The Quest for Better Skin: Battling Brown Spots

Posted on January 08, 2014 | Posted under Battling Brown Spots, skin conditions

Battling Brown SpotsBeauty is wasted on the young.” I can still hear my best friend’s mother utter those words as a swarm of us sixteen year olds stormed through her house, getting ready for our high school dances. I never gave it much thought, but now that I’m aging and having the same swarm of girls in our home, I’m hearing those words again, and I get it. If we only knew then what we know now.

Early in our life, our skin is abundantly radiant and beautifully firm. As we go through life, our environmental and lifestyle choices can begin destroying the structure of our skin. Yikes! When did all of these blotchy brown spots on my face and chest arrive? I swear they weren’t there yesterday. Unfortunately, those small little brown clusters (large blotchy brown spots for some) have been under construction for a very long time, usually when we weren’t giving it much thought.

How Our Skin is Colored
Our normal and natural skin color is formed by melanin. Melanin  determines our skin, hair, and eye color. Our skin has an enzyme called tyrosinase, which converts the amino acid tyrosine into melanin. When we see an excess of discoloration deposits it is because too much melanin was produced. This condition is called hyper-pigmentation. It can affect people of all skin colors and races and generally increases with age and accumulation of UV light. Another similar condition that occurs during pregnancy or results from being on birth control pills is called Melasma or Cholasma.

Skin Lightening Agents as Treatment
These skin conditions: hyper-pigmentation, melasma, and cholasma, are fairly common and can be very esthetically displeasing to those affected who often seek advise from their esthetician or dermatologist.  The key to reducing pigmentation is to inhibit the production of the enzyme tyrosinase that is responsible for melanin production within the epidermal surface. At the same time it is important to protect the skin from future discolorations without harsh bleaching agents that can damage the skin.

Botanical Verses Chemical
The safety of topical agents is important. Biotanical are best as they offer a safe and effective alternative to disruptive, and medically harsh chemical applications such as hydroquinone. Hydroquinone has been banned in Europe and many other countries, and can only be prescribed by a doctor for certain skin conditions. In 2006 the U.S. revoked its previous approval and proposed a ban on all over the counter preparations of hydroquinone. It is still prescribed in a higher dose (generally 4%) and can be effective as a lightening agent, but can cause skin sensitivities.
High quality skin lightening agents are currently a growing market, especially the products that are nontoxic. The latter are however, more costly due to the quality ingredients and how they are delivered into the skin (technology delivery system). These products work well, but they take time: consistency is the key.

Though hyper-pigmentation is common and generally not a health risk, it is always good to have these spots checked annually. Err on the side of caution. If you are currently on those harsh lightening agents, check out what is available to you in botanically safe professional skin care lines through your esthetician or dermatologist.

Margie Carr is a California State Board Licensed Clinical Esthetician and owner of Reflections Skin Oasis.