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by | Jan 30, 2013

Brighten Dark Spots, Acne Scars & Uneven Skin Tone

Of all the skin disorders that affect skin of color, hyperpigmentation (dark spots and uneven skin tone) is the chief complaint. Skin problems, medications, medical conditions, and many other factors, including minor “skin insults”, can lead to skin discoloration.

Possible causes include acne, razor bumps, sunburn, sun damage, chemical irritation, hard water, dehydration, eczema, allergic reactions, insect bites, prescription medications, hormonal melasma, pregnancy,  hormone pills and devices, obesity, auto-immune disease, chicken pox, skin infections, cold sores, smoking, shaving irritation, depilatories, waxing, tweezing, electrolysis, product overuse, abrasive scrubs, friction, seat belts rubbing against your skin, scrubbing your skin, wiping your eyes, rubbing, picking, tampering with your skin by any means, tight and/or ill-fitting headgear, underwear, clothing and footwear, trauma, burns, minor injuries, surgical procedures, lasers, IPL and microdermabrasion.

Hormonal melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation on all races and skin types can be improved dramatically with light skin peels, topical alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids in formulations containing  melanin-suppressing skin brighteners, sun avoidance and diligent use of non-clogging, full-spectrum sunblock suited to skin type. The “must do” list includes (1) taking a complete health history, (2) addressing lifestyle issues that cause or worsen the problem, (3) starting a skin brightening regimen, (4) getting professional skin peels, (5) adhering to safe sun practices, and (6) monitoring product overuse, sunblock under-use and sun exposure.

Address the cause of the skin problem, and the factors that can worsen it. Only then can pigmentation problems can be improved or overcome. If you have acne, razor bumps, “rashy” skin, tamper with your skin, fail to follow instructions, have serious underlying medical problems, take sun-sensitizing medications or are overweight, these issues must be factored in to your plan of action.

Active Skin Brightening “Cocktails”

Skin brighteners can contain mild glycolic or lactic acid (fruit acid exfoliators that act as “vehicles” to deeper tissues), dimethyl isosorbide (gentle, penetrating vehicle), retinoids (deep-penetrating active vitamin A derivatives), hydroquinone (FDA-approved skin lightening ingredient), l-ascorbate (stable, absorbable form of vitamin C), and the following melanin-suppressing brighteners: kojic acid dipalmitate, alpha arbutin, azelaic acid, vitamin K, mulberry extract, bearberry (beta arbutin), licorice extract, niacinamide (vitamin B3), emblica extract, Tego® Cosmo C250, Gigawhite™, mandelic acid and citrus juice extracts. Patch-tested and used exactly as directed and in the right formulation, there is a low incidence of irritation or allergic reaction.

Discuss past skin brightener and fade cream usage (especially hydroquinone) and subsequent reactions, amount of daily sun exposure, sunblock usage (or lack of use) and the need for sun avoidance. Passive sun exposure, like riding in a car, waiting for the bus, working in the sun, gardening and outdoor sports poses the greatest risk. Many people mistakenly feel that they don’t need sun protection for brief intermittent sun exposure or because they have a darker skin tone.

Tips for Success

Lose weight. Dark pigmentation is easier to address if your weight is proportionate to your height. Fat cells alter the body’s hormone levels and can increase darkening and sun sensitivity.

Address the exact cause of your discoloration, including acne, razor bumps, shaving irritation, excessive, sun exposure, failure to apply and reapply sunscreen, insect bites, tweezing, picking, scratching, over-scrubbing, product over-use, depilatories, heaters, obesity, weight gain, friction, ill-fitting shoes or clothing, medications, harsh or inappropriate treatments, dehydration, health issues, hormones, etc.

Avoid direct sun, use the right sunscreen and reapply often. Use a product that contains high levels of micronized zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Apply a generous amount, massage gently until it disappears and reapply often. Don’t forget your neck, chest, arms, feet and hands.

Reapply sunblock often, especially when driving, walking, golfing, running, swimming, skiing, gardening, outdoor work, football practice, doing double days in training camp, etc.

Get your car windows tinted to the legal limit. Keep that sunroof closed too.

Protect the orbital eye area.  Wear large 100% UV protective sunglasses the cover the entire eye area. Prescription eyewear that “transitions” when you go outside may not darken enough in cars and buses and are usually way  too small to do the job.  Don’t be fooled by overcast skies because the skin-darkening UVA rays penetrate clouds and windshields. That’s when you need protection the most.

Don’t try to rush things! If your skin gets irritated, you may be overusing your active lighteners by applying them too thick or too often.

Get professional treatments every two to four weeks in the absence of irritation. Exfoliation and brightening procedures boost your  home care efforts.

Get follow-up evaluations often to review your overall treatment plan, product potency and usage, safe sun practices, health and lifestyle.

Get refills before you run out or you may have to start over.

Do not use scented products on any sun-exposed body parts, even with sunscreen.

Wear 100% UV protective sunglasses at all times.

Do not scrub your skin if you start to peel or flake. Don’t use washcloths, buffing pads or abrasive scrubs. Ask for help if constant flaking is an ongoing issue.

How to Use Active Brighteners

Follow directions. Apply your active brightening products (a) exactly as directed, (b) in small amounts, massaged all the way into the skin, and (c) in the total absence of irritation. Avoid the entire mouth area and smile lines every other day if you’re directed to do so. Avoid sensitive areas for a few days if they become darkened, too dry or irritated.

Never attempt to ‘dot’ lighteners onto the spots only.

Never apply a thicker coat of your skin brightener to dark areas. This will cause light “halos” around the dark spots and patches, and cause irritation and rebound darkening of those areas.

©2019 Kathryn Khadija Leverette

The material on this website is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.