Most will desire the latter of course – after all, our brain is wired to see “beauty” in a certain way. Clear, radiant glass skin in an almost ethereal or even tanned way is something we naturally gravitate towards.
So let’s cover the bases first and understand what Pigmentation is and how it formed.
Pigment or melanin is formed deep in the basal layer of skin (in cells known as melanocytes). Over time, the melanin formed is transported upwards and get deposited in cells known as keratinocytes at the skin surface and present visually as the undesirable pigment we see on the skin.
How do we deal with it?
Following from this, our options to deal with pigmentation will include:
- Stop the production of melanin (by inhibiting the melanin production pathway known as Melanogenesis)— this is generally found in skincare products.
- Shatter existing pigment deposited in the cells – this is done with our lasers like PicoSure or Yellow Laser.
- Future proof against pigmentation with increasing our cellular turnover for skin renewal – this is our exfoliants from scrubs to retin A to peels to microdermabrasion, Neogen Plasma etc.
Stop the production of melanin:
Now let’s talk about the pigmentation production pathway and how our skincare products work.
Melanin production in human melanocytes is controlled primarily by the rate-limiting enzyme for melanin synthesis, Tyrosinase. Finding a way to down- regulate tyrosinase will mean we can stop melanin production!
List of skincare actives which are known as “Tyrosinase Inhibitors”:
Hydroquinone is an effective tyrosinase inhibitor but in recent years, hydroquinone based skin lightening products have been removed from the market in many countries and the FDA is now considering banning the drug in both OTC and prescription drug products in the U.S. because of safety concerns. Also, you cannot be on this drug for prolonged use due to a side effect known as onchronosis – which results in hypo-pigmentation. However, finding an effective replacement for hydroquinone has proven to be difficult.
2 notable products which are hydroquinone alternatives:
Cyspera – a novel pigment corrector which uses Cysteamine, a naturally present substance in our body and most commonly found in breast milk. Cysteamine reduces melanin in the skin epidermis, effectively correcting pigmented marks and reducing discoloration.
Even Tone Correcting Serum – among other actives, this skin correcting serum contains Hexylresorcinol – a hydroquinone alternative.
- Effective alternative tyrosinase inhibitors with lightening properties has emerged over the years, given rise to cosmetic ingredients such as Arbutin, Kojic acid, Vitamin C, Licorice extract, Ginseng, Green tea extracts, Gingko, Alpha Hydroxyacids, and a plethora of plant & botanical extracts. It’s not just the presence of these actives but the concentration in the formulation and their ability to penetrate through the skin and down to the melanocytes, that typically determines their efficacy. Our picks which are rich in these actives:
(a) The Cure is a multi faceted spot treatment serum that is 100% powered by plants and reduces pigmentation, lightens acne scars, treat eczema etc.
(b) SkinBetter Science’s Even Tone Correcting Serum is one that has chock full of ingredients like Alpha Arbutin to diminish appearance of pigments, Arginine to reduce age-related discoloration as a result of UV induced damage & Kakadu Plum Extracts which has one of the highest source of Vitamin C to brighten skin and improve luminosity.
(c) Alto Defense Serum is one amazing antioxidant that has Vitamin C, E and 17 other antioxidants to protect skin comprehensively against free radicals and cellular damage. Use this in conjunction with Even Tone or after BR serums. The most unique aspect of Alto is its non-irritability on the skin and its inclusion of anti-redness properties which makes it an excellent protection against all skin, INCLUDING sensitive ones.
(d) Skinceuticals’ Discoloration Defense leverages on topical TXA (originally used as oral medication for Melasma patients), Kojic acid, Niacinamide to block melanin transfer.
(e) CE Ferulic, Phloretin CF, Serum 10 are all potent antioxidants for dry, oily & sensitive skin – all of which protects skin against free radicals.
Lightening effects of Vitamin C can be increased by increasing its concentration (as can be seen in the different variants within Skinceuticals’ antioxidants) and hence potency or (in the case of Alto Defense), adding on other / multiple tyrosinase inhibitors as too high % of Vit C gives side effects of redness, skin sensitivity, stability of formulation.
Increasing Cellular turnover:
Exfoliants like No.9 provide a safe and effective way to shed old skin and reveal the new. Enhance effects with AlphaRet Overnight Cream which uses a patented technology to fuse retinol and AHA together. A gentle and slow release of these actives are the reason why there is very minimal to no irritation on the skin. These 2 are absolute game changers that will restore any lost glow and radiance.
It’s important to recognise that Pigmentation is a complex skin condition – it takes years to surface on our skin and the best results usually come from not one, but a multi-prong approach that comprises all 3 options mentioned above, and lots of patience!