Hyperpigmentation, dark spots, melasma–whatever you name your particular pigmentation concern, there are ways to approach treatment and brightening safely and gently, from the inside and outside. Here’s how an aesthetician with training in Nutritional Aesthetics™ might approach a consultation and treatment for two clients who have different hyperpigmentation issues:

Client #1: Fitzpatrick 2, sensitive, fair, experiencing hyperpigmentation around hairline/temples

Client #1: Help. I’m used to dealing with my sensitive skin that reacts with redness and dry flaky patches to anything topical that it doesn’t like. Most often I’m able to resolve my bouts of redness and irritation with a ‘less is more’ approach or using a gentler, hydrating product more often. This approach doesn’t seem to be working to get rid of this little band of stubborn and rapidly advancing brown patches here around my hairline and temples. What do I try next?

Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner™: What you’re describing is all too common, and can become increasingly apparent with lighter skin types. We call those brown patches hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation can result from changing hormones, sun damage, acne, injuries, and even a change in the skin’s microbiome. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation are brownish-red spots that stick around after acne lesions have healed. The brown spots on your hairline and temples are likely due to sun damage. There are several ways we can address your concern. A gentle exfoliation combined with brightening serum will likely yield the best results for your sensitive skin. Fruit enzymes naturally digest the bonds that hold dead skin cells together. Using fruit enzymes is an option that is certainly active, but much less aggressive than say, microdermabrasion or peels containing alpha-beta-hydroxy acids such as  glycolic or salicylic. I recommend a series of treatments with fruit enzymes, like pineapple, papaya, or pumpkin; because your skin is reactive, a skin patch test is necessary to determine the appropriate strength with the least amount of irritation. Perhaps a night serum with kojic acid would be best to lighten the brown spots; that option is safer than hydroquinone, a common skin lightener. Used consistently every evening, you may start to see your spots fading in four weeks or less. Also, a diet rich in sun protective nutrients like beta carotene, omega-3s, and lycopene can help increase your skin’s resilience to sun damage going forward.


Client #2: Fitz 4-5, post-pregnancy melasma

Client #2: I’m hoping you can recommend a product that will get rid of the dark, blotchy patches on my face, mostly on my nose, cheeks and forehead. They started appearing while I was pregnant, but now I’m 8 months postpartum and can’t get rid of them! I asked my doctor about it and he told me it’s melasma, and that it could go away. I think the patches are slightly lighter than they were, but I’m just not happy having to cover them up all the time. And I’m too busy to apply makeup every day. What can I do to get my old skin back?

Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner™: I certainly understand your concern, and trust me, you’re not alone! What you’re describing definitely sounds like melasma, and is so common among women your age. I’d love for you to consult with a health coach or integrative healthcare professional, because there’s a lot you can do with your diet and supplementation to address the causes of melasma from within, but in the meantime, focus on strengthening your skin on the outside. It’s really common for women with melasma to want to scrub it off with exfoliants–and certain aestheticians use harsh acids or skin lightening ingredients like hydroquinone to address it–but what I’ve found is that this can actually have the opposite effect on the skin. Melasma happens as part of the skin’s defense system, so what we’ll do today is a basic facial with calming products. I’ll do gentle acupressure to stimulate and try to release areas of lymphatic or energetic stagnation; and the only exfoliation we’ll do is a gentle enzyme mask. I’ll apply a treatment serum containing natural ingredients that are known to help even out the skin tone and strengthen the skin, like green tea, sea buckthorn and tamanu oils, and bilberry and licorice root extracts. I’ll also apply a natural sunscreen, as the sun’s rays can make the hyperpigmented areas darker. I’ll send you home with products containing these ingredients too, so you can keep it up at home on a daily basis. It will take some time, but with a consistent and gentle hand and diet and lifestyle adjustments, I’m confident that you’ll achieve the results you want.


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Do either of these scenarios resemble an experience of yours, or of your clients? Tell us what you would add to the conversation below!