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.
After having my first child I was surprised at how much pregnancy affected my skin. There are so many changes that, even as a dermatologist, I was totally unaware of until it actually happened to me. The most common complaint my patients have during pregnancy is acne. The good news is that acne during pregnancy usually gets better after the first trimester. The bad news is that there are only a few treatments available during pregnancy. While pregnant, women can typically usually use benzoyl peroxide and topical antibiotics. I also frequently prescribe azaleic acid which is safe during pregnancy. Topical retinoids cannot be used during pregnancy and I also do not recommend chemical peels. Microdermabrasion is a better option.
Another common complaint is hyperpigmentation. In women with darker skin, the hyperpigmentation can occur almost everywhere. The underarms, neck, and abdomen are very common locations, however, even the posterior thighs can get darker. This is a natural process and is likely due to an increase in estrogen. Fortunately, generalized hyperpigmentation does resolve after pregnancy, although it can take up to one year for some parts of the body to go back to the normal skin tone.
Melasma are the brown patches on the face that some women get during pregnancy. This is more common in Latina and Asian women but can occur in any skin type. This condition is so common during pregnancy that it used to be called “the mask of pregnancy”. While pregnant the best way to address melasma is to wear a lot of sunscreen to prevent it. The good news is that for most women, melasma resolves after pregnancy. For the unlucky few who have persistent melasma, there are many treatment options available.
Melasma is a condition characterized by brown patches on the face. It is sometimes called the mask of pregnancy because women who are pregnant often get these brown patches on the face. It occurs in all skin types but is especially common in Latin and Asian women.
When I see patients with melasma, I always take the time to explain this condition because, in dermatology, melasma is definitely one of the most difficult conditions to treat. For this reason, it is important to establish realistic expectations from the beginning so that my patient and I can work together to achieve the best results.
It is important to understand that melasma is a chronic condition. There is no cure (i.e. there is no cream that is prescribed that can make it go away forever). For many patients, melasma is caused by hormones. So for some people after pregnancy or after stopping birth control, the melasma reslolves. For many, however, the condition continues. The good news is that there are good treatments available.
The most important thing to treat melasma is sunblock. Sunblock must be used religiously to prevent worsening of melasma. If you have melasma, the sun is your enemy! Wear a hat or use an umbrella if you are going to be outside for a long time in the sun. A hat with a 4 inch brim is necessary to protect the face from the sun. Bleaching creams with hydroquinone are most frequently used to initially treat melasma, however, these should only be used shot term and maintenance with another agent is necessary. See a dermatologist if you suffer from melasma. I know this can be a frustrating condition but don’t lose hope. There are many new treatment options on the horizon.
There are many ways to protect yourself from the sun…sunscreen, hats, umbrellas. But did you know that there are pills that offer sun protection also? These pills contain potent antioxidants that reduce free radical damage from harmful ultraviolet rays. Oral antioxidants do not replace sunscreen but prevent damage from the rays that do reach the skin.
In one study in women with melasma, they demonstrated improvement in the melasma with daily use of an oral antioxidant pill. I also did a study with polypodium leucotomos compared to a placebo pill for melasma and found that the participants that took the antioxidant pill improved. Polypodium leucotomos is an antioxidant that comes from a tropical fern. Heliocare and SunPill are two brands that contain this antioxidant. Other studies have been done with ellagic acid (pomegranate extract) and demonstrated similar results.
Based on these studies, even simply consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables likely has beneficial effects. For the ultimate in sun protection, add an oral antioxidant to your daily regimen. This simple intervention can help to protect against wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmentation caused by damaging ultraviolet light.
Recently you may have noticed that many sunscreens are adding antioxidants to their formulations. This is a trend that is based on interesting new research. Recent research has shown that when antioxidants are applied topically to the skin they protect the skin from free radical damage caused by the sun. These studies have been done with many antioxidants including green tea and emblica, a natural fruit extract. They have been able to show that the skin gets less red (and therefore less damage) when you add an antioxidant to the sunscreen. It is important to understand that antioxidants don’t replace sunblock because they don’t block the sun’s rays from entering the skin. However, they are excellent when combined with sunscreens because they minimize the damage caused by the ultraviolet light that does get through to the skin. So for those of you with hyperpigmentation, melasma, or uneven skin tone, using a sunscreen with an antioxidant is the best first defense.