The facial discolouration is a problem that can happen in any of us. It is an aesthetic issue - it makes the skin look old and unattractive. It is often difficult to hide it under make-up. Fighting against it can even cause stress. How does hyperpigmentation develop? How can they be removed? How can you prevent them? You can find it out in this blog article.

There can be various reasons for discolouration. They can be caused by hormonal imbalances or excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays.


What to do if your skin discolours irregularly? Where do all the spots, dots, or blemishes come from? Is it something you can avoid?



What is discolouration?


Hyperpigmentation is a change that occurs due to excessive production of melanin by pigment cells. Melanin is responsible for the colour of the skin. High levels of melanin, i.e., overproduction, cause the skin to become darker, while low levels, in turn, lighten it.


Women are more prone to facial pigmentation than men. It is because women deal more with hormonal changes, use contraception or hormone replacement therapy. Hormones sensitise to the sun, resulting in pigment disorders in the skin.



Melanin, the skin's natural pigment, is a polymer produced by melanocytes (cells found in the basal layer of the epidermis, eyes, and hair follicles) through the process of melanogenesis. Melanogenesis is an enzymatic, i.e., the naturally occurring process in the body, of melanin formation, which determines the formation of skin pigment, i.e., facilitates the formation of a tan, for example).


The primary function of melanin in the body is to protect the DNA of epidermal cells from the sun, or rather from harmful ultraviolet radiation. So, it is not an aesthetic or beautifying mission. When we tan, we 'catch the colour,' but it is in the cells that significant changes take place - the skin literally defends itself against UV radiation by producing pigment.


What happens when melanocytes malfunction and distribute pigment incorrectly or when they cluster or produce too much pigment? It is when pigmentation starts to form, darker spots or even freckles.



What causes discolouration of the skin?


There are many causes of hyperpigmentation. They may be caused by hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, contraception or menopause, or inflammatory conditions such as acne, psoriasis, lichen planus. They may also have a genetic basis.


They can also be caused by excessive exposure to UV radiation, such as tanning beds.


The use of photosensitizing substances in some medicines (also herbal) is responsible for them, e.g., antidiabetics, antiarrhythmics, anticancer drugs, sedatives, diuretics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, drugs used to treat psoriasis (read the leaflets, they usually contain information about photosensitizing medications).

Other causes include age, use of perfumes, retinol in cosmetics, and citrus fruit juices.


Hashimoto's thyroid disease, hyperthyroidism, some antibiotics, e.g., acne ointments, essential oils, e.g., bergamot oil, sandalwood oil, vanilla oil, cedar oil, or lavender oil, also contribute to the formation of hyperpigmentation. Herbs and plant extracts, e.g., St. John's wort, chamomile, calendula, and often herbal compositions of unknown composition added to dietary supplements.


Cosmetics that contain the ingredients mentioned above, i.e., retinoids, essential oils, or plant extracts, are also responsible for the process.


Other causes include ovarian tumours, parasites in the intestines, stress (after affective disorders such as depression), or even the influence of metals such as copper, silver, gold, arsenic, iron.


Changes do not have to appear immediately. They can appear on the face after some time, even if you have not been in the sun recently. It can result from melanin accumulation or some factor that has made them visible (e.g., hormonal changes).



What are the discolouration types?


Pigmentary disorders are classified as hypo- and hyperpigmentary (also known as skin discolouration and hyperpigmentation).


Hyperpigmentation includes albinism (partial or complete lack of pigment caused by a gene mutation) and vitiligo - drug-induced or senile.


Skin hyperpigmentation is a generalised or limited change in the colour of the skin. The leading cause is an uneven accumulation of melanin in the cells. These pigmentations can be acquired or congenital. They differ from healthy skin by their increased intensity of the colouring.


We can distinguish between local (spot) and diffuse (extensive) hyperpigmentation. There is also a division into epidermal (shallowly located), dermal (reaching deeper into the dermis), and mixed (a combination of both).



Which discolouration are most common?


Freckles


Freckles are tiny, uniformly sized, light yellow to dark brown spots that form symmetrical arrangements. They tend to accumulate. They are located on exposed skin - exposed to sunlight, e.g., face, arms, backs of hands. They tend to recede with age. Their occurrence is genetically determined. They intensify in the spring-summer period.


