Preventing Hyperpigmentation

At the first skin care trade show I went to after becoming an esthetician (mid­90s – looong time ago!) I distinctly remember getting super excited about a new Vitamin C product. My skin looked brighter, felt smoother and was overall more radiant. So began my love affair with Vitamin C! It has remained one of my favorite ingredients to use on my skin and it’s a top recommendation for most of my clients – as it addresses so many skin issues. Hands down I get the most positive feedback from clients who start incorporating a Vitamin C product into their regimen.

With the main topic of this newsletter being about hyperpigmentation, I thought I’d talk a little bit about how to support those of you grappling with this issue through the use of antioxidants. We all know that antioxidants are good for the skin, but you may be wondering why and what is an antioxidant? There are these things called free radicals in your body which are unstable molecules that attack healthy skin cells causing oxidation, which in turn causes damage to your body’s organs (remember the skin is your largest organ). Antioxidants prevent or slow down this cell damage by neutralizing free radicals. They are fantastic healers, which can be found in vitamins, and minerals contained in healthy, whole foods and in topical skin care products. Vitamins C & E, ergothioneine and zinc are just a few of the many super antioxidants that help to heal and protect our skin. Vitamin C protects skin from oxidative stress caused by UV light, and when combined with Vitamin E their power is increased by four times making them a dynamic duo in preventing sun damage. 

Vitamin C is also a tyrosinase inhibitor, decreasing melanin formation (dark spots and patches). Since sunscreen only blocks 55% of free radicals produced by UV exposure, Vitamin C is a MUST in your arsenal for sun protection. Unfortunately ingested Vitamin C is eliminated before getting to the skin, so for the skin to benefit from this ingredient it must be applied topically. Ergothioneine is an energizing antioxidant (found in mushrooms) with anti­-inflammatory benefits, brightening the skin and interrupts the aging process aggravated by sugar and alcohol. Zinc is a key part of our skin’s defense system, affecting every skin condition: acne, hyperpigmentation and aging. This soothing and anti­microbial mineral applied topically not only provides you with excellent sun protection (our Lira Solar Shield contains 18%!!) it’s also healing.

You can find these powerful antioxidants in the following products at Skin City: Triple C&E, Lira Bio Hydra C, Antioxidant Defense Complex (contains 18 antioxidants!), Lira C4 Retinol, all sunscreens, Lira’s Solar Shield being our esthetician’s favorite. Ask your esthetician to recommend the best one(s) for your skin.

Nutritional sources of these vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C: leafy greens, citrus fruits, strawberries, papaya and broccoli Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, chard, asparagus and avocados Ergothioneine: mushrooms Zinc: oysters, crab, lobster, chicken, lean beef, beans and chickpeas.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

by Brigitta Melendy

Hyperpigmentation is a common challenge that Skin City clients are concerned with.  One question we get frequently is “How did I get these brown spots on my face”?  Of course there are a variety of factors that come into play here – hormones, acne, overall health, stress levels, sun exposure, medications, all of which create free radicals.  Free radicals attack the DNA of each and every cell in our skin.  The best antidote for fighting free radicals is ingesting and applying antioxidants topically (see ESTY chat for more on antioxidants). Regardless of age, skin condition or ethnicity, free radicals underlie every skin problem, from wrinkles, loss of firmness, and age spots to surface dryness, dehydration, redness and acne flare-ups.  Therefore, everyone needs protection from free radicals. For me to truly understand ‘how’ to correct an issue, it is important to know ‘how and why’ the issue occurred.

Here is a breakdown of the process of hyperpigmentation:

The epidermis (outer skin layer) is primarily made up of skin cells which create a protective layer. Approximately every eighth cell is a melanocyte. Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin – an action that occurs in the deeper layers of the skin. This is a natural and necessary process as pigments give us skin color and also provides a unique defense system against UV radiation.

Let’s further break down the pigmentation process:

  1. First a trigger (such as UV exposure) sends a signal to melanocyte-stimulating hormones that the skin is in need of protection. This activates the enzyme tyrosine.
  2.  After tyrosine is signaled, the melanocyte cell receives a message to produce pigmentation (melanin).
  3. As excess melanin is produced, and dispersing of these pigments is interrupted, hyperpigmentation forms. This creates deposits of color that stay indefinitely unless treated.


Luckily there are a number of ingredients that help support the skin and control hyperpigmentation. These include:

  • Retinols – a form of vitamin A that is available in different percentages depending on levels of intensity.  ‘Breaks-up’ pigment to prevent solid patches of hyperpigmentation
  • Bellis perennis flower (daisy flower) – a gentle, natural brightener derived from daisies.
  • Arbutin (L) – a natural plant-based derivative of hydroquinone (HQ) with tyrosinase abilities. This is a great alternative for those with sensitivities to hydroquinone.
  • Kojic acid – derived from Japanese mushrooms, it works to effectively inhibit melanin synthesis.
  • Lactic acid (L) – this AHA has natural brightening abilities, works to smooth skin and improve texture.
  • Azelaic acid – a grain- and yeast-derived compound, it helps normalize disordered cell growth, provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support, and helps effectively treat acne-related post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
  • SUNBLOCK, SUNBLOCK, SUNBLOCK!!! – I cannot emphasize how important a PHYSICAL block is.  A PHYSICAL block is mineral based (not chemical) and provides full spectrum protection.  Full spectrum means it blocks out both UVA and UVB rays.  The best ingredient is 10%+ Zinc or Zinc Oxide.  Pay attention to the percentage of Zinc in your SPF product.


Supporting the skin’s overall health is essential. The goal is to maintain optimum health, or restore it to optimum health so it may properly control pigmentation.  A truly comprehensive skin care strategy, especially one focusing on aging skin, should combine antioxidants to attack free radicals directly.