Why Do Dark Spots Get Darker Before They Get Lighter?
You’ve been faithfully sticking to your brightening regimen, and yet, the excess pigment you’re targeting appears to be getting darker rather than lighter. What’s going on? Don’t panic. It’s a natural phenomenon of the brightening process. You’ve heard the phrase “darkest before the dawn.” It’s kind of like that. We like to call it, the “worse before better” paradox of skin care. We’ll explain.
There are more triggers for pigment production than there are pathways for its elimination. Over time, this leads to an accumulation of melanin in the skin that appears as dark spots or patches on the surface.
What triggers hyperpigmentation and dark spots?
Any trauma to the skin, including UV and chemical exposure, heat, cuts, bruises, irritation, hair removal, and acne, can cause the inflammation that triggers the skin’s protective melanin response (hyperpigmentation).
Hormones or genetics are the main triggers for the patches of discoloration known as melasma.
In dark skin tones, the greater concentration of melanin in the skin means hyperpigmentation is more common and takes longer to fade.
How does the skin’s protective melanin response turn into dark spots?
Pigment production begins in the deeper layers of the skin and naturally rises to the surface where it concentrates in dark spots. The skin is constantly regenerating, which means the pigmented cells will naturally slough off. However, pigment tends to form faster than it is shed away and the long it’s left untreated, the more deeply rooted it becomes.
Can treatment make dark spots temporarily darker?
Yes. Active treatment accelerates cell turnover, pulling pigmented cells to the surface at a faster rate. This increases the concentration of melanin in the epidermis, which can create a temporary darkening of the spots.
The darkening means the pigment is coming up and is ready to be shed away. You might be tempted at this point to over-exfoliate in an attempt to speed up the process even more. Don’t. Harsh chemicals or excessive scrubbing can create irritation, which will trigger more inflammation and catalyze a melanin response.
An optimal treatment regimen is one that includes ingredients to inhibit melanin production and transfer along with ingredients that accelerate melanin dispersal.
Essential Skin Brightening Ingredients
- Niacinamide is a key ingredient in treating hyperpigmentation. It blocks melanin from reaching the surface of the skin and prevents additional UV damage.
- As both micro-exfoliator and melanin-inhibitor, Mandelic acid targets dark spots at the cellular and surface level.
- Hydroquinone breaks up melanin cells to prevent pigment formation and disperse existing pigment.
- Vitamin A is potent antioxidant and cellular regenerator that promotes even tone by interrupting melanin triggers and speeding cell turnover.
- Certain acids—mandelic acid, glycolic acid, and citric (vitamin C)—provide both melanin-inhibition and exfoliation. These ingredients will prevent pigment from forming and fade existing dark spots, making them key players in your brightening regimen.
Some gentle physical exfoliation in the form of a mild scrub will boost help to lift dead skin cells. Vivant’s Mandelic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser is an excellent choice for its melanin-inhibiting, non-irritating properties combined with smooth, biodegradable microbeads.
Additionally, we recommend a peel every four to six weeks. Vivant’s 20% Glycolic Acid Solution is an excellent way to accelerate your results. For dark tones or skin too sensitive for glycolic acid, try Vivant’s 30% Mandelic Acid Solution. Both are in-office rapid radiance peels that can be done by your esthetician. To find a Vivant Skin Care Specialist in your area, click here.
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