Lentigines


Lentigines are shallow, primarily located in the epidermis. They can be congenital or acquired as a result of overexposure to UV radiation. They have various shades of brown colour. They can be scattered in large numbers on the back, chest, skin of the hands, face, forearms, or other areas. Compared to freckles, they are larger, darker, and more demarcated and do not tend to darken in the sun. They can develop into malignant lentigines. They increase with age and are a result of photoaging of the skin.


Chloasma


Chloasma (melasma, "mask" of pregnancy) is one of the most common acquired skin discolorations of the face. It predominantly affects women (90%), but it also occurs in men (10%) of all ethnic and racial groups. Irregular patches, ranging from light brown to dark brown, sometimes even black. May appear on different areas of the face, e.g., upper lip, cheeks, nose, forehead, neck. The main inducing factor is ultraviolet radiation. The cause is genetic, hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, menopause, hormonal contraception, thyroid disease, adrenal disease, chronic liver disease. Occasionally, chloasma that developed during pregnancy may resolve spontaneously. Unfortunately, this cannot be said when chloasma arises due to hormonal therapy, such as contraception - then it does not show such a tendency.


Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation


Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PHI) develops due to inflammatory diseases such as atopic dermatitis (AD), acne vulgaris, psoriasis, lichen planus, contact dermatitis, impetigo, folliculitis, or even insect bites. They may also occur as a result of complications following poorly performed chemical peel or laser treatments. The frequency of their occurrence decreases with age. It also happens that they can disappear on their own, but unfortunately, this happens rarely.


Drug-induced hyperpigmentation


Drug-induced hyperpigmentation (postmedicamentosum hyperpigmentation) occurs due to interactions between the drug, its metabolites, and melanin. They are also often induced by ultraviolet radiation.


Breloque-dermatitis


Breloque dermatitis is hyperpigmentation most commonly found on the skin of the décolleté and neck. It is often caused by the phototoxic effects of perfumes, such as bergamot oil found in perfumes.


Perioral and periorbital melanosis


Perioral and periorbital melanosis occurs due to resolution of inflammation (e.g., perioral dermatitis) or under UV exposure (phototoxic effect). It is most often permanent. The characteristic feature is the shoulder discolouration around the mouth.

How to get rid of skin discolouration?


The therapeutic procedure depends on the type of hyperpigmentation, i.e., how deep the pigment is located (i.e., whether it is epidermal, dermal, or mixed).


It is beneficial to combine the treatment of hyperpigmentation in a beauty salon (e.g., lasers, chemical peels, etc.) and home care.


Treatment is time-consuming, requires patience, and, unfortunately, does not always bring the full effects. In the meantime, you must apply complete sun protection systematically throughout the year.


It is vital to take an honest approach and systematically apply the products recommended by your beautician or dermatologist at home. Unfortunately, lesions can return at any time. What's more, new lesions can appear as a result of UV rays if you neglect photoprotection. Causal factors, such as hormonal changes, can also contribute.


Ingredients that have a brightening effect include kojic acid, azelaic acid, aloe vera, orchid extract, vitamin C, retinoids (retinoic acid is photosensitive, so use it only in autumn and winter), lactic acid, glycolic acid, niacin (niacinamide), liquorice (glabridin), bearberry (arbutin).



How to prevent hyperpigmentation?


Avoid overexposure to UV rays, and remember to use a high sunscreen.


If your skin is inflamed, such as acne, do not scratch or squeeze blemishes - this will minimise the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.


Read the ingredients of medicines and cosmetics - usually, the leaflets contain information about the possibility of discolouration, so you will know to use a stronger sunscreen during treatment.


Get tested and check what is happening with your thyroid, liver, and adrenal glands.


Watch what herbal teas you drink; check the ingredients of your supplements carefully.


Keep your eyes open for everything, especially if you are prone to hyperpigmentation. And most importantly, use the sun with caution and in moderation. Of course, we all crave the sun, especially after winter. The sun gives us energy and induces the formation of vitamin D.


However, the use of the sun must be kept in balance. Applying sunscreen every day, wearing baseball caps or hats is essential. By remembering to do this, you will also slow down the ageing process, so your skin will continue to look younger and healthier.


All these rules are so necessary to eliminate or inhibit, to some extent, the appearance of hyperpigmentation is the only way to go. There are no excuses that you don't like sunscreen, and you love the sun. After the summer, you will start to panic because spots will begin to appear. Every step, every preventative action is essential.


