Tag Archives: hyperpigmentation

Ditch the Dark Spots

Discoloration is a fact of life. The sooner you see dark spots and brown patches has a lot to do with heredity and lifestyle, but by a certain age, we all get some. There are several factors that cause skin to become darker (hyperpigmentation), starting with an increase in melanin, the substance which regulates pigment. Primarily, hyperpigmentation is caused by exposure to the damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. But dark spots can also appear due to melasma and after acne or other skin trauma. Of course, the worst culprit is cumulative sun exposure, says Dr. Zein Obagi, Beverly Hills Dermatologist.

Causes of Melasma

Hormonal changes during pregnancy lead to melasma, also called the “the mask of pregnancy.” About 70% of pregnant women develop some brown patches on their face, upper lips, cheeks and forehead, as well as their bellies. Melasma frequently clears up after you give birth, but this is not always the case. Unfortunately, you are not advised to use potent topical formulations containing retinoids or beta hydroxy acids while you are pregnant or breastfeeding. NOTE: Ask your obstetrician or dermatologist what products or ingredients are safe to use during pregnancy.

Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)

Dark marks from acne can often develop in areas where blemishes have been. The same is true for insect stings, cuts, bruises, kitchen burns, and other skin traumas. These marks often take months to fade and some never fade much at all. And PIH is more common in darker skin types. The first course of action is to avoid direct sunlight during the healing process.

Zein Obagi, MD specially developed the ZO Non Hydroquinone Hyperpigmentation System to treat skin discoloration without the potential risks and side effects of using hydroquinone. This potent system has 5 effective products that work together to even skin tone, improve texture and rejuvenate the skin.

    Skin Brightener & Correcting Crème, Non-Hydroquinone
    Soothing Recovery Crème
    Active Vitamin A Micro Emulsion
  • Ossential® Daily Power Defense
    Time-released retinol, antioxidants and specialized DNA-repairing enzymes
  • Oclipse-C Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50


 Spotting Sun Damage

Fortunately, early diagnosis and early treatment can prevent and reduce the appearance of dark spots, brown patches and other signs of pigment changes and sun damage. Uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation will also make you look older earlier. Apply sunscreen every 2 hours if you will be outdoors in direct sunlight as a first course of action.

Talk with your ZO skin care professional about your specific condition and concerns.

Hydroquinone-Free Products Reign Supreme

According to leading cosmetics industry market research firm Kline & Company, “While hydroquinone (HQ) has been the gold standard ingredient in the physician dispense arena for the treatment of hyperpigmentation, this ingredient is surrounded with controversy due to some of its reported side effects. Europe has banned HQ in concentrations greater than 1% and in the United States it has been banned from five states – New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Montana, and Texas.” Kline also cites this trend as the reason for the rise of  hydroquinone-free or HQ-free skin brightening products featuring alternatives to HQ.

Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi has been at the forefront of reversing hyperpigmentation for 30 years. However, he has raised concerns about the abuse and overuse of hydroquinone without medical supervision that has arisen due to the Internet. “For many consumers, hydroquinone is like an old friend who inexplicably turns on you. They may have used it for years, trusting that their dermatologist – or, frequently, some Internet pharmacy – would never recommend a product that could harm them. But over time, some of these consumers commonly develop new pigment problems in the areas where they have faithfully applied hydroquinone. The product they bought to lighten sunspots, melasma, or other hyperpigmentation paradoxically leaves them with tough-to-treat issues such as severe rebound hyperpigmentation.”

Due to this plea for caution, Dr. Obagi has developed hydroquinone-free alternatives that work synergistically for visible skin brightening, without the side effects associated with long term use of hydroquinone. Through extensive research, the ZO Skin Health team has created the ZO Non-Hydroquinone Hyperpigmentation System for Skin Brightening  that contains 4 key products to help reverse discoloration, including

This breakthrough system reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation without the use of hydroquinone or retinol. It works to brighten your skin tone and lessen the appearance of discoloration and brown spots, for a more even complexion. Because the formulation is hydroquinone-free, it is gentle and easy to tolerate without irritation when used under your ZO doctor’s supervision.

The results are younger, brighter, healthier-looking skin and you will start to see results in 2-3 weeks with consistent application. Don’t forget that getting brighter skin means practicing safe sun.


Alpha Arbutin – A NEW Retinol Alternative

The ZO Medical range was specifically developed as an intensive daily skincare program that slows down premature aging and skin damage, and helps to maintain healthy skin for the long term.

One of the newest additions to the ZO Medical roster is Brightalive Non Retinol Skin Brightener. What makes Brightalive so unique is that it is a highly effective skin brightening formula without containing hydroquinone or retinol.

Brightalive™ manages the skin’s pigment system by using clinically proven alpha arbutin combined with bioengineered plant phytotechnology to reduce the appearance of brown spots and even skin tone. Alpha arbutin is a novel ZO ingredient that has been shown to brighten pigmentation by inhibiting melanin production and is encapsulated in a patented Oleosome delivery system. Because this unique formula was created with natural plant-based ingredients that are gentle, it is safe for all skin types, even sensitive skin, and can be used daily.

Brightalive’s exclusive 12-hour time-release antioxidant complex contains vitamins A, C and E to deliver continuous protection against oxidative stress. Your skin will feel nourished, brighter and hydrated.

Who should use Brightalive?

According to Dr. Zein Obagi, Medical Director of ZO Skin Health, “Brightalive is ideal for all skin types when strong skin lightening is not indicated. It can reduce pigmentation while it restores the skin’s vital moisture balance and enhances DNA repair with consistent use.”

Although it can be used on its own, he also recommends Brightalive as a great complementary treatment product to be applied on top of ZO Medical C-Bright 10% Vitamin C Serum. C-Bright is a powerful dose of pure vitamin C that is stabilized to brighten and re-texturize the skin. It is a silky smooth formula containing naturally occurring lipids that rapidly exfoliates the pigmentation on the skin’s surface to reveal a more even tone and brighter complexion.


Introducing ZