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Understanding Hyperpigmentation and Safe Treatment Alternatives.

Skin color is a matter of great interest across the world, those with light skin actively look for tanning whereas those with darker skins look for skin lightening products. Color of the skin is determined by genetic factors linked to geography. People in the Northern hemisphere have lighter skin due to far less exposure to direct sunlight whereas populations in the tropics have darker skin to protect from long exposure to direct sunlight. Melanin is what determines the color of our skin. Sometimes people suffer from irregular pigmentation caused by a disruption in the melanin production pathway.

Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin produces excess melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. This can make spots or patches of skin appear darker than surrounding areas. This is a common skin condition and affects people of all skin types. Some forms of hyperpigmentation, including melasma and sunspots, that are more likely to affect areas of skin that face sun exposure, including the face, arms, and legs.


Cosmeceuticals are topical natural cosmetics that enhance the beauty through phyto- constituents that provide additional health-related benefit.

Chemical brightening agents like hydroquinone work by blocking key enzymes along the melanin (pigment) producing pathway in the body. About five years ago, researchers began questioning the safety of hydroquinone because users were at risk for developing ochronosis, a condition that (ironically) darkens the skin. “Hydroquinone is one of the most researched and studied lightening agents but can cause severe irritation and hyperpigmentation if not used correctly,” explains Dr. Michele Green, board-certified dermatologist, New York City. After much debate and research, it was banned in the E.U. because it contains carcinogens, which may increase the risk for cancer. Chronic adverse effects include exogenous ochronosis, cataract, pigmented colloid milia, sclera, and nail pigmentation, loss of elasticity of the skin, impaired wound healing and exuding an offensive fish odour.


Natural alternatives for treating hyperpigmentation:


Due to the potential side-effects of existing therapies, there is a rising trend towards development of natural derived extracts for hyperpigmentation




Licorice extract is obtained from the root of Glycyrrhia glabra a popular natural sweetener with an impressive range of biological activity. A Steroidal fraction( beta-glycyrrhetinic acid) is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, a neutral fraction ( DGL) is an antacid and the non steroidal fraction( Monoammonium glycyrrhizinate) is a natural sweetener. Licorice extract improves hyperpigmentation by dispersing the melanin, inhibition of melanin biosynthesis and inhibition of cyclooxygenase activity thereby decreasing free radical production. Glabridin ( found in the steroidal fraction), a polyphenolic flavonoid is the main component of licorice extract. Studies have shown that glabridin prevents Ultraviolet B (UVB) induced pigmentation and exerts anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting superoxide anion and cyclooxygenase activity.



Green tea extract:

Green tea extract contains polyphenolic compounds that act on various biochemical pathways hence causing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, L-Theanine, are the main active ingredients contained in green tea.


Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is another popular brightening alternative found in many brightening serums; the use of Vitamin C is a matter of consideration since the synthetic form is most commonly used. However, the natural form from Emblica officinalis or Amla (Indian gooseberry) is a powerful natural alternative with the additional benefit of having some of the most powerful anti-oxidants in its array of natural compounds.


Papaya contains alpha hydroxy acids, which are effective in cell turnover and exfoliation, papain (an enzyme found in papaya) exfoliates the skin, giving you a lighter, brighter complexion.”


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