Remember, too, that in addition to UV radiation, which induces discolouration, there is the blue light surrounding us everywhere, emitted from electrical appliances. Aggressive, penetrating deep into the skin layers, contributes to the formation and perpetuation of already visible discolouration.


With this in mind, use a protective cream that also has blue light filters in it. There are not many such creams on the market, but I can strongly recommend a product I use myself - SENTE cream protection with SPF 49++++, which protects the skin against the harmful effects of blue light.


People who have used bleaching agents (bleaching creams or medicated ointments) or who have undergone more invasive treatment methods, such as laser procedures, should remember special protection before their holiday. It can increase the risk of recurrence.


Antiseptic, acne, and antibacterial products can also cause sunburn, so if you suffer from skin inflammation or acne, you need to be especially careful in the sun.


In summer, it is also advisable to limit the use of coloured cosmetics, lipsticks, blushes, and shadows, as they may contain dyes and preservatives that exacerbate reactions to radiation. It creates inflammation in the skin and paves the way for the formation of discolouration.



Final words


Remember that hyperpigmentation is not a disease, but if you notice strange, irregular, convex, dark, and multi-coloured spots on your skin, be sure to see a dermatologist for a consultation.


What are your experiences with skin discolouration? What was your approach? Please let me know in the comments. 

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Many aspects have an impact on skin ageing, such as UV rays and smoking, for example. But there is one factor that you should pay particular attention to - and that is the glycation process. What is glycation, and why does it have such a detrimental effect on the skin? You can find it out in the following article.

We all like to eat sweets. Sugar and sugar-like products surround us everywhere. Literally. The shops are flooded with these products. When we're having a bad day, feeling down, or looking for something quick to eat, that's when we opt for sugary snacks.


Have you ever noticed how sticky a lollipop gets once you put it in your mouth? Sugar is sticky because when it dissolves in water, it reacts with proteins on the surface of your skin and forms fragile chemical bonds. When you feel the resistance of your fingers sticking together with icing, you actually feel the bonds' resistance being torn apart. The process by which sugar sticks wherever it can is called glycation.

What is glycation?


It is rarely mentioned, but it plays a significant role in keeping your skin healthy and young-looking. But it's not just the skin itself - the glycation process also accelerates the aging of internal organs at a faster rate than it should.



Glycation is the process that most often occurs between DNA and lipids, glucose, and proteins.


We distinguish between two types of glycation - extrinsic and intrinsic.


What is extrinsic glycation? It takes place outside the human body and most often occurs when sugars, proteins, and lipids are treated at high temperatures. That is when you cook in the kitchen or eat out. When you toast a slice of bread in a toaster oven, advanced glycation products (AGEs) are formed in the proteins and sugars present in the bread due to oxidation. White, soft bread is turned into hard, crusty, and brown bread - the proteins and sugars harden and become stiff. Imagine the same thing happening in your body. When sugars attack cells and tissues, they become stiff, brittle, and harden.


When there is a small sugar supply to the body and normal blood sugar levels, these reactions happen slowly enough that the clean-up crews (leukocytes) keep up with the intervention and interrupt the whole process to keep everything under control. The kidneys remove the glycation products from the blood and then excrete them from the body.


The problem starts when there is too much sugar circulating in the blood. The attack begins - in rapid succession, one after another, adverse reactions occur for our body. And this is called intrinsic glycation.



Advanced glycation end-products

The final product of glycation is AGE's (advanced glycation end-products). These products are very persistent, and unfortunately, you cannot reverse this process.

The content of glycation products increases with age. The reason for this is probably a reduced ability to remove them from the body. And this, in turn, may be due to a slower metabolism, resulting in a slower protein remodeling mechanism.

One of these proteins which are attacked by sugar is collagen. Under the influence of sugar molecules, the number of cross fibres increases, which means that its structure changes.

The whole process's effect is a stiffening of the fibre, reduced solubility of this protein, and reduced susceptibility to digestion by enzymes. Besides, due to this process, the skin takes on a yellowish tinge as the proteins turn a brownish-yellow colour.

When all body processes regularly occur, the collagen (protein) that is damaged is then removed. In its place, the dermis cells can produce new collagen and place it where the previous fibre was removed.

However, due to glycation and an increase in the concentration of its products AEG's, an imbalance in this process occurs. It translates into accelerated skin aging; a decrease in elasticity.

