It’s true, a few delicate freckles or a well placed beauty spot can have a certain charm, but some pigmentation blemishes aren’t so welcome – particularly liver spots. They’re associated with aging and get in the way of that perfect complexion we all want, to the point where we’re willing to do anything to get rid of them. But, before buying the first lightening cream you come across, take some time to understand why and how these spots appear. How can you prevent them ? What should you (and shouldn’t you !) do to the ones you’ve already got ?
A common enemy
Blemishes in pigmentation don’t just affect mature skin, all skin types are vulnerable to localized zones of hyperpigmentation – particularly light or olive skin.
Sometimes these blemishes are caused by genetics e.g. freckles on light skin, birthmarks or beauty spots. Others are linked to changes in your hormones such as the so called “pregnancy mask” (aka. melasma or chloasma). When spots, injuries or eczema heal, it can cause post-inflammation accumulations of melanin in olive skin. These marks fade over time but won’t ever completely disappear.
All of these types of blemishes are made worse by UV rays, whereas others are actually caused by the sun itself. Products that make the skin sensitive to sun exposure can also cause irreversible blemishes e.g. contraceptives and hormonal treatments, medicines, perfumes, cosmetics etc.
Finally, blemishes caused by aging such as liver spots. They are permanent and it’s possible for them to appear before the menopause or even before the age of 30 in pale skin or skin that is exposed to the sun a lot. They are generally found on the parts of the body that are most exposed to the sun – the face, hands, chest, arms – and they become more prominent and impossible to avoid with age. This happens because melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, reduce in number and effectiveness as you get older and become less well distributed, causing irregular pigmentation. It can also be caused by repeated and intense sun exposure – our natural defence system against UV rays ages prematurely if used too often.
They can be prevented or slowed down !
Depending on the nature of your blemishes, it can be very difficult or even impossible to get rid of them. However, some are not genetic, are avoidable or can at least be slowed down.
Our first piece of advice, is of course to always take great care in the sun : limit your sun exposure and use rigorous UV protection that’s suitable for your skin. Pregnant women should be twice as careful and if you have to have a medicine or treatment that makes you more sensitive to sunlight, stop all direct exposure to UV rays and reinforce your sun protection, even in the shade.
To avoid blemishes that are caused by inflammation, use targeted products to take care of any scars that are less than 6 months old as the skin there is more fragile and exposed. Be careful with scratches or bites even if you think they won’t scar and most of all take care of any acne. You musn’t scratch, fiddle with or pop any spots as this could cause inflammation that later causes scarring.
You can also prevent blemishes by using the right kind of skin products and looking after your skin properly. Don’t use essential oils (citrus, celery, angelica, verbena etc.) or macerate of St John’s wort too often as they make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. Harsh cleansers, exfoliating too often or using products that aren’t suitable for your skin type can also cause or worsen imperfections.
Now is a great opportunity to remind you of an incredibly important part of keeping your skin healthy and beautiful : gentleness. The foundation for slowing down the appearance of unwanted blemishes is a daily deep and gentle cleansing + moisturizing. When your skin is healthy and strong, it can better defend itself. The best thing you can do for your skin is use products that are rich in essential fatty acids and made from antioxidizing plant-based oils and butters which slow down the aging of skin cells and have a light anti-UV effect e.g. Argan, sesame or grape seed oils. Depending on the specific needs of YOUR skin, try our moisturizers Glow Up or Whole Again which both have anti oxidizing properties.
The process of hyperpigmentation is already well underway before the blemishes are visible to the naked eye. Once you turn 30, it’s a good idea to start using an anti-aging cream, like our Age Out, especially if you have light skin.
Of course, having a generally healthy lifestyle is also good for your skin : stop smoking as this speeds up the skin’s aging process by producing free radicals, eat foods that are rich in vitamins A, E and D (citrus fruits, kiwis, grapes, green vegetables, carrots, grains, dairy products, fatty fish, soya etc.). In short, team up with your skin !
Already got blemishes ? Here’s what not to do
The market for products meant for pigmentation blemishes has exploded, but many have unwanted and even dangerous side effects.
