Hyperpigmentation is a growing skin concern in recent years, however, it’s a condition that is greatly misunderstood. Most people believe that hyper-pigmentation is only caused by either the sun or age, but this is not true, and there’s a lot more to it than this.
While the beauty industry teaches us that hyperpigmentation can be treated topically, this is also not true. Topical products alone will not be enough to treat hyperpigmentation, and if you’re using strong products in attempt to lighten them, you can expect to have other imbalances occur within the skin as a result.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
There are a number of different root causes of hyperpigmentation. However, regardless of the exact cause, hyperpigmentation in general forms because the melanocytes in the skin are continuously receiving signs of distress (either at the skin level or within another system of the body), resulting in increased inflammation and an over-production of melanin for a long-period of time, even when the distress is resolved and is no longer an issue. While the appearance of hyperpigmentation is bothersome for most people who have it, excessive melanin production occurs as a protective mechanism. It’s your body’s attempt to protect the other cells and systems in the skin’s dermis layer.
Some causes of this distress may include:
- Long periods of unprotected Sun Exposure (UVA and UVB rays), especially when using improper skin care products and treatments
- Excessive sunburns
- Tanning beds
- Poor gut health
- Toxicity in the body
- Too much refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Too much processed food in the diet
- Food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities
- Other allergies, leading to inflammation
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Infection in the body
- Skin trauma
- Damaged acid mantle, protective barrier and/or skin microbiome
- Skin Picking (especially with acne)
- Excessive chemical peels, acids, enzymes, microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, laser treatments and other sensitizing topical products and treatments
How to Treat Hyperpigmentation
Avoid Harsh Skin Care Products and Exfoliants
Most aestheticians will want to treat hyperpigmentation with acids, enzymes, peels, or some other form of exfoliation. What they do not realize is that these products are the very cause of some of the skin trauma that can cause hyper-pigmentation in the first place. It’s best to stay away from these products, ingredients and treatments (even the “gentle” ones). We actually want to avoid exfoliation entirely, especially when attempting to treat hyperpigmentation. Attempting to suppress the melanin production externally is not helpful or productive for the long-term health of the skin and will eventually lead to other imbalances within the skin.
Topically, in combination with a full body holistic approach, we should use natural ingredients, such as licorice root or turmeric, which are both natural anti-inflammatory ingredients and support the skin’s natural functions, rather than forcing it to act in unnatural ways. Both of these ingredients can be found in Radiant Soul and our Skin ReSet Kit.
Over-cleansing can remove the acid mantle from the surface of the skin, and disrupt the skin’s protective barrier and microbiome.
Yes, our skin is exposed to pollution, environmental elements and makeup each day, so a gentle oil cleanser that does not strip any beneficial oils or natural protection away from the skin is beneficial at night. But cleansing your skin twice a day is actually too much. Why? Because when you cleanse too much, you’re removing too many natural oils, dead skin cells, your acid mantle and healthy microbiome away. Your skin NEEDS all of this for healthy function. When you remove it, you open your skin up to bacteria invasion, and increased sensitivity to the sun. The protective barrier and the acid mantle on our skin are built by the skin to protect us from both.
Massage Your Face
Most hyperpigmentation is trapped at the lymphatic level of the skin. By massaging the skin, we can stimulate the lymphatic system to get it flowing. This type of treatment will provide accumulative results when performed consistently.
Use Sun Protection
Sun protection is essential to use, especially when you have hyperpigmentation. Overexposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays will breakdown collagen and cause inflammation in the skin, resulting in skin damage and hyperpigmentation.
With this being said, not all sunscreens are created equally. We want to avoid synthetic active sun ingredients, and instead choose mineral based active ingredients, such as zinc oxide. Zinc oxide does not absorb into the skin, but rather sits on the surface of the skin to reflect the sun’s rays away from us. Synthetic ingredients actually allow the skin to absorb the sun’s rays, and then chemically alter it within the skin. Sunscreens that I use and highly recommend are Brush on Block, Goddess Garden Organics and Green Beaver Company.
Eat A Whole Foods Diet
While hyperpigmentation appears topical, a whole foods diet consisting of plenty of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich fruits, veggies and leafy greens can be helpful to fight inflammation and hyperpigmentation in the skin. The health and proper functioning of our skin cells largely depend on the vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that they receive from our diet.
It is really important to avoid processed foods, refined sugar, cows dairy and gluten as much as physically possible. All of these foods promote inflammation within the body, and can also create mucous within the lymphatic system, causing our body’s detoxification to weaken as well as the immune system.
Move Your Body
Daily movement, such as walking, swimming or rebounding, stimulates the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is the drainage system of the body, which is one of the main parts of our immune system. Melanin often gets trapped in the lymphatic system, where stagnation is occurring. By moving the lymphatic system daily, we can help clear out some of the buildup that is causing the hyperpigmentation.
Chronic stress raises our cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone in the body. Chronic, long-term stress in the body activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is our body’s natural fight or flight response. In this state, the body begins to slowly breakdown:
- Collagen and elastin breakdown
- Digestive enzymes decrease
- Liver enzymes decrease
- Heart rate increases and blood pressure rises
- The immune system weakens
- Inflammation increases
Because hyperpigmentation is linked to skin trauma and inflammation, living in a chronic state of stress is not a supportive lifestyle when trying to prevent and/or heal hyperpigmentation.
To remove your body from the sympathetic nervous system, deep belly breathing can be really beneficial to help our body enter the Parasympathetic system, which is our rest and digest state, where the body begins to heal and regenerate.
How do you deep breath? Let’s do it now. I want you to close your eyes with me and take TEN really deep breaths. As you breathe in, breathe all the way to the bottom of your belly. As you breathe out, completely empty your lungs. This type of breathing will help get your body out of fight or flight mode and into your regenerative parasympathetic nervous system state. Deep breathing releases toxins, increases oxygen supply to your brain (and skin), relieves tension, relaxes the mind… the list goes on.
If you live in a state of chronic stress, put a reminder on your phone to remind yourself to breathe deeply three times a day.
Just like every other skin condition, healing hyperpigmentation takes a full body approach. I wish I could tell you that there’s a magic product out there that could get rid of it, but sadly this isn’t true. Even with the use of harsh products and treatments that can provide a bandaid solution, producing immediately improvement in the appearance, these treatments do not provide long-term results and will actually cause further imbalances within the skin.
Always remember that what we perceive as flaws on our skin, are always messages from our body and there’s something going on much deeper. Skin issues are very rarely related to the skin, and are symptoms of a deeper, internal imbalance.
Questions about this? Reach out to us anytime with questions.