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As skin’s summer glow begins to fade, it can too often be replaced with hyper pigmentation, one of the leading skin concerns due to ultraviolet (UV) rays, hormones, improper diet and inflammation. There are three main types of pigmentation: melasma, which is a type of hyper pigmentation caused by hormonal imbalance; post-inflammatory, due to acne, eczema and other skin disorders; and the most common one, sun damage.

Melanin, a dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin and iris of the eye in people and animals, is responsible for the development of pigment spots and is produced by the oxidation of the amino acid tyrosine. Regardless of its cause, the goal of a skin care professional when treating pigmentation is to decrease tyrosine and educate clients about the importance of preventative care.

For many years the leading solution to inhibit pigmentation was to prescribe hydroquinone, but in 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration revoked its approval and proposed a ban because studies showed it couldn’t be ruled out as a potential carcinogen. The ban of HQ and its potential side effects pushed cosmeceutical industries to seek out safer, more natural, plant-based alternatives to inhibit tyrosine and stop the melanin production.

In the age of organic intervention, the true power of nature is starting to be realized. Product formulators have searched for more natural alternatives to chemical based solutions, and have developed products packed with potent antioxidants, plant extracts and other organic compounds that are as equally powerful to traditional products.

Many of these safer and natural products have been shown to work for pigmentation. It takes slightly longer and requires more patience to see results, but one’s health and beauty is certainly worth it. Some of the most proven and commonly used pigment-reducing ingredients are:

Alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) – AHAs increase epidermal cell turnover by removing melanin from the skin. High-strength AHA peels dramatically reduce skin discoloration.

Series of AHA peels are normally recommended for complete skin lightening.

Arbutin – a glycosylated hydroquinone extracted from the bearberry plant. It has powerful antioxidant properties and suppresses melanin production. For best results, use in combination with retinols and AHA peels.

Licorice extract – a powerful skin lightener and tyrosine inhibitor that also reduces inflammation associated with pigmentation. For best results, include in a regular home care program.

Fruit enzymes – popular new agents that brighten, smooth and exfoliate pigment spots, reducing melanin production.

Kojic acid – an effective antioxidant that breaks down melanin and prevents its production in skin. Its application should be done as a salon clinical treatment by a professional.

Mandelic acid – effective for more difficult cases of melasma, it is often recommended for daily home use in small concentrations.

Soy – a natural tirosinase inhibitor, this skin brightener buffers the outer layer of the skin.  It takes longer to see results but lasts for a greater length of time.

Swiss sprout – this powerful antioxidant and melanin inhibitor works by neutralizing reactive oxygen. It is commonly added as an ingredient in anti-pigmentation products. It brightens the skin and is effective for long term use, preventing the formation of new brown spots.

Crushed pearls – used for centuries, powdered pearls can be highly effective to brighten the skin due to calcium and other trace minerals that lighten the skin fiber. Normally used in facial creams, it leaves the skin luminously radiant.

Vitamin C – extracted from citrus fruits, Vitamin C is the most common skin lightener.

It is also highly effective for collagen syntheses and formation. It boosts the skin’s support against UVA rays and helps with absorption of other ingredients. It is best used in a home care regiment in serum forms applied prior to night cream and day moisturizers.

Zink glycinate – stimulates the formation of antioxidant protein and inhibits melanin production.

Oligopeptides – these reduce overall melanin formation and tyrosinase activity.

Normally included in serum formulations and used daily.

Working together with an experienced skin care professional can dramatically slow down the aging process and improve skin health and brightness. By combining powerful natural skin lightening alternatives with proper professional treatments, treatment of skin disorders like pigmentation and discoloration can be accomplished with less health risk and further skin damage.

Anna Golub is an award-winning skin care specialist, with a background in nutrition, biology and medical technology. As an innovator and proponent of organic skin care, Golub has accumulated more than 25 years of study, research and professional experience in paramedical esthetic as well as anti-aging and holistic skin care. She is the owner of Renaissance Clinique, located at 145 Waterman St., Providence,  and formulator of Vitana skin care as well as a contributing author of the publication  Skin as a Mirror of our Health and a member of American Association of Nutrition Counseling.

For more information, call 401-521-0762 or visit HolisticSpa.us.