AEG's can also contribute to the initiation of inflammation in the body. The binding of these products to receptors on the cell - activates the production of inflammatory cytokines.

This process affects tissue destruction, dysfunction of proteins and enzymes. It can lead to modification of the collagen in the skin and the collagen found in the walls of blood vessels. The collagen molecules usually move freely, allowing the vessels to expand and contract.

When AEG is attached, the collagen molecules become immobilised. It results in greater wall stiffness and increased blood pressure. The stiffening of the tissues turns the semi-permeable surfaces of the arteries into tight walls. This process effectively prevents nutrients from penetrating outside the bloodstream. When trapped substances are unable to escape, they begin to accumulate in the arteries. It can result in the formation of clots or atherosclerotic plaques.


Glycation may also be linked to impaired wound healing.

Smoking is also a crucial factor. Tobacco smoke contains very high amounts of glycotoxins, which stimulate protein glycation. This is why it is easy to see how quickly the skin aging process progresses in smokers, the so-called 'smoker's skin.'

It is also worth mentioning that glycation leads to reactive oxygen species (ROS - free oxygen radicals). The resulting oxidation process promotes glycation, creating a so-called "vicious circle," The skin has to deal with the double attack.


We can see an increased amount of AEG's in diabetics. The number of free radicals produced due to AEG's presence increases 50-fold in older people and diabetics.




How to stop glycation?


To avoid the harmful effects of glycation, start by changing your diet. Keep your intake of simple sugars, processed foods, fried or grilled food in moderation.


When cooking at home, try to keep the heat treatment short. Using the microwave to heat food is a terrible idea. It is convenient (because it is fast), but the energy that acts on the microwave food is highly concentrated. For example, a glass of milk heated in this way causes the number of AGEs in it to double or even triple.


An excellent sugar substitute is dried fruit - e.g., dates or figs, but in moderation. Enrich your diet with plenty of fibre, vegetables, and fruit, rich in antioxidants. It is also worth including supplementation with ingredients with antioxidant properties, such as vitamin C or vitamin B.


Remember that it is impossible to completely eliminate sugars from your diet (it would be bad for you anyway because you need small amounts). You can try to limit sugar, read the labels of the products you are going to buy, and choose those without added sugar. Carbohydrates from potatoes, pasta, white bread, and rice are also broken down into sugars - bear this in mind if you want to reduce glycation processes.


Avoid overeating as it is dangerous to your health. It is a bad idea to eat excessive amounts of food, especially those that are overcooked.


Changing your diet is currently the most effective, long-term form of prevention that can guarantee to slow down the aging process and limit diseases' development.


Try to eat smaller amounts of food.


What about the skin?


Since it is under attack from all sides, try to act in several directions. At home, use creams with AHA acids or retinol at night (but not in summer because retinol is photosensitizing). Remember to start your treatment with a low concentration of retinol, applying it every second or third day to allow your skin to get used to it.


Year-round UV protection is a must. Use sunglasses when necessary because your eyes need protection too. Try to choose cosmetics that contain plant extracts, e.g., gooseberry seeds, grapes, green tea, blueberries (they contain lots of antioxidant polyphenols, which stop the glycation process), vitamins C, E, B3, niacinamide, coenzyme Q10 (which also has antioxidant properties). Also include supplements with antioxidant properties, such as vitamin B, E, and carosine.


A good skincare routine is a healthy sleep and sport done regularly.


Take advantage of regenerative, antioxidant, collagen-stimulating, rejuvenating treatments or even deeper skin peeling with acids that beauty salons have to offer.


Prevention can do miracles. The skin is a very grateful organ. If it is cared for correctly and gets what it needs, it looks young, healthy, and radiant.


Final words


Sugar becomes harmful when converted into AGEs in a non-enzymatic reaction (i.e., one that is not created by the body itself). These compounds, which reduce blood vessels' elasticity, set off gliders involving long-term inflammation-causing pathological changes.


This process is spontaneous and occurs throughout life. Its effects can only be reversed in the initial stages; unfortunately, the longer it goes on, the more difficult it is to repair the damage caused.


Therefore, if you want your skin to be constantly beautiful and young and your internal organs to be efficient and in good condition, reduce your sugar intake to a minimum. It is the best protection against premature ageing of the whole body caused by glycation.


Do you find it hard to reduce sugar in your diet? Let me know in the comments!

