In a recent episode I discussed natural remedies that don’t work. Like garlic!
To reassure viewers that I have no bias against natural ingredients, I want to mention that I actually have a deep interest and belief in natural ingredients, ranging from herbs to essential oils, and often integrate them into my patients’ care. For example, natural ingredients can help with the treatment of hyperpigmentation. So to put my money where my mouth is, today I’ll tell you about some natural ingredients that not only work, but that work really well to treat hyperpigmentation.
Let’s start with Kojic acid, which is produced by a special fungus. Kojic binds copper, which then interferes with the enzyme tyrosinase. Since tyrosinase is critical to the production of melanin, the pigment that causes hyperpigmentation, Kojic acid reduces new melanin production and thereby decreases hyperpigmentation. Kojic can be combined with glycolic – another naturally derived ingredient – to increase the penetration of the kojic acid and is available, for example, in La Roche-Posay’s Mela-D Pigment control. And by the way, this combination has been shown to be as effective as a product with hydroquinone and glycolic. I find that to be really neat since hydroquinone has been the traditional gold standard amongst drugs for hyperpigmentation. Can you imagine? A natural ingredient working just as well as the gold standard drug?
Licorice extract, another natural ingredient, comes from the root of the glycyrrhiza glabra plant. The chemical liquitin is a component of licorice, which like Kojic acid, inhibits the tyrosinase enzyme and is also a good pigment lightener. Licorice extract is available in “The Body Shop’s Moisture White Shiso Cream” and also in “Lancome’s Bright Expert Dark Spot Corrector”.
Soy... contains a bunch of skin active ingredients including one that reduces hyperpigmentation, but through a mechanism very different from Kojic and Licorice. Soy doesn’t stop the production of melanin. But it does prevent the formed melanin from being transferred to the overlying skin cells whose accumulation of excess melanin is responsible for hyperpigmentation. I won’t bore you with the complex chemistry here but soy works well to reduce hyperpigmentation. It’s available in “Aveeno's Active Naturals Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer” and “Neutragena's Visibly Even Daily Moisturizer”. Unfortunately, no, you can’t just rub soy beans on your face because they need to be processed.
And last, my favorite natural hyperpigmentation buster… My old friend… Vitamin C! While you’re probably used to hearing of Vitamin C as a great antioxidant, it’s also a copper grabbing tyrosinase inhibitor so it’s also an effective hyperpigmentation treatment. Just remember to look for the ester form of Vitamin C with the tongue twisting name tetra hexyl decyl ascorbate… it’s more stable than regular Vitamin C and works better. Two Vitamin C containing products are Garnier's Skin Renew Clinical Dark Spot Corrector and Shiseido's White Lucent Intensive Spot Serum.
All of the natural ingredients I mentioned have been shown to be effective, and I never argue with success.