Updated: Apr 5, 2021
We’ve talked about exfoliation. You cannot moisturize away dead dull skin. Dead skin looks flaky, dull, and lifeless, even when you moisturize often.
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 (that’s glycolic,mandelic, lactic, etc.) and a retinol product three times a week as an exfoliation program for brighter skin. You can even use these exfoliants in the summer provided you only exfoliate at night, use adequate sunscreen and keep your skin cool.
Keep 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 browned 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. 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. Inflammation being 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 for brightening your skin. Some Vitamin C products are also exfoliators but many of these are too aggressive to be worn at 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 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 there choice of Vitamin C. While fresh ascorbic acid is very effective it is also very unstable. If you are using ascorbic acid it has a very short shelf life. After just a few weeks 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 which is a more stable choice.
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.
It contains two ingredients that help with pigmentation: glabridin and liquiritin. Glabridin which helps to retrain tyrosinase, an enzyme that produces melanin which leads to pigmentation. And, Liquiritin which 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 a skin pigment called melanin.
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 after damage has occurred. 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 the cell can understand to promote healing and repair. When cells function properly they can stay ahead of unavoidable breakdown that eventually leads to aging skin.
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...”