference between hyperpigmentation, sun spots and freckles? “All fall under the umbrella of Hyperpigmentation. Sun exposure has a lot to do with the darkness and severity. If you have freckles and have sun exposure the melanin will be activated and the freckle will be darker.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: What causes hyper pigmentation? “Hyperpigmentation occurs when overexposure to sunlight causes the melanocytes in the deeper layers of your skin to produce cells that contain a skin-darkening pigment called melanin. These specialized cells known as melanosomes are picked up by your keratinocytes that are constantly migrating upwards toward your skin surface and cause the dark spots/areas. Hormones, birth control pills can also cause this and sunlight can increase the severity.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: Is anyone more prone to hyperpigmentation, such as different races or skin tones? “Darker skin types are more prone. All skin generally has the same amount of melanosomes , the difference in lighter skin and darker skin is the size. Darker skin has larger melanosomes(what contains/distributes the melanin) hence more susceptible to hyperpigmentation.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: Is it preventable? If so, how? “Wearing an SPF at all times when exposed to the sun. Exfoliation can help the appearance as it removes dead, dry, dark skin cells fort he surface of the skin. Using proper actives to protect against sun damage and treat sun damage and dark spots. In office micro-dermabrasion treatments and laser treatments.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: Can it ever be reversed completely? “Yes, but it is very difficult and takes a lot of diligence. Even laser treatments are not 100% successful and the dark spot can come back.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: What’s the best way to treat any existing spots? “SPF at all times, sun protective gear (hat, glasses, clothing), Exfoliation, and an active treatment serum.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: What are the best in-office treatments one can receive? “Fraxel laser and Clear and Brilliant are two of the popular and introductory laser treatments that work to combat uneven skin tone, including discoloration. Micro-Dermabrasion is also very popular choice. In office chemical peels can be very effective as well. Glycolic and lactic acid peels are recommended for at-home maintenance usage.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD

Q: What are 3 ingredients people with hyperpigmentation should look for in daily skincare products? “Vitamin C, GlycolicAcid/Lactic, Alpha Arbutin, and Kojic Acid.” Dr. Gary Goldfaden MD