’Tis the season for dark spots. After several months of heightened sun exposure, you might be noticing some not-so-cute freckles have crept up on your complexion. While there’s no quick fix for hyperpigmentation (it develops slowly and is notoriously stubborn), the right information can help empower you to effectively clear up the issue. Here’s everything you need to know about what causes dark spots and how to treat hyperpigmentation; the first lesson is timing. Autumn is an ideal time of year to address dark spots because UV exposure is diminished. So, read on now and you’ll be prepared to embark on brighter days this fall.
What is hyperpigmentation?
To understand hyperpigmentation let’s first take a step back to talk about melanin.
Melanin is what gives your skin its pigment, colour, or tone, and individual levels can range. If your skin tone is deep then you naturally have more melanin, and if you’re pale you have less. Melanin also acts as an important defence system against UV light exposure, resulting in a tan or burn that tells you you’ve had fun in the sun without adequate sun protection. Those with minimal melanin are likely to always burn, anyone with lots of it may never burn, and people with skin tones in between can experience varying degrees of tanning and burning. But any skin tone can experience hyperpigmentation, which is caused by increased melanin that creates a darkened area on the skin.
What causes hyperpigmentation?
Sun damage, pollution, and exposure to heat can all cause hyperpigmentation. Inflammation, such as acne breakouts, and injury to the skin can also result in dark spots. Hormonal shifts, like pregnancy or menopause, can also play a role and contribute to melasma, a more severe form of pigmentation. The complex biological process begins deep within the epidermis where melanocytes produce melanin. An enzyme called tyrosinase can be activated by UV light or another external stressor, and this kicks off an overproduction of melanin that eventually travels to the surface of the skin. While a dark spot may seemingly appear overnight, normal skin cell turnover is approximately 28-30 days which means hyperpigmentation that you see on your face today has slowly been building up behind the scenes for quite some time. This makes patience and diligence essential parts of a treatment plan.
What’s the best way to treat hyperpigmentation?
Since hyperpigmentation appears on the top layer of the skin, but the process begins deep below, you’ll need a multi-action routine that can tackle each angle. Combining exfoliation to gently buff discolouration from the surface of skin with ingredients that work within the epidermis is the best strategy. Beyond addressing melanin production, successfully treating hyperpigmentation absolutely has to include daily sun protection. SPF every day is vital to keeping dark spots away!
Have you heard of hydroquinone? It is the gold standard ingredient to effectively treat hyperpigmentation. It’s highly skilled at targeting tyrosinase and can directly inhibit the enzyme responsible for the overproduction of melanin. Hydroquinone is super-efficient, and often recommended by medical professionals to achieve short term, dramatic results in combination with other pigmentation treatments. Since it temporarily ‘de-activates’ your melanin production it is normally used for a period of 12 weeks, then you must switch off it and use other non-hydroquinone, glow-getting ingredients for maintenance. It’s a similar plan to getting a whiter smile. First you need to use a treatment with the most potent stain-lifting ingredients, then you follow up with a polishing toothpaste to help with daily brightening.
The Vivier Brighten & Restore (2% HQ) program is a full day and night routine that’s formulated for mild to severe hyperpigmentation and delivers impressive results. The set of full-size products is anchored by the Advanced Skin Lightening Serum, which contains 2% hydroquinone, and the Corrector 2, a skin brightening cream that combines 2% hydroquinone with lactic acid for gentle exfoliation and Vitamins C and E. It also includes Exfoliant Forte (an AHA-infused lotion), along with the Medicated Wash, Retinol 1%, and Sheer Broad Spectrum SPF 45.
After using a hydroquinone treatment program to diminish dark spots for 12 weeks you can switch to the Vivier Brighten & Restore (Non-HQ) program. Safe for long-term brightening actions and maintenance, it also features full-size products for an AM and PM routine. The star is the Radiance Serum, which contains a powerful antioxidant blend of arbutin (a fruit extract with tyrosinase inhibiting properties) and resorcinol, plus 8% l-ascorbic acid (aka Vitamin C, the universal brightener). This set also contains Skin Brightening Cream, plus the Medicated Wash, Exfoliant Forte, Retinol 1.0%, and Sheer Broad Spectrum SPF 45.
If hyperpigmentation is your top concern, you need to be able to outwit and outwait it. Now that you know more about what causes dark spots and the most effective ways to treat them, you’re equipped to take steps to a brighter future!
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