Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Target, zap and lighten…

We might get insulted once a while or may even get slapped by someone once a while but our skin get insulted every second of its unprotected life. Skin fights and fights and gives up one day and then is where we start noticing plethora of problems in our skin.

Why is all this happening? Who is insulting our skin so much? Why do we get patches and hyperpigmentation even after staying out of sun?

These questions are asked by all to themselves and to others but the solution is only available with leading dermatologists who know what to do and where to go with pigmentation. Spots can be zapped, patches can be lightened and that's why we need to target these areas and that's what the title says. I will be talking in general terms only for everyone to understand. Anybody who needs an expert opinion should see cosmetologists or dermatologists.


"Melanin" is an important skin pigment that not only gives color to our skin but also absorbs UV rays and prevents them from further harming the skin. Melanin is secreted by melanocytes which actually pass on the pigment from small pipe like projections called dendrites to adjacent keratinocytes that take up the dye and get colored. Excessive melanin formation and deposition is primarily the cause of hyperpigmentation aka pigmentation aka discoloration. Loss of melanin deposition or formation leads to hypopigmentation which is not in the scope of the article. Btw discoloration has got dermatological reasons as well as medical reasons i.e. melanin formation in certain diseases which we would not talk about her. I would be only talking about environmental causes and reasons and if someone wants to know more about other diseases they can seek help of medical books or search online.

Our skin fights environmental damage which is caused by aggressors like sunlight (almost 80-90%), pollutants, free radicals (outside and inside) and others like factory pollutants causing occupational hazards. Skin responses to such damage in three ways, 1. By forming a water like secretion to bar the damages, 2. By depositing layers and layers of dry and dead cells that create a barrier, 3. By forming and depositing melanin in the sites of insults. These three survival mechanisms have been developed by our skin over time due to loss of adnexal defenses like thick body hair etc. With such defenses skin protects us.
UV light damages in two different spectra, UVA aka ageing rays that penetrate at dermal levels damages collagen and elastin and destroy the support structure. UVB aka burning rays burn the skin at epidermis by inciting inflammation to which skin responds in different ways. This is talked about in the Fitzpatrick classification of skin tanning. Generally we Asians fall into Grades of 3, 4 and 5 depending on our vicinity to the equator where the sun damage due to sun exposure is maximal.

Skin discoloration happens when the skin is inflamed. It can be diffuse or localized depending on the degree of exposure and the capacity of skin to fight. Diffuse discoloration is form of tan and sometimes looks amazing as it gives a sun kissed look. But local pigmentation is dreadful and starts from spots to patches to melasma and everything. Btw hormones sensitize the skin and that's why pigmentation is aggravated and that's why there is not a complete direct correlation between hormones and pigmentation.

There is pigmentation even while a person suffers from acne. In active acne, due to inflammation there is melanin deposition in those areas and that's why there are acne marks and spots. They also increase when the active acne is picked as it pushes the ulcer base inwards and there are higher chances of scarring.
Btw freckles are present since birth and can never be lightened or removed so don't try to do anything to freckles. Instead use just a sunscreen to prevent them from darkening.


Superficial pigmentation like surface acne spots can be zapped and taken care off completely but deeper pigmentation needs real attention. The goal for getting the latter sorted out is by targeting, lightening and protecting. We target the patch or uneven skin tone or discoloration by using products that modify melanin in different ways. This could be by breaking down melanin clusters and exfoliation, hampering and regulating melanin synthesis and preventing melanin formation and deposition. There are age old methods like bleaching the skin which are passé and dangerous.

Dermatologists suggest formulations containing "hydroquinone" which can be dangerous on long term usage and may contribute to skin cancers as would bleaching agents do so please be careful while using these products. I love and believe in cosmetics that contain plant extracts and sometimes in dermatological procedures like microdermabrasion and chemical peels.

Here is a small list of plant extracts that do help skin lightening. There are a lot more than these but I am instead of too much researching just going to write the ones that I know and trust.
  1. Lightens melanin: - general mushroom and yeast extracts lighten by break down melanin clusters. Some that are famous are Saccharomyces, Tramates Versicolor, Oryza Sativa, Fermented rice wine like Sake etc.
  2. Exfoliators: - they remove melanin by loosening dead cells and getting rid of them like Glycolic acid, Salicylic acid, Lactic acid etc.
  3. Melanin Inhibitors: - Glycyrrhiza Glabra, Morus Bombycis, Vit C. derivatives like Ascorbic Glycosides etc
To get a comprehensive list of Skin Lightening Agents have a look here.

Hydroquinone does the same thing as no.3 but is very dangerous. There are other plant extracts like Grapeseed, Green Tea, Rose hip etc that are known for their lightening effects and number of botanical extracts developed by cosmetic brands under various categories and names and I don't know them cause the contents are never revealed. But it is ok if it shows results one must for for it.

The only way to protect the skin is using broad spectrum sunscreens with physical and chemical protection and reapplying them as per sun exposure. Btw I don't believe in face washes that can lighten skin. That is the most foolish and deceiving concept in skin lightening. It has never happened so it will never happen in future just with skin cleansing.


Cosmetic companies all over world invest in skin lightening treatments since they know Asia is the biggest market for all these products after Middle East. I'm going to talk about India and products that are readily available to us. Companies like Clinique, Shiseido, Estee Lauder, Clarins, Lancôme, Christian Dior, Chanel, Givenchy et al have lots of skin lightening products but I have hardly seen anything really working effectively. So its better to mix n match and maybe you'd see results. I recommend the following products which I have tried and somewhat have worked for me. Please do visit the cosmetic counters for more information and more about what is custom fit for you.

  1. Clinique Dermawhite Brightening Sunscreen SPF 40 Pa++ Rs.2600 approx…new launch
  2. Clinique Even Better range which comprises of Even Better skin tone corrector Rs.2775, Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector Rs.3450, Even Better skin tone correcting moisturizer Rs.2600 and Even Better makeup SPF 15
  3. Estee Lauder Cyberwhite Ex range that is really effective. You can get information on Estee Lauder Singapore website or you can call their Palladium store at 022-43473773
  4. Shiseido White Lucent range especially their Brightening Concentrate has worked wonders....I hate the lack of exfoliants in their line though...maybe Japanese skins are very delicate.
  5. Elizabeth Arden makes the White Glove range with targeted botanicals.
  6. Lancome also has Blanc Expert.
Whatever the brand is, the results need to be good.Shall be writing another post on Whitening, Lightening and Brightening Agents as the article is getting tooooooo big....

Btw please do read these articles for more information.........

  1. Hyperpigmentation and its causes
  2. Pigmentation and Melasma
  3. Fitzpatrick Classification for Skin typing

Till then,


PS: - I know some of you might find this article incomplete but please remember it is just the basic information that I am providing.Volumes and volumes are written over pigmentation disorders and every interpretation is humanly impossible to discuss at one time. Thanks for understanding....


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