… your skin really doesn’t have to be. But undesired pigmentation spots may well disappear, according to the wishes of many clients at the institute. Learn which ingredients and cosmetic treatments are suitable for achieving such a goal.
Hyperpigmentation is usually a harmless discolouration of the skin. The spots can exist since birth or may develop in the course of life – in which case they are referred to as acquired hyperpigmentation. The cause is a local overproduction of pigment, melanin, or a local increase in pigment-forming cells, melanocytes. Triggering factors are UV radiation, hormonal influences, a genetic predisposition, aging processes as well as injuries and inflammations of the skin.
Hyperpigmentation is considered to be very undesirable, especially on the face. A skin complexion with different shades of colour appearing uneven, blemished is often unconsciously associated with old age. It is no wonder that people want to get rid of these unwanted spots as fast as possible. A skin care professional can help with this, because there is a wide range of ingredients, products and also treatment methods to choose from! Two active principles are essential for brightening substances and treatments: On the one hand, the pigmentation process should be stopped. This can be achieved by inhibiting tyrosinase, the key enzyme in melanin formation. On the other hand, the degradation of existing pigments should be promoted at the same time.
Have a very close look
Before starting a treatment, the skin care professional should first safely classify the existing pigmentation. An expert look through the magnifying lamp may help here – or the “pinch test”.
This simple test enables the skin care professional to assess the effectiveness of the treatment in advance and thus directly put together a complete treatment plan, as deep-lying dermal pigment is always more difficult to treat. In addition, an experienced skin care professional should be familiar with brightening or pigment-mitigating ingredients and their advantages and disadvantages. With some ingredients for skin brightening, the aggressiveness towards the skin can increase with the effectiveness – the results are irriitations of the skin, as for example with kojic acid. It is controversial because it can cause inflammation when it is applied on the skin. Although many brightening ingredients effectively inhibit tyrosinase, they can also have a cell-damaging effect at the same time. Some brightening ingredients have therefore already been banned for the use in cosmetics, such as hydroquinone.
Ingredients whose efficacy has been proven in numerous in-vitro and in-vivo studies and which are safe and harmless to use are recommended. The following overview shows which ingredients are available to the consumer in the cosmetics industry and what restrictions may exist.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has been proven to inhibit tyrosinase and therefore brightens the skin. There is a positive side effect: It also stimulates collagen synthesis. Free vitamin C is less suitable because of its instability to atmospheric oxygen and its low penetration capacity, but very effective vitamin C combinations are available. A combination of ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl glucoside, which act synergistically, has proved to be particularly effective: Ascorbyl phosphate penetrates better and faster, ascorbyl glucoside is absorbed continuously, therefore ensuring a long-term supply of vitamin C. Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate as oil-soluble vitamin C is very well absorbed by the skin and converted into free vitamin C there.
Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) is a real miracle weapon in cosmetics. It has been proven, for example, that it reduces uneven pigmentation and moderately brightens the skin. Niacinamide helps to prevent melanin from penetrating into the upper layers of the skin.
Hexylresorcinol is another safe and effective ” brightener” with a long history in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic field. The effect is comparable to that of hydroquinone, but without the accompanying side effects. The ingredient influences the melanocytes and has a skin-brightening effect by reducing the melanin content.
Arbutin is a very effective ingredient in brightening products that is approved for cosmetics. The ingredient is under discussion because it can release hydroquinone, which is banned in Europe for cosmetic skin brightening. However, in 2015, the Scientific Advisory Committee (SCCS), whose justifications are incorporated into the legislation, assessed the use of arbutin in cosmetics as safe in small doses.
Don’t forget to wear sun protection!
Regardless of whether cosmetic, medical or, at best, collective approaches are used to reduce undesired hyperpigmentation, there is one thing that is essential – sun protection! Without sufficient and, above all, consistent protection against UV rays, all efforts to remove spots and lighten the skin are wasted, as UV rays naturally stimulate tanning and consequently pigmentation of the skin. In addition, the already treated and thus lightened skin is significantly more sensitive to light.
Our tip: Try the pinch test!
This test makes it easier to determine the position of the pigment in the skin: if the pigment can still be seen when the skin is pinched, it is superficial, i.e. epidermal. If the pigment disappears when the skin is pinched, it is more likely to be deeper, i.e. dermal.
Kojic acid is not yet regulated for the use in cosmetics in Europe, i.e. it is not banned, but it is very controversial. Depending on the concentration, it can lead to skin irritations and even contact dermatitis and should therefore only be used by dermatologists. Although the ingredient is still widely used in Asia, it has already been banned in Switzerland.
Herbal extracts, e.g. from liquorice roots: In fact, liquorice extract and its ingredient glabridin have a similar effect to kojic acid. Glabridin inhibits tyrosinase in the melanocytes and thus has a brightening effect – a suitable alternative to the controversial kojic acid.
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring dicarboxylic acid and effectively inhibits tyrosinase. However, locally applied azelaic acid is only effective in a high dosage, which is only possible in pharmaceutical products. In cosmetic products, the acid may be applied in low doses (up to max. 1 %) and only shows a brightening effect after a very long application time.
Tranexamic acid is an amino acid that inhibits tyrosinase very effectively, which leads to a significant brightening of the skin. However, if the concentration exceeds one percent, a medicinal function cannot be ruled out, which makes it difficult to distinguish between cosmetics and medicine and thus restricts its use in cosmetics. The combination of tranexamic acid with peelings or microdermabrasion is quite popular.
Peelings: In cosmetics, natural peelings such as herbal peelings but also chemical, fruit acid peelings are used in treatments. The effect of the fruit acid peel depends on the pH value, the concentration and the type of substance being used. By removing skin flakes and peeling the skin with subsequent stimulation of cell renewal, superficial (epidermal) pigment can be broken down and be removed more quickly after several treatments.
If hyperpigmentation can be treated by a skin care professional, the individual treatment steps and the applied ingredients should be adapted to the skin condition (sensitive, blemished, etc.), as otherwise undesired reactions may occur. For best results, it is also necessary to combine regular treatments with consistent home skin care routine.
Unfortunately, brightening ingredients cannot guarantee to provide a “magic” cure. Only regular application over a longer period of time will lead to a visible result.
Licorice roots (Glycyrrhiza glabra) contain glabridin. The herbal ingredient is antioxidative and helps to brighten the skin by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase.