One of my main goals with writing this blog is to help women feel confident in their own skin.
It makes me sad to know that so many women and even young girls feel that they need to cover up their faces with layers of foundation, concealer, etc. due to issues like acne and dark spots. But I understand why they feel obliged to do so: society puts so much pressure on women to look a certain way. When we are constantly faced with media portraying air-brushed photoshopped faces as "beautiful" it's no wonder that girls often feel ashamed by even the slightest imperfections.
In my opinion, however, the best foundation you can wear is healthy skin. Which is this post will talk about healthy ways to prevent and get rid of dark spots as well as whether various dark spot correcting products are really worth it.
Hyperpigmentation (aka dark spots)
Hyperpigmentation is a skin pigmentation disorder that causes darkening of an area of skin due to an excess or irregular production of melanin.
Melanin is a broad term for a group of natural pigments produced by cells called melanocytes in the lower level of the epidermis. Melanin determines the color of your skin, your hair, and it's what causes your skin to tan after being in the sun.
What causes hyperpigmentation?
There are two broad categories of hyperpigmentation: localized or diffuse.
Localized hyperpigmentation can be caused by multiple factors including sun damage, inflammatory conditions, acne, and injuries to the skin.
Diffuse hyperpigmentation is typically associated with metabolic causes, certain medications, malignancy, autoimmune disorders, or infections. (J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014)
Although the pathogenesis for hyperpigmentation is not fully understood, it is known that both localized and diffuse disorders involve inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes. These mediators stimulate epidermal melanocytes, thus disrupting the skin’s basal layer and causing a dermal deposition of melanin. (J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014)
How to prevent dark spots
- Wear sunscreen on all sun-exposed skin on a daily basis
- Ensure that your sunscreen is labeled as "broad spectrum" with at least SPF 30
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours
- Invest in a cute, wide-brimmed beach hat (see below)
Treatment options for dark spots
The gold standard treatment option for localized hyperpigmentation in terms of topical formulations is hydroquinone.
According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, hydroquinone lightens the skin by inhibiting the enzymatic conversion of tyrosine to DOPA (dihydroxyphenylalanine) in melanocytes, which results in the desired chemical reduction of melanin. Ultimately, this leads to a decrease in the number of melanocytes and decreased transfer of melanin, resulting in lighter skin.
Controversy surrounding hydroquinone emerged when one study misleadingly reported that mice developed tumors after being exposed to hydroquinone. The real results of this study, as explained in an article from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, were that hydroquinone was actually protective to the mice by increasing the number of benign liver tumors and reducing the amount of malignant liver tumors. Read more about this hydroquinone myth > here.
Hydroquinone is available in various OTC products in the strength of 2% and is available as a 4% prescription cream.
Besides hydroquinone, topical treatment of hyperpigmentation can include the use of retinoids (i.e. tretinoin, tazarotene) and azelaic acid. New therapies that are being researched to treat dark spots include zinc, arbutin, kojic acid, vitamin C base compounds, and green tea extracts. (J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014)
Note: those with dark or olive skin tones should not use hydroquinone products
Dark spot correcting products that are worth it
Do you have any products, treatments, or even home remedies that have helped to reduce the appearance of dark spots? Leave me a comment below!