If you spent much of your youth in the sun, telltale patches of pigment will pop up on your face and the back of your hands when you are in your 40s and 50s. In response to years of sun exposure, your skin tries to protect itself by producing an overabundance of melanin-the pigmented cells in your skin.
This hyperpigmentation is most noticeable on your face and hands, but it is also common on any other skin that is exposed to the sun. It can be triggered by inflammation, such as acne, or hormonal fluctuation, but most often by unprotected sun exposure.
Until recently, mass-market cosmetic companies were touting over-the-counter skin bleaching products with hydroquinone as a quick fix for hyperpigmentation. The Food and Drug Administration said hydroquinone poses too many health risks, including irritation, toxicity, and allergic reactions. Therefore, they proposed a ban on selling the bleaching agent above a certain percent.
Lighten Up with Skin-Nourishing Ingredients
The good news is that there's help for those spots-and none of it involves using potentially harmful chemicals. Natural product companies are formulating creams and serums that contain mild natural lighteners.
Skin lightening ingredients work by reducing melanin production. They act as direct inhibitors of tyrosinase, the enzyme in the skin pigment cells that makes melanin.
In addition to reducing the production of melanin in the skin, some of the new natural products also contain titanium dioxide, a mineral whitening pigment that helps lighten skin by absorbing the UV rays, thus preventing the sun from darkening your skin.
Here are a few of the most effective natural ingredients for lightening age spots and promoting even skin tone.
- Licorice extract has the ability to inhibit tyrosinase caused by sun exposure, plus it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
- Pycnogenol is a potent ingredient sourced from maritime pine trees in the South of France that helps diminish skin discolorations, brighten skin, and improve elasticity as well as deliver powerful antioxidant protection.
- Arbutin, an extract of the bearberry plant, is getting attention for its ability to block tyrosinase. Popular in Japan and other Asian countries for skin de-pigmentation, arbutin also protects the skin against damage caused by free radicals and is used for treating allergic inflammation of the skin.
- Vitamin C, in ascorbyl form, has been tested extensively and proven to inhibit the production of melanin. Vitamin C does more than that. Because it is required for collagen synthesis, which declines in aging skin, topical application of vitamin C in a skin-penetrating cream or serum can improve collagen production.
Getting Good Results
Brown spots on your hands are the most challenging to lighten. Your hands are always exposed to the elements (unless you wear gloves) and they are in and out of water, so sunscreen needs to be reapplied.
Skin lightening products often perform best when used in combination with exfoliation of the outer, pigmented layer of dead skin cells. Your skin renews itself every 28 days, gradually giving you a lighter, more even skin tone. Be patient, as results begin in four to eight weeks. If you discontinue use of skin lighteners, your skin may return to its original color after a few weeks. During the day, always top skin lightening products with a sunscreen, so you don't undo all your efforts.
Fade age spots naturally with Derma E Skin Lighten, a gentle cream that evens out the color of your skin with licorice and milk thistle extracts, vitamin C, and titanium dioxide.
Get more even-toned skin from Aubrey Organics Natural AHA Fruit Acids With Apricot Toning Moisturizer. The lotion clears away dead skin cells with bilberry, black currant, and citrus fruit acids, while rosehip seed, white camellia, and apricot oils smooth the skin.
Diminish age spots and discoloration with Jason C-Lite (Ester-C) Skin Tone Balancer, packed with vitamin C, kojic acid, and bilberry and lemon extracts. Bonus: Naturally exfoliating sugar cane and sugar maple are added to speed lightening by sloughing off the dead, dull cells.
Brighten skin tone and fade age spots with Earth Science Ginsium-C Skin Lightening Creme, fortified with licorice root, bearberry, lemon, and cucumber extracts, plus vitamin C, and titanium dioxide.