As a dermatologist who specializes in both cosmetic and general dermatology, I know that glowing, even-toned skin is a primary characteristic associated with youth and beauty. Unfortunately, overall dullness of the skin and irregular discoloration are two of the most common issues we all battle in the quest for brighter, more radiant skin.
Sun, or more specifically UV exposure, is the skin’s foremost enemy in maintaining a smooth and even appearance. Damage incurred from UV rays stimulates melanocytes to increase pigment production by promoting the synthesis and transfer of melanin to surrounding skin cells. Over time, this leads to an uneven appearance of skin tone. As melanin continues to concentrate in specific areas of the skin, it results in the development of freckles, lentigines (sometimes called liver spots) and even larger patches of irregular pigmentation known as melasma.
Sun damage also triggers the breakdown of collagen that leads to thinning of the skin, allowing imperfections and uneven skin tone to become even more apparent. Along with collagen breakdown, decreases in cellular turnover can also contribute to overall skin dullness and lack of clarity.
Common-sense preventative practices can help the skin to maintain its radiance over time. Undisputedly, sun avoidance is the most effective way to prevent skin discoloration. This can be achieved by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or above daily and wearing sun-protective clothing, along with broad-brimmed hats.
A good skin care regimen that incorporates regular exfoliation and skin brightening ingredients such as vitamin C, niacinamide or alpha-arbutin will promote more radiant, even-toned and ageless skin.
I am also a firm believer that healthy lifestyle choices can be reflected in more radiant and healthy skin overall. Habits that maintain general wellness—such as eating a balanced diet, getting regular sleep and exercising—boost antioxidants in the body, allow the body to heal and increase circulation, respectively. These factors also contribute to the general health and appearance of the skin.
Until recently, two main prescription ingredients have been proven effective in treating hyperpigmentation: retinol, which promotes skin cell turnover; and hydroquinone, an ingredient that inhibits melanin synthesis.
Though considered the “gold standard” in its ability to reduce hyperpigmentation, hydroquinone can sometimes be irritating and is not recommended for long-term use. In fact, patients are often required to take medication “holidays” when using prescription hydroquinone in order to maintain efficacy of the product.
Because hyperpigmentation can be stubborn to treat, dermatologists and patients alike continue to look for new breakthroughs to address it. I am particularly excited about a new, non-prescription advancement from SkinMedica® called Lytera™ Skin Brightening Complex, which works to brighten the skin.
Lytera relies on a unique blend of ingredients including the proprietary CalmPlex™, vitamin C, licorice root extract and niacinamide to even skin tone and reduce the appearance of dark spots.
Clinical data in over 500 individuals shows efficacy in skin brightening. I look forward to offering Lytera as a skin brightening alternative for my patients looking to reduce the appearance of pigmentation and as an effective non-prescription adjunct to their current hyperpigmentation treatment.
For patients with particular subtypes of hyperpigmentation, I may also recommend laser light treatments that break up dark spots, such as fractionated lasers, photodynamic therapy or intense pulsed light (IPL). A series of chemical peels will also help to brighten and promote even skin tone by removing the superficial layer of dead skin cells that dull the skin’s surface.
Preventing skin damage is key in achieving brighter skin. By committing to safe sun practices and the diligent use of sun protection along with the use of a carefully chosen skincare regimen, you’ll be taking a huge step toward healthier skin over time.