Brightening is one of our most requested goals at Heyday. From how to even out sun damage to lightening vestiges of past breakout activity, knowing where to start and what to expect in the process can be confusing. Our Skin Therapists know the in’s and outs of how to get you to a more even-toned complexion. To understand how we can glow a little brighter, let's tackle your questions on evening-out stubborn pigmentation and discoloration.
Spoiler alert: Patience and trusting the process is a big part of this long-term goal.
What exactly is pigmentation? Where does it come from?
Pigmentation refers to how much melanin is in your skin, which is determined by your genetic makeup. The expression of your skin’s pigment may vary through life as you are exposed to sunlight, go through hormonal changes, or experience skin trauma (i.e., don't pop zits, those are mini-traumas!). We refer to the darkening of the skin and the production of more melanin as “hyperpigmentation.” (Remember back to Latin class, hyper- meaning more of. When the skin experiences a loss of melanin, it’s referred to as “hypopigmentation,” which is rarer and is most commonly triggered by skin injury and genetic-related conditions.)
As hyperpigmentation can settle in a disorderly spotty fashion, it's a common request in facials to brighten the tonal irregularities.
So you’re saying that pigmentation can change?!
Yes, when seeing changes in your skin’s pigmentation, it’s important to understand where it’s coming from. The three main causes are sun damage, past breakout activity, and hormonal changes (such as melasma). We can break those down more in a bit.
Okay, so how does my skin produce more pigment?
There is one responsible party: meet your “melanocyte”, the actual cell responsible for producing our pigment. It's a sensitive little guy with a tendency to panic when exposed to extreme or distressing experiences.
As we make our way through life, it's common to see new pigment settling with each passing year. Sun-drenched beach days (or really, the everyday) where we forget to reapply sunscreen can leave our skin susceptible. Pigment deposited in response to the inflammation (in actuality, your skin defending you from the sun) will remain deep down for years until slowly rising up to settle at your skin’s surface.
What does hyperpigmentation look like to me versus a professional?
Picture an iceberg. At the surface, we see a portion of what exists, but the majority still lies beneath the surface. Same goes for your skin’s hyperpigmentation. Depending on its cause, hyperpigmentation will live in varying depths of the skin. Only your Skin Therapist using a special tool called a Wood’s Lamp can determine the amount and depth of your pigmentation. “The Wood’s Lamp is amazing because you can give clients a view of their skin that they wouldn’t be able to get in any other context,” our Skin Therapist, Jenna W. says.
Okay, now let’s talk about those three causes you mentioned. I’ve seen a lot of sun in years past is there a way to prevent deep sun damage pigment from rising up?
Deeper hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage and hormonal activity lives deep and will take the most time and patience to lighten. So really, it works in our favor that pigmentation takes years to rise up. That gives us time to get to work!
We stress using skincare products rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients to prevent past damage from showing itself on the surface of your skin. In professional terms, these ingredients are called “tyrosinase inhibitors.” The enzyme tyrosinase is responsible for preparing the pigment to be transported and dispersed through the skin. Jenna W. recommends looking for products loaded with licorice root, bearberry, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), or kojic acid. Our favorites products to prevent sun damage pigmentation include Antioxidant Facial Oil feat. Rosehip & Camellia Seed from Grown Alchemist and Kantic Calming Cream from Alchimie Forever.
What about the pigmented marks left behind from my breakouts?
We refer to this as “post-inflammatory pigmentation," or PIP. The inflammation here is from adult breakouts and trauma from popping. Letting your breakout heal on its own (or even to naturally “pop” in a hot shower) versus picking at it guarantees the least amount of pigment to follow. Think of healing your breakout as you would any other healing wound on the body. We surely avoid picking and prodding at open or scabbed bodily injuries, so why is the face commonly an exception? This interrupts the body’s healing ability and makes it feel like it's under attack, producing pigment as a line of defense. So, less picking = less pigment.
We do have good news though! Unlike sun damage and hormonal pigmentation, post-inflammatory pigmentation from breakouts lives towards the surface of the skin, making it easier to treat with the right professional exfoliation and brightening products and see results quicker.
So for the hyperpigmentation, I can already see, what do I do about it?
The best way to get started is to encourage those pigmented skin cells to shed. Cell turnover is super fast and efficient during our younger years, but as we age, this process slows and we are left with cells that are looking to hang around much longer, overstaying their welcome. We can speed up the turnover cycle of pigmented cells through proper exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation, in particular,(using fruit enzymes or acids) is your FastPass to brightening. They work on a deeper level than any physical exfoliating 'scrub' (we're not fans of that word; see: over-scrubbing), traveling down through our skin’s layers to get things moving. Our favorite is the Sweet Cherry Enzyme Brightening Peel from Naturopathica. Most chemical exfoliants can be used once a week (or as directed by your Skin Therapist) and may tingle a bit when on the skin.
I’m committed to this! Anything else I can do?
To speed up your results, add a brightening serum to your nightly routine. A serum’s small molecular size will deliver active ingredients to deeper layers of your skin and get you brighter, faster. We love the Pigment Lightening Serum from Alchimie Forever and Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum from Ursa Major. Use either nightly to supercharge the skin’s natural repairing process that takes place while we sleep.
How about in my facial? What are the professional treatments I should ask about?
Your Skin Therapist will perform a skin analysis and go over what the most effective method is for brightening your type of hyperpigmentation. Our most productive tools for brightening include professional peels and microdermabrasion.
Okay, realistically, how long will it take to see results?
The trick to successful brightening is consistency. Don’t expect magic in one week, and don’t give up on your brightening products prematurely! Give your skin at least 3-4 months to complete several rounds of cell turnover before seeing a noticeable change. If you’re doing your homework and using your brightening products as directed, the pigmentation will slowly fade and lighten. As always, be sure to apply your broad-spectrum sunscreen diligently.
Show this pigmentation who’s boss, your future looks very bright!