Don’t try lightening creams that are sold on the web that are banned in your country as they aim to lighten blemishes by using exfoliation and depigmentation. Obviously, the most effective ones are the most dangerous either made from hydroquinone (risk of skin cancer and reduced male fertility) or mercury salts which are incredibly toxic for the body.
Authorized conventional products are generally made from synthetic ascorbic acid which is cheap and easy to preserve. They are made from genetically modified bacteria, often contain heavy metals and are not very effective as it’s difficult for the body to use them. Another product used in these creams is EDTA : a preservative that slows down the production of melanin, and that is an irritant, toxic and polluting.
For very profound and irritating blemishes, always consult a dermatologist who will be able to recommend treatments with cortisone, laser treatment or cryotherapy. These treatments are also not without potential side effects of their own : burns, aggravating hyperpigmentation, irregular depigmentation, fragile skin, hair growth, spots etc. To get rid of ordinary blemishes that everyone has, are these risks really worth it ? Have a look at the treasures that nature can offer you in products that are gentle on the skin.
Natural active ingredients at the forefront of anti-blemish action
Several natural ingredients from plant-based origin have lightening and regulating effects on melanin. When used whilst combined with other natural ingredients, they are even more effective without being dangerous for our skin or health.
To reduce the appearance of irregular pigmentation, it’s essential to act simultaneously on several different fronts. Regulate melanin production with active ingredients that inhibit tyrosinase, the enzyme that produces melanin. We especially recommend licorice or pracachy plant-based oil – very moisturizing and healing – and natural vitamin C ascorbic acid. Aqueous extracts of citrus fruits (lemons), red fruits (blackcurrant, raspberry, blackberry) and cress vegetable oils are particularly useful as they are equally antioxidizing and lightening.
To help your blemishes fade, you need to unify your complexion. Sea buckthorn plant-based oil or essential helichrysum oil reduce the appearance of marks and can repair mature or damaged skin. Narcissus poeticus extract lightens, unifies and gives skin back its glow.
To avoid post-inflammatory blemishes, essential Lavender oil and musk rose, pomegranate and andiroba plant oils aid healing. Calendula, flax and macadamia restructure and reduce the appearance of existing scars.
Finally, to fight against cell oxidation (which is often responsible for irregular pigmentation) and to help cell renewal, you need active ingredients that are rich in antioxidizing vitamin E (Argan, borage, green coffee, green tea or Baobab plant oils) and vitamin A (essential pathcouli or rose geranium oils). Certain oils are more protective against UV rays e.g. coconut, macadamia and roucou. Aqueous extract of olive leaf, rich in flavonoids is a powerful antioxidant doubled with a powerful antibacterial action so it helps to prevent skin imperfections.
Look for these powerful active ingredients in products, ideally a serum, that are specifically labelled as anti-blemish.
Your anti-blemish routine
Once blemishes have appeared, you need to act deeply and effectively. This is exactly what an anti-blemish serum does, an intensive product, very concentrated in active ingredients that is more powerful and targeted than a cream. Apply it by dabbing it in with the tips of your fingers, without rubbing, on skin that has been gently cleansed. Obviously, you should choose the most natural product possible free of undesirable ingredients, and use it all year round, not just during summer. Serums are very fluid and aren’t supposed to replace your moisturizer so once it’s soaked in, apply your regular cream.
If you want to hide your blemishes with makeup, choose your products carefully. We recommend mineral makeup that’s free of mineral oils applied lightly so as to not suffocate your skin. Apply your concealer sparingly to your blemishes by tapping it lightly into the area. Be careful, this is a delicate exercise that can quickly turn into a complexion that doesn’t look natural or blemishes that are even more visible.
Obviously, once blemishes have appeared, be even more rigorous with your sun protection. Age spots are your body sending you a message : “Stop ! you’ve had too much sun !”. Limit your sun exposure as much as possible, make sure you wear a sunhat, don’t forget your parasol and choose a mineral suncream that doesn’t contain nanoparticles with an SPF of at least 50 (without forgetting the backs of your hands). Be careful, even in overcast weather, and all year long : a little bit of winter sun can ruin months of effort. Finally, remember that cosmetics are not magic : your blemishes can fade but they won’t disappear completely… learning to accept them is just as important as the other steps 😉
This post is also available in french.