As I age – i’m 43 – my cells age. The same goes for everyone. The oxidative process takes it’s toll on our cells as we age, and so in our 40’s cell regeneration is not as efficient as when we were in our teens. The culprit? Free radicals that set in and cause damage to the cell’s DNA.
Within the last few years, i’ve noticed whenever I get a cut, scratch, pimple etc., they leave behind dark marks once the area has healed. This was a new problem that greeted me once I turned 40. That my friends is hyperpigmentation. The pics above shows three pictures of my hyper pigmented skin when I turned 40. The first two photos were taken during the beginning stages, and the third one was taken after a few months of targeted and consistent care.
Hyperpigmentation is one of the most frustrating and unwanted skin conditions that women (and men) experience. It is a condition that causes certain areas of the skin to become darker than the surrounding area due to increased pigment (melanin) production. It can affect anyone, regardless of ethnicity. However, the races that are more prone to hyperpigmentation include, African Americans, Asians and latinos. And because individuals with darker skin tone produce more melanin in their cells, the pigmentation tends to be more pronounced.
Examples of hyperpigmentation
Dark circles under the eyes (bane of my existence), freckles, spots after acne heals, dark spots that forms after a cut or scrape heals, liver or age spots and melasma (darkening of the belly, neck or forehead: Aka the “pregnancy mask”), which occurs due to hormonal changes during pregnancy.
Some Causes of Hyperpigmentation
• Hormonal changes
• Excessive sun exposure
• Medications: birth control pills, antibiotics, hormone replacement therapies, blood pressure medicines (diuretics)
Hyperpigmentation is treatable. However, there is no cure. One of the most important things you can do is apply an SPF of at least 20, which will work to ward off the sun’s harmful UV rays, and protect your skin from further darkening, blotching and unevenness. UV rays stimulate the melanocytes to produce more melanin (the skin’s pigment), and this can cause the hyperpigmentation situation to worsen.
The only way you’ll get good results is to be consistent and proactive. The key is to limit the melanin overproduction and boost cell turnover. No one ingredient will do the trick. Rather, a regimen that targets the different sources of the problem will yield best results.
1. Always protect your skin from the sun by wearing an SPF 30, which protects against, approximately 95% of the sun’s harmful UV rays. A wide brim hat is also helpful.
2. Exoliate regularly. Dead skin cells build up on the skin and helps to add to the effects of discoloration. So getting rid of those dead cells is imperative to minimizing the effects of hyper pigmentation.
3. Eat a variety foods, including fruits and vegetables that are high antioxidant content. This will fight off free radicals that cause damage to the cells and boost cell turnover.
Ingredients used to treat hyperpigmentation
1. Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA’s): glycolic acid, lactic acid.
1. Kojic acid
5. Antioxidants: green tea extract, ginger root extract, vitamin C, vitamin E
Know your skin, and discuss your skin care needs with your dermatologist. It’s very tricky and frustrating to treat, I don’t suggest you try going at it alone. When you’re in the know, it’s less likely that the conversation will be one-sided, with you being told what to do, and not being asked your opinion. Additionally, guessing when it comes to ingredients is never safe. Ask your doctor about appropriate dosage, side effects and interactions of any ingredient or drug that you may consider applying to your skin; natural or synthetic. The last thing you want is to have an allergic or adverse reaction.
How I treat my hyperpigmentation
Since we’re all biologically unique, there is no one size fits all treatment for hyperpigmentation. Your approach should be unique to your body’s specific needs. For me it was trial and error until I found the right combination of ingredients that do the trick. Ok, no more ado. Here are the things I pay very special attention to:
1. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate: the hyperpigmentation or darkened area is nothing more than dead cell, skin that will be renewed. It is not a scar and therefore, can be diminished or removed completely. Exfoliating helps to slough away the dead skin, making room for new, healthier, more radiant skin. If you have dry skin, once to twice per week is ok. For oily skin like mine, 2 to three times does the trick. If you have breakouts, do not exfoliate, it will cause your acne to worsen.
2. SPF, spf, spf: this is such an important part of treating hyperpigmentation. The sun’s harmful UV rays stimulate the production of melanin. This leads to further darkening of the already affected area. And yes, discoloration and uneven skin tone is a result of not wearing SPF. So go high, like SPF 30.
3. Wear a hat when outdoors. I happen to love fedoras. So, it’s easy for me to throw a hat on my head. In the summer it’s mostly straw, so my head can stay cool, and in the winter and cold months I use felt so my head can stay warm. But the best benefit is that it helps to keep my facial skin protected from UV damage.
4. After cleansing at night, I use a vitamin C serum. Vitamin C is a wonderful antioxidant that’s great for getting rid of free radicals in the cell and evening out skin tone. I can truly attest to this. It has yielded excellent results.
5. I get occasional, professional peels using some of the great natural ingredients I mentioned above. These work great for brightening and evening out my skin tone.
7. When all else fails, I go see my dermatologist. But for the most part, my approach is pretty sound. There was that disaster that occurred after I tried the Oil Cleansing Method (BIG, LONG, STORY, soon to be a blog post) and had no choice but to call in the dermatologist.
That’s my hyper pigmentation approach. How do you deal with your hyper pigment issues? I’d love to hear from you. Do share in the comments below.
Dixie Lincoln- Nichols is a biological science educator, health and wellbeing consultant and Qigong instructor. Her work has been featured in media outlets like, Oprah Mag, SELF, Yahoo and more. She is the founder of Inside Outer Beauty Market, a multi-cultutal retailer curating and creating products to support the body inside and out. Visit the site at www.iobeautymarket.com