How to Create a Brighter Complexion

We have previously talked about Exfoliation. You cannot moisturize away dead, dull skin to make it brighter. Dead skin looks flaky, dull, and lifeless, even when you are careful to moisturize daily.

Exfoliation is key to a brighter complexion, but you must remember to find the right exfoliation method for your skin type. Over exfoliation can trigger hyper-pigmentation in certain skin types and make you more susceptible to UV damage from the sun. Most skin types can tolerate an AHA serum twice a week (glycolic, mandalic, lactic, etc.) and a gentle retinol product three times a week as an exfoliation program for brighter skin. If skin is prone to redness or breakouts you may want to try an exfoliating acid call Azelaic Acid which treats multiple skin issues without increasing inflammation. You can even use these exfoliants in the summer provided you only exfoliate at night, use adequate sunscreen and keep your skin cool.

Keeping Your Cool??

Yes, it’s been found that heat can trigger pigmentation changes. Heat triggers a memory in the skin that revs up melanin (pigment) production in areas that have previously been affected by hormone changes or the sun. So, if you’re wondering why after being so careful with applying your sunscreen, you may still be getting tanned or uneven spots this could be the answer. Staying cool really helps. If it’s possible, pack up some toner soaked wipes in a ziplock bag and put them in your cooler when heading to the beach. Your spray toner that’s been chilled is a great option as well and can be sprayed right over sunscreen. Stay in the shade, in air conditioning or anywhere where it’s cooler.

Be doubly careful if you have post menopausal skin. Heat plus hormone changes equals pigmentation. Before menopause much of this pigmentation is suppressed because estrogen is a natural anti-inflammatory. Since inflammation is a cause for hyperpigmentation, when estrogen wanes you are more likely to trigger sensitivities and more likely to experience age spots and mottled pigmentation. These spots may have their origins from damage that occurred decades before they actually show up on your skin.

Beyond exfoliation and keeping cool, Vitamin C is one of the most effective tools there is for brightening your skin. Some Vitamin C products are also exfoliators but many of these are too aggressive to be worn during the essential time of day where Vitamin C is most effective. The best time to use your Vitamin C product is in the morning. Vitamin C is not only one of the top, time tested activators for collagen production it is also an effective antioxidant that helps neutralize damaging free radicals from the environment. Plus, Vitamin C is a natural melanin inhibitor with brightening properties that also boosts your sunscreen protection. A gentle, no sting formula that is time released is recommended. Also, the best Vitamin C products don’t use l-ascorbic acid as their choice for Vitamin C. While fresh ascorbic acid is very effective as a brightener, it is also very unstable. If you are using ascorbic acid it has a very short shelf life. After just a few weeks of being bottled your product may have become dominated by pro free radicals that can actually age your skin. Look for a Vitamin C product that uses Vitamin C esters instead. I like magnesium ascorbyl phosphate mixed with a lipid soluble form such as Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. This is a great skin brightening combination which is also very stable.


Many dermatologists. recommend hydroquinone as a skin brightener. While hydroquinone can brighten the skin there are a few reasons not to use it. First of all hydroquinone can cause increased hyperpigmentation by causing a rebound effect after using it for a while. It can be irritating to the skin and has been banned in the E.U. because it contains carcinogens. You may want to try natural botanical brighteners instead.

Licorice Root

Licorice Root contains two ingredients that help with pigmentation: glabridin and liquiritin. Glabridin helps to retrain tyrosinase, an enzyme that produces melanin which leads to pigmentation. Liquiritin helps to break up and remove melanin pigmentation.

In addition to helping with dark spots, licorice can be soothing and help even out your skin tone.

Arbutin Arbutin is a natural form of hydroquinone derived from the bearberry plant. It is a safer and effective alternative to hydroquinone and is less cytotoxic to the your melanocytes (pigment producing cells).

Mulberry Extract

This is a natural but powerful brightening agent derived from the mulberry plant. Mulberry plants have several compounds that have been extracted from both roots and stems with known abilities to block tyrosinase, the enzyme involved in the production of the skin pigment melanin.

Calming the skin.

This is very important. To brighten the skin and deal with unwanted pigmentation changes try eating foods that contain high amounts of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that specifically calms inflammation. Polyphenols address the appearance of age spots, sun spots, and liver spots – the dark spots that give your skin a blotchy, uneven tone, and can make you look much older. Look for superfruits such as Acai Berries, Gogi Fruit, Noni Fruit, Mangosteen, Pomegranate and Coffee Berry. These rank among the most powerful using the natural antioxidant grading system. A concentrated serum of superfruits can be applied topically by itself or over a Vitamin C serum during the day to increase the levels of polyphenols.

Niacinamide (or vitamin B3).

This is one of my favorite ingredients because it has so many positive qualities. It can be used to fade age spots and lighten discolorations. It’s effective because it decreases the amount of melanin that gets transferred from pigment producing cells (melanocytes) to other skin cells by more than half. It doesn’t stop the production of melanin, but it does reduce the amount that is transferred to the skin. What’s more, it is extremely stable and not affected by heat or light like other chemical ingredients. Niacinamide is a very calming ingredient which is often recommended for sensitive and rosacea prone skin. It boosts energy to help with DNA repair and increases microcirculation which is another cause for dullness.

Setting aside dead cells and accumulated pigmentation, other reasons your skin my look dull is poor circulation and lack of skin energy As I just mentioned, niacinamide is a great choice to improve both these issues. Gently dilating tiny blood vessels in the skin will supply the skin with oxygen and nutrients to help cells stay alive and healthy. Stepping up cell metabolism means younger acting cells that look fresh and vital because of the increased ability to repair themselves. Stepping up metabolism means one should include growth factors in your skincare arsenal. Growth factors hold the keys that unlock skin’s ability for increased cellular repair. The reason growth factors work so well is that they can easily pass through cell membranes and have the right combination of molecules that the cell can understand to promote healing and shift into repair mode. When cells function properly they stay ahead of the curve for the unavoidable breakdown that eventually leads to aging skin.

In a nutshell

Let’s circle back to sunscreen. Much of the prevention aspect of reducing dullness in the skin comes from prevention. So protect your skin with sunscreen every day, use Vitamin C daily to arm yourself with strong antioxidants against environmental agers. Lighten pigmentation with botanical brighteners at night and fortify your skin by incorporating the effective metabolism boosters that repair and also keeps inflammation in check. Although some of us are not as easily effected by dullness and pigmentation remember, “An ounce of prevention...”

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