In addition to contributing to premature aging at an alarming rate, the sun is also one of the key contributors to one of the most common dermatological conditions: hyperpigmentation. Thankfully, research is showing that plant-based, topical ingredients can be effective alternatives to well-known, but riskier ingredients such as hydroquinone.
What is hyperpigmentation? What are the causes?
Hyperpigmentation is the gradual darkening and discoloration of the skin, resulting in dark, blotchy spots and uneven tone. Unfortunately, hyperpigmentation can be a part of the natural aging process, but it’s often triggered as a result of an overproduction of melanin, the chemical in our skin that produces pigmentation and color. The three main types of hyperpigmentation include sunspots/sun damage, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and melasma. At the top of the causes and risk factors? Too much unprotected sun exposure. If you want to go all natural to treat hyperpigmentation and improve the appearance of dark spots on your face, hands and décolleté, here are a few ingredients you can try safely.
5 natural ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation
Licorice. Glabridin, extracted from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra linneva, is the main licorice compound. Licorice works to collect dangerous free radicals, inhibit sun-induced pigmentation, and help with inflammation within the skin. By affecting the way our pigmentation and color is produced, less can make its way to the skin. Glabridin specifically has shown to have a skin lightening effect 16x greater than hydroquinone (Hollinger, Angra, & Halder, 2018) !
Vitamin C. Vitamin C not only acts to fade dark spots, but is also an active antioxidant protector, helping to scavenge and neutralize harmful free radicals from UV rays. Studies have shown Vitamin C to have an important role in treating hyperpigmentation, specifically melasma, through properties that halt the production of melanin (Hollinger et al., 2018). 20% concentration of Vitamin C is perfect, and make sure there’s Vitamin E in the compound, for optimal results.
Arbutin. Arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone, coming from plants such as bearberry, blueberry, and cranberry. As a natural lightening agent, arbutin works to slowly release hydroquinone, which blocks the production of pigmentation. It has been shown to be clinically efficacious in treatment groups in treating melasma (Hollinger et al., 2018).
Kojic Acid. Kojic acid is another antioxidant, a metabolic product of the fungal species Acetobacter, Aspergillus, and Penicillium (Hollinger et al., 2018). It works by acting on an enzyme that directly inhibits the production of pigmentation-producing melanin. Additionally, kojic acid works as a free radicals scavenger. Although kojic acid can lack stability and react with oxygen and sunlight, stable derivatives of kojic acid can increase the skin’s penetration, offering more effective skin lightening (Hollinger et al., 2018).
Mulberry Extract. Derived from dried mulberry leaves native to China, Morus alba, or mulberry extract, inhibits tyrosinase activity, melanin formation in melano-cells, melanin transfer, and could potentially also serve as an ROS scavenger (Hollinger et al., 2018). Vitamins A, C, E, and K collaboratively work within mulberry extract to exfoliate dead skin cells, fade dark spots, help retain moisture, and enhance collagen production.
Source: Hollinger, J. C., Angra, K., & Halder, R. M. (2018). Are Natural Ingredients Effective in the Management of Hyperpigmentation? A Systematic Review. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 11(2), 28-37.