At least some of us look cute with spots
Hyperpigmentation is the effect of an increase of melanin (what gives our skin color) in the skin. This is caused mostly from harmful UV rays from the sun. The melanin in our skin absorbs the ultraviolet rays to protect us from overexposure, but because of this we are left with patches of darker, discolored skin. Freckling and age spots or "liver spots" are both forms of sun damage related hyperpigmentation. There are many different ways to treat these types of discoloration, which I will mention later. However, the best way to treat is prevention, which is why it is always important to wear sunscreen!
Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by skin trauma or hormonal changes. One common hyperpigmentation condition is called Melasma or "pregnancy mask", which usually occurs around the mouth and chin area during pregnancy. Hormonal hyperpigmention is usually much harder to treat.
Below I have compiled a list of ingredients known to help lighten hyperpigmentation:
Hydroquinone: This is a very controversal ingredient because it is very toxic as a result of its carcinogenic effects. Linked with Ochronosis, a disfiguring disease which causes blue-black pigmentation of the skin, hydroquinone is banned in several countries including the entire European Union and is not available over the counter in the United States. However, due to this ingredient's effectiveness of lightning the skin as rapidly as it does by chemically reducing melanin, it is still the most popular way to reverse Hyperpigmentation.
Bearberry Extract: This ingredient contains a natural form of hydroquinone but is much more stable and not photosensitive. It also has an antioxidant property because of the presence of anthocyamin.
Mulberry Extract: Potent but gentle, Mulberry lightens without causing irritation. Aside from also being very high in antioxidants, Mulberry Extract has strong melanogenesis inhibiting properties and in recent studies was shown to have nearly a 50% difference in decreasing hyperpigmentation over Hydroquinone.
Arbutin: Found in many Japanese mushrooms as well as the Bearberry plant, this ingredient is known to inhibit Tyrosinase, which prevents the formation of Melanin. Small amounts of Arbutin can also be found in pear skin.
Vitamin A (Tretinoin, Retinol): Combined with Vitamin C it can be used to fight photo damage, but it is mostly used for reduction of the sebaceous glands, making it good for reducing acne. Vitamin A also helps to speed up cell renewal which in turn, helps decrease fine lines and wrinkles.
L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C): besides being a potent antioxidant, L-Ascorbic Acid helps the skin repair itself and prevents consequences of longterm sun exposure. This vitamin can be found naturally in many fruits and vegetable. Combined with Vitamin A, it can be used to fight photo damage.
Kojic Acid: Comes from Koji, a fungus that grows on fermented rice and soybeans and is also found in rice wine vinegar and sake. It has antibacterial properties and is a mild inhibitor of the formation of pigment in plant and animal tissues. Kojic Acid is however, very unstable and will actually turn brown and lose its effectiveness when exposed to sunlight.
Licorice Extract (Glycycchizin): Non-toxic, anti-inflammatory, inhibits pigmentation and helps prevent permanent discoloration. Licorice is also great for digestion and other issues with the stomach because it reduces the activity of two enzymes that break down PGE (prostaglandin), which can build up in our stomach causing problems like indigestion.
Glycolic Acid: Fruit acid from a group of AHA's (Alpha Hydroy Acids) derived from sugarcane that helps exfoliate and hydrate. In order for Glycolic Acid to work there must be at least a percentage of 10%, though many products proudly advertising the use of this ingredient contain less. The way it works is by destroying the oil that holds the dead skin onto the stratnum corneum. Glycolic peels can have up to 70%. Anymore can be damaging.
Lactic Acid: Another type of AHA derived from sugarcane, fruit, and milk. Helps fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, as well as stimulates the production of collagen. It also hydrates, prevents photo aging, is an antibacterial, and helps oily/acneic skin. If a person has sensitive skin, this is a better choice than Glycolic.