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What are the causes of uneven skin tone? Can you correct it?

What causes uneven skin? Life does.

From the day we are born, our body accumulates changes and scars as we grow up and grow old, but nothing is as visible as this scar or that sunspot on our face.

Our skin changes color in response to the sun, the environment, and stress in general, including the products we apply to our skin.

Skin pigmentation is a very complex process that involves different types of cells that originate in different parts of the embryo, several biochemical reactions, and transport across the cell and between cells.  With so many interconnected processes, it is not surprising that things can go wrong.

In my book, I dedicate a chapter to skin pigmentation so I will not try to condense so much information in a few sentences. But here is what can go wrong:

Most cases of uneven pigmentation have to do with melanin: too much, too little, or the wrong color. A few have to do with other colored substances, including those derived from blood.

What causes dark spots, a.k.a. sun spots, liver spots, age spots? Mostly, UV radiation. You can also get them from strong oxidants, burns, freeze burns (liquid nitrogen), and other deep skin damage. So let’s look at the types of uneven skin pigmentation and what can be done about them.

Sunspots (age spots, senile spots) are light brown, red, or dark brown and are located in areas most often exposed to the sun: hands, face, shoulders, arms and forehead, and the scalp if bald.

Melasma (chloasma) is dark or tan skin discoloration more common in women, especially pregnant women. Genetics, visible light, UV, hormonal changes,  can contribute to this condition.  Dermal-epidermal interactions increase and the disrupted signaling between melanocytes and other skin cells may cause melasma lesions.

Chemical toxicity. Some plants, like lime, lemon, celery, and many others, contain furocoumarins that absorb UV radiation. If you apply a product that contains this chemical to your skin, a chemical chain reaction will start that can severely damage the skin., hyperpigmentation is one of the long-term effects.

Post-inflammatory pigmentation. Acne sufferers are familiar with this problem, in which acne lesions are followed after a while by reddish to brown pigmentation areas.

Some “home remedies” tried by melasma sufferers may also cause hyperpigmentation because heat, laser applications, and peels all lead to stress and inflammation.

Vitiligo. Vitiligo is a condition that causes loss of pigmentation of sections of skin, and it shows as white splotches on the surrounding darker skin. The causes of vitiligo are not well understood, but autoimmune mechanisms, oxidative stress, and viruses may contribute. At present, there are no effective treatments for vitiligo.

Blood-derived pigments

When you bruise your skin, you will see many colors. Bilirubin, the yellow degradation product of hemoglobin that you see in the bruises, is a pigment that contributes to skin color. The complete degradation sequence of hemoglobin includes the pigments biliverdin, bilirubin, and hemosiderin.

Actives that can help

Actives like quercetin and fisetin seem to help tissues remove old and sick cells that “refuse” to die; they are called senolytics. Apocynin and ROS* terminator will help maintain the dermal-epidermal junction. Apocynin promotes the synthesis of a COL17A1 crucial for the anchoring of newly formed stem cells, and its end effect will be to accelerate healing, delay aging, and promote skin health. There are many inhibitors of melanin synthesis and accumulation, and you can use them together.

Protect the delicate capillaries that may break and cause bruises, especially if you are taking anticoagulants.

Please remember that “fast and furious” chemicals like hydroquinone could make things worse, especially for darker skin.

Products that can help

Skin brightening cream

UV Repair cream

Capillary Health Cream


Claims on this page have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

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