See Spot Run
By Anna M. Park, StyleUnderPressure.com
Ready to do battle against HYPERPIGMENTATION? Call in these heavy-hitting, naturally derived ingredients. They’ve got the science to back them up.
OD’d on sun exposure this summer? Got a bit aggressive on that last breakout? Or perhaps you’re noticing that that “shadow” is actually a dark patch set on conquering your cheeks and forehead. There are a lot of claims about what works to fight hyperpigmentation, which ranges from sunspots and post-acne scarring to melasma, a more pervasive darkening of patches on the face. But because skin prone to the overproduction of melanin (that’s the brown pigment we’re trying to get rid of) can be extra sensitive — and most people with darker skin tones, ranging from Asians to African Americans, are more likely to get melasma — harsh prescription retinoids, over-exfoliation and even heat can result in post-inflammatory pigmentation, according to Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at USC School of Medicine.
On the other side of the spectrum are home remedies like lemon water — something board-certified dermatologist Michele Green does not recommend. “The acidity [in lemons] can often actually cause hyperpigmentation and phytophotodermatitis,” a condition that makes skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light. Thankfully, there is no shortage of plant- or fruit-derived ingredients that have been clinically shown to successfully take on those pesky dark spots. Consider vitamin C from citrus fruits, licorice extract and even green tea the heavy hitters in your skin care arsenal. Green tea is “a natural anti-inflammatory agent that addresses the correlation between inflammation and pigment formation,” says Dr. Green. “Because it’s an antioxidant, green tea can also slow the oxidation steps that cause the production of melanin.” Another powerful weapon is arbutin, a natural compound extracted from certain plant species, including bearberry, which inhibits the tyrosinase enzyme necessary to produce melanin. Those with sensitive skin may want to consider soy, says Dr. Wu — it has anti-inflammatory effects and also interferes with a step in melanin production. But perhaps the most important ingredient in a hyperpigmentation-fighting regimen? Broad-spectrum sunscreen. Dr. Wu prefers a zinc oxide sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50. And since the American Academy of Dermatology recommends pairing sunscreen with antioxidants (which all of the below ingredients are) to fight inflammation and free radicals, consider yourself well-armed with these spot obliterators on your side.
- VITAMIN C
- Three types of vitamin C optimize absorption, along with bamboo, pomegranate and pea extracts, peptides and resveratrol. Cosmedicine Triple-P Perfected Brightening Serum, $210, cosmedicine.com
- Powered by the brightening Amazonian camu-camu berry, one of the world’s greatest naturally occurring sources of vitamin C. DHC Camu-Camu White Essence, $29, dhccare.com
- SUN PROTECTION
- This fast-drying, zinc oxide sunscreen is bolstered by a stable vitamin C, a licorice derivative, linoleic acid and cherry blossom leaf extract. Equitance Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 36, $30, equitance-us.com
- With 47% of the Korean beauty brand’s brightening serum, this tinted serum protects skin from both light and heat, which studies show can exacerbate hyperpigmentation. Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Serum BB, $60, us.sulwhasoo.com
- Licorice extract works together with vitamin C and niacinamide to improve skin radiance and tone in these one-time use nightly capsules. Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Brightening Night Capsules, $84, elizabetharden.com
- GREEN TEA
- Sure, it’s got green tea, but it also features a host of spot-fighting botanicals like turmeric, clove flower and gooseberry. Juara Clove Flower & Turmeric Anti-Aging Serum, $65, juaraskincare.com
- A team player, this moisturizer’s roster includes green tea, licorice extract and vitamin C-rich acerola cherry. Honest Beauty Even Brighter Everyday Moisturizer, $34, honestbeauty.com
- Lightweight but loaded with bearberry extract, vitamin C, green tea and a virtual United Nations of natural ingredients like Indian gooseberry, Japanese matsutake mushroom and Patagonian seaweed. OSEA Brightening Serum, $60, oseamalibu.com
- Featuring a high-tech blend of peptides, ultra pure alpha arbutin and a powerful, stable antioxidant to lighten hyperpigmentation. White RX Activated Serum, $43, whiterx.com
- A serum that battles spots with nine plant extracts, including soy, arbutin and green tea. Pur-lisse Pur-Bright Ultra Skin Brightening Serum, $76, shop.purlisse.com