By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
We know them by a variety of names: sunspots, livers spots and – that most offensive term of all – age spots. Those nasty little discolorations that somehow mysteriously appear on our face, hands, shoulders and arms seem to mar our otherwise porcelain-like complexions and are the bane of more than half the world’s female population.
And no matter how much you try to cover them up with foundation makeup and BB creams, pile on skin lightening ointments, and avoid the sun, the spots just seem to keep coming back.
In fact, hyperpigmentation – the medical term for referring to sunspots – is the Number One skincare concern for women in Mexico, right after acne, according to dermatologist Lidia Elena Bernal, who spoke at a conference organized by the transnational skincare giant Garnier to introduce its new line of SkinActive Express Aclara, a four-product collection that helps to reduce the appearance of sun spots in as little as one week.
“Women with slightly darker skins, such as those in Mexico, are more prone to getting sunspots,” Bernal said.
“And there are a number of factors that can contribute to them, starting with exposure to the sun’s UV waves.”
According to the Mexican Academy of Dermatology (AMD), about 54 percent of people in Mexico suffer from hyperpigmentation, and while men are not usually as concerned about these flaws on their complexions as women, the condition is as common in males as females.
Bernal went on to say that while skin discolorations usually appear in people over age 35 or 40, the root cause is generally over-exposure to the sun during childhood years.
“A lot of people don’t bother to use sunscreen until they start having skin discoloration issues,” she said, “but 70 percent of our exposure to solar ultraviolent rays takes place during the first 18 years of life, so while the spots are sometimes called age spots, they are really the consequence of overexposure to the sun in our earlier years. They just don’t show up until later in life, when they take their toll.”
That is why it is particularly important to use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day.
“It doesn’t do any good to try to remove the spots if you don’t use a sunscreen because the spots have a biologic memory and will come back if your skin is exposed to the sun,” Bernal said.
But while the sun is the primary cause of hyperpigmentation, hormonal changes (mainly in women), irritation such as acne breakouts, stress and the use of certain pharmaceuticals can also lead to skin discoloration.
“Regardless of your ethnic background or skin color, eventually most of us will struggle with some kind of brown or ashen pigmentation problem,” Bernal said. “Skin will appear darker than normal in concentrated areas, or you may notice blotchy, uneven patches of brown to gray discoloration or freckling.”
Treating hyperpigmentation is not easy, since the discoloration is usually the result of an overproduction of melanin, the pigment in skin produced in the deeper dermal layers of the skin.
Melanin production can be triggered by the sun’s ultraviolent rays, and that is why you tan when you are exposed to a lot of sunshine.
But once the body gets used to producing a certain amount of melanin, it will continue to do so even after the excessive sun exposure is eliminated.
“That is why even if you avoid the sun, the spots keep coming back,” Bernal explained.
Notwithstanding, vitamin C has been shown to fade the appearance of sunspots significantly.
This natural antioxidant has a number of benefits when to comes to your skin.
Topical L-ascorbic acid protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays, while promoting collagen production, and it has been found to effectively lighten dark spots.
But most vitamin C products are instable, meaning that the vitamin degrades and becomes ineffective over time.
Fortunately, the new all-natural Express Aclara collection from Garnier is produced with a special patented stabilized vitamin C with lemon that does not degrade.
The range — which includes a Express Aclara facial cleansing cream that tones and purifies, while also gently removing blackheads and excess oil: a three-in-one micellar water that removes makeup, tones and clarifies skin; a nourishing hydrating cream with hyaluronic acids and symwhites (a brightening ingredient derived from scotch pine bark) that reduces the appearance of sunspots in just seven days; and a cloth facial mask that lightens complexions by a full skin tone in just 15 minutes.
Like all Garnier products, the Express Aclara line is made from all natural ingredients and are not harmful to the environment.