How Vitamin C Can Naturally Combat Hyperpigmentation
How Vitamin C Naturally Combats Hyperpigmentation
— Nat guides us through the types of hyperpigmentation and why winter is a good time to address these concerns, exploring Vitamin C as a natural treatment alternative
✎ Natalie Earles
Naturopath BHsc. /
Hyperpigmentation is a common skin concern that will affect most people at some point in their life regardless of age, skin type or colouration. Vitamin C is natural topical treatment that may help to interrupt the skin discolouration process by reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is a term often used to describe a harmless skin condition where patches of your skin appear darker than normal. This process is caused by hypermelanosis - an excess production of melanin, produced by melanocytes in the skin melanin is a naturally forming brown skin pigment that darkens our skin based on sun expose. In some cases, the normal melanin production is disrupted which can lead to excess deposits in certain areas leading to hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation often falls in four different categories, each having different triggers however resulting in the same excess production of melanin.
The Four Types of Hyperpigmentation
Focal hypermelanosis or freckles is most commonly linked to sun exposure and genetics. Freckles are excess melanin deposits in the skin.
Age or sun spots is an outcome of prolonged sun exposure that can initiate the formation of hyperpigmentation. UV exposure is a stressor to the skin and accelerates ageing of skin cells including ‘melanocytes’ that produce melanin.
Endocrine hypermelanosis or Melasma – this form of hyperpigmentation is caused by changes in the hormones, it is most commonly seen in pregnancy. An increase in hormones induces the release of melanocyte-stimulating hormones leading to excess skin pigmentation. This can also be seen in other hormonal conditions such as thyroid and endocrine disorders and has been associated with the use of hormonal birth control methods such as the oral contraceptive pill.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is formed as a result of trauma, our bodies protective mechanisms kick in and create a localised inflammation to protect us. This inflammation combined with a genetic predisposition towards pigmentation and UV exposure during the healing process can lead to hyperpigmentation. Trauma such as acne, abrasions, burns, eczema or dermatitis and allergic reactions are common in this type of hyperpigmentation.
Can you reduce hyperpigmentation?
Whilst some of us are more genetically likely to develop hyperpigmentation than others there are simple steps you can take to reduce the extent of hyperpigmentation.
The darkened patches of skin are caused by the same pigment that gives your skin a lovely sun kissed tan so it’s important to manage your sun exposure. Apply skin protection daily and avoid sun exposure where possible. If you are missing the sun-kissed look you can use you can look to natural self-tanning products such Eco Tan – Invisible tan. Include natural pigment busting skin serums containing Vitamin C into your evening skin care regime.
The power of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and its topical use been researched to have many benefits on the skin including promoting collagen synthesis, photoprotection from the harmful ultraviolet A & B rays, improvement in inflammatory skin issues and lightening pigmentation.
Unlike some conventional treatments for hyperpigmentation that are toxic to melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin), Vitamin C works by interrupting the stages of melanin formation. It inhibits the action of the enzyme tyrosinase, which decreases melanin formation - this is one of the ways in which it may assist to reduce hyperpigmentation.
In some small clinic trials the topical application of Vitamin C has been shown to decreases signs of photoaging , melasma and sun damage related pigmentation. Compared with conventional treatments such as skin-bleaching treatments like Hydroquinone creams Vitamin C still shows good results and a significantly lower risk side effects – making it a great natural and safe alternative in managing hyperpigmentation.
How and when to use Vitamin C
The best time to use Vitamin C topically is away from sun exposure, which makes winter a great time to start to implement this into your daily skin routine as there is less sun exposure. UV exposure from sun light can also deplete up two thirds of you skins Vitamin C stores, whilst oral ingestion of foods rich in Vitamin C may be helpful , topical application is the best way to make sure Vitamin C replenishes rapidly in the skins stores.
Vitamin C is a very unstable compound and can oxidise easily when exposed to light, for this reason serums are often the most active form of Vitamin C topically, always ensure your product comes in an amber bottle or container that blocks out the suns light to avoid damage to the product before application. To get the most out of your serum apply in the evenings.