Natural ingredients continue to grow in skincare and for good reason. At every meeting I attend, I am always excited to hear about the great new research on these new natural ingredients. To treat treat hyperpigmentation, my favorite ingredient is licorice. Licorice extract works not only on pigmentation but also on inflammation so products that contain licorice extract are great for many types of discoloration.
For example dark spots from acne, melasma, and sun damage are some of the most common pigmentary conditions that licorice works on. Products that contain high concentrations of licorice tend to be yellow-brown in color because the extract from the licorice plant is yellow-brown. For example, Specific Beauty Skin Brightening Serum is yellow because it has very high concentrations of licorice, making it extremely effective. The research on licorice in pigmentation is extensive. In combination with other natural ingredients, the effectiveness of licorice has even been proven to be equal to prescription treatments such as hydroquinone.
Green tea is another one of my favorites. It is an excellent antioxidant and can help prevent free radical damage from the sun. Like licorice, skincare creams with very high concentrations of green tea should be light brown in color because green tea extract is brown. Antioxidants like green tea should be applied in the morning to improve sun protection from sunscreen. Ideally, your daily sunscreen should contain antioxidants but if it doesn’t consider adding a topical antioxidant to your morning routine for better sun protection. When seeking natural ingredients in your skincare regimen, look out for licorice and green tea. These “brown beauties” are great additions to any skincare routine.
I know you must be thinking…what on earth this blog about!! Well it is about bug bites and how to prevent dark marks all over your legs from bug bites in the summer. As summer approaches, this is a big complaint in my practice. We all want to wear those cute summer dresses but they don’t look so cute when your legs are covered in dark marks from mosquito bites. This is an especially big problem in Miami where mosquitoes are everywhere! The best way to address this problem is prevention. Wear insect repellent when you are going to spend any significant amount of time outside. I know these products used to smell awful and I hated wearing them too. However, recently there have been some great products on the market that don’t smell bad at all. I like the OFF Family Care line which doesn’t have that chemical smell. I also carry individually wrapped wipes in my purse for those times when you unexpectedly need them (like outdoor restaurants).
If you get covered in bug bites, the best over the counter remedy is hydrocortisone 1% cream. However, prescription strength cortisone is the best treatment so ask your dermatologist for a prescription to have on hand when you need it over the summer. If despite everything, you end up with dark marks on your legs, you can try 2% hydroquionone with a Qtip so that it does not get on the normal skin. Also body moisturizers with sunscreen (like Eucerin) can prevent the dark marks from getting darker in the sun. Hopefully, with these tips you can maintain beautiful “spot-free” legs this summer.
Hydroquinone is a naturally occurring chemical that inhibits the enzyme that makes pigment in our skin. When used appropriately it offers a safe and very effective therapy to treat hyperpigmentation and dark spots. In my practice I use hydroquinone frequently for many of my patients that complain of uneven pigmentation, dark marks from acne, and melasma.
So you might ask, why does hydroquinone have such “bad press”. Well there are many reasons for this, some are valid and some are not so valid. The main problem with hydroquinone is that with continued long term use, hydroquinone has been associated with a paradoxical darkening of the skin. This condition is called ochronosis and is more common in other parts of the world where hydroquinone is used extensively without regulation. To avoid this rare but significant side effect, I educate my patients on its use.
First and foremost, hydroquinone should not be used for long periods of time. I try to limit treatment to 1 to 3 months. Then I switch to an alternative therapy to maintain results. Secondly, hydroquinone must be used with sunscreen. Many dermatologists believe that sun exposure (without sun protection) may be implicated in ochronosis. Last but not least, I always emphasize to patients that if there is any significant irritation they should discontinue use. Some patients mistakenly believe that if the skin needs to be red or peeling for the product to work, however, with hydroquinone this could represent an allergic reaction that can heal with dark patches.
Following these simple rules, one can safely use hydroquinone to treat dark marks and hyperpigmentation. The good news is that new treatments are being developed that may offer the benefits of hydroquinone without all of the side effects. This is a big area of research in dermatology right now. I will keep you posted!