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Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), or fruit acids, have been used in cosmetics for many years. The most popular are lactic acid, glycolic acid, and mandelic acid. AHAs also include malic, tartaric, citric, and shikimic acids. In this article, we will look at what AHAs are and their importance for your skin.





What are the characteristics of the AHA group? These acids can penetrate deep into the skin because they are water-soluble, overcoming the top layer of sebum and cleansing the pores. They reduce the adhesion between the cells of the stratum corneum, i.e., they exfoliate dead cells.


The most effective AHAs with an exfoliating effect are glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acids. Glycolic acid, even in low concentrations, can be applied twice a day on the skin. It stimulates epidermal regeneration.


The result? Fewer wrinkles!

Let's take a closer look at the three most common acids in-home preparations.

Lactic acid

Lactic acid comes from the natural fermentation of milk. It is one of the basic components of the natural moisturising factor (NMF), thanks to which AHA is successfully used in moisturising treatments. It exfoliates and moisturises because when new epidermal cells are exposed, it is easier to moisturise them.

It binds water in the epidermis and restores the tightness of the hydro-lipid barrier of the skin. Besides, AHA acids stimulate the biosynthesis of ceramides. And the more of them there are, the better protection the epidermis receives: that is, it does not lose moisture, it better defends itself against UV radiation, and the complexion retains a smooth appearance. Thanks to this broad spectrum of activity, alpha hydroxy acids are a precious cosmetic ingredient.

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid gets from sugar cane. It has the smallest molecule among AHAs, thanks to which it quickly penetrates the skin. Stimulates the functioning of live epidermal cells, stimulates fibroblasts, and synthesis of collagen and elastin.


It normalises the exfoliation processes of dead epidermal cells and unclogs the ducts of hair follicles, which prevents the first non-inflammatory symptoms of acne.


It also eliminates wrinkles and discolourations, makes the skin more elastic, firms it, evens its colour, and reduces scars.


In low concentrations, up to 10%, it has moisturising properties.

Mandelic acid

Mandelic acid is obtained by hydrolysis of bitter almond extract. It is one of the milder acids but has a high potency. It is recommended even for sensitive, irritated skin.


The skin well tolerates it. It rather does not cause erythema (apart from small redness appearing during the salon treatment, but the concentration of the acid used for the procedures is higher).


It regulates sebum secretion, acts against irritation, has the most potent anti-bacterial properties - which means that treatments with mandelic acid are recommended first of all for mixed, oily skins, with the problem of seborrhoea, acne vulgaris, and adults (acne tarda).


It rejuvenates, lightens discolorations, moisturises, restores the hydro-lipid balance, and most importantly, does not make the skin sensitive to UV rays.



How efficient are cosmetics with AHA?

The effectiveness of preparations depends not only on AHA concentration in the product. The pH of the preparation has a fundamental influence on the effect - the lower it is, the more acidic reaction, the more effectively AHAs act.


The recommended concentration of acids is from 5 to 20%. Weaker ones have a moisturising effect, whereas, with increasing concentration, an irritating effect occurs. That is why it is so important not to use acids on your own. The beautician should choose the right type and concentration depending on skin type and potential problems. Acids from 20-40 % brighten spots, discolouration, shallowing of small scars, and smoothing wrinkles.


I recommended it for all skin types, young, mature, acne, pimples, or for skin heavily damaged by sunbathing, solarium, or smoking.

What are the basic rules for using acids on the face?

It would be best if you started your adventure with chemical peelings in a beauty salon, where a professional will choose products suitable for your skin. Thanks to that, you will know how your skin reacts to acids, you will learn what to avoid when using this type of substance at home (of course, in lower concentrations). You will become more alert to negative reactions or the occurrence of allergies, thanks to which you will react faster.


I recommend caution with acids. If you start using them yourself without consultation, you could end up with irritation or even significant skin damage. Also, rebuilding your skin will cost you a lot of time and money (and possible visits to the dermatologist).


However, if you want to try acids at home, I recommend starting by trying ready-made cosmetics such as toners, serums, masks, or creams.


Remember that the skin after peeling is sensitive and becomes more susceptible to any irritation. Even more so to the harmful effects of UV rays - it is necessary to use protective creams with high filters.

Final words

We, the professionals, are here to help, so we will be happy to select the suitable acid for spring, summer, or winter and choose a filter with the right concentration.

Do you have any questions? Drop me a line in the comment!

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