See Spot Run!
This quote has stuck with me my entire career developing skin care products to delay and reverse the signs of aging. The older I get the more I can both understand and appreciate its meaning. Our skin is a barometer of our past and can serve to either remind us or tell those around us about how we have cared for our skin over the years.
Understanding Skin Discoloration
As we age, skin damage will begin to manifest itself in various forms, including darkened skin pigmentation called hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is a common, usually harmless condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin.
This darkening occurs when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, forms deposits in the skin. Hyperpigmentation can affect the skin color of people of any race or skin tone, especially if they have been exposed to excessive and prolonged sun exposure.
The Anatomy of a Dark Spot
It seems as though one minute you have flawless skin and then one morning you wake to discover a dark spot that seems to have appeared overnight. The fact is, age spots are the result of long-term damage and has taken time – often years, to surface. Here is a quick explanation of where skin discoloration develops:
- Our skin is constructed of two distinct layers – the dermis and the epidermis. Think of the dermis as the skin’s support structure. The dermis contains the blood vessels, nerves and key building blocks such as collagen and elastin fibers, keeping the skin strong, firm and young.
- Think of the epidermis as a barricade, or wall constructed of layer upon layer of “bricks” which are constantly being re-built and added to the wall as the older bricks age and crumble to ensure that nothing bad will get in and nothing good will get out.
- At the base layer of the epidermis are cells that are crucial for determining the skin’s ability to do its job effectively. In addition to containing cells that determine how new cells are duplicated, there are also cells that are responsible for producing the skin’s natural sunscreen, called melanin. These cells are called melanocytes.
- When the skin is exposed to UV radiation, these melanocytes kick into overdrive and emit micro-granules of sunscreen (melanin) to help surround the skin’s delicate cells from damage. Melanin is a heavily pigmented substance and the more that is released into the epidermis, the darker the skin becomes, making it more resistant to UV damage. A suntan, in fact, is the body’s way of attempting to protect itself from potential damage.
- There are two forms of UV radiation that attack the skin at multiple layers. UVB (burning) rays and UVA (aging) rays. While UVB rays are responsible for causing the skin’s surface to burn, it is the UVA rays that penetrate the skin more deeply and are responsible for causing genetic mutations in the skin’s DNA,” reprogramming” them to reproduce damaged cells.
- In an attempt to protect the skin, melanin deposits surround these damaged, vulnerable cells in an attempt to protect them from further damage. Since these cells are now “re-programed” to produce identical versions of themselves, these darkened cells become the “new normal”, and will continue to replicate and saturate the epidermis with each new cell that is produced. Eventually, these cells will be visible on the skin’s surface as an age spot or other forms of discoloration.
A Spot is a Spot? It’s Not, It’s Not!
All spots, or skin discolorations, are not created equal. Skin pigment abnormalities manifest themselves because of a variety of conditions. Below is an explanation of what causes these various forms of hyperpigmentation:
- Age Spots / Liver Spots / Sun Spots: Sun spots, commonly referred to as “liver spots”, are a product of sun exposure. This exposure is cumulative and not directly related to sunburn. Sun spots result from the increased production of melanin as a consequence of long-term sun exposure.
- Freckles: Freckles develop in fair-skinned individuals as the result of sun exposure. This is the skin’s protective measure against the harmful effects of UV exposure. Freckles are predominantly seen on sun-exposed surfaces of the skin and will fade when the skin is protected from UV light.
- Melasma (hormonal skin discoloration): Melasma is characterized by tan or brown patches, most commonly on the face. Melisma can occur in pregnant women and is often referred to as “pregnancy mask”; however, men can also develop this condition.
Out, Out Darned Spot!
Daily use of an effective broad-spectrum SPF product can do wonders to help protect the skin from skin discolorations; however, if dark spots and other forms of hyperpigmentation have you feeling down, it’s time to lighten up and get even with products specifically formulated to treat this condition.
Meladerm Skin Lightening Crème – $49.99 (1.7 qoz)
What is unique about this product is that it is designed to treat dark spots & hyperpigmentation resulting from a range of underlying conditions, from melasma, UV damage to skin discolorations resulting from pregnancy.
The formulation of this hyperpigmentation cream is also strictly regulated to ensure it does not contain any ingredient that can pose long term side effects (e.g. mercury & hydroquinone). Instead, the manufacturers opt to use natural ingredients like Sepiwhite & Mulberry extract.
To Order: Civant Skin Care
Beauticontrol’s Regeneration Brighten Dark Spot Minimizing Crème – $59 (1 oz)
Formulated to transform your complexion by brightening skin, diminishing the appearance of dark spots and by normalizing skin tone.
Enriched with luminosity boosting vitamins C and B3, potent antioxidants from pomegranate, caviar lime and acerola fruit extracts, along with revitalizing amino acid sugar.
To Order: Beauticontrol
For over 30 years, Gary Jones has been responsible for the conception, strategic, positioning, formula development, introduction, promotion and continued education of over 3,000 unique beauty and personal-care products. Most recently serving as vice president of marketing/research & development for Beauticontrol, Jones was instrumental in developing the company’s portfolio of age-defying skin-care solutions, spa-quality bath and body treatments and color cosmetics. Jones is a graduate of Arizona State University, with a degree in kinesiology. He and his husband currently reside in Sedona, Arizona.
Connect with Gary Jones on Facebook: Gary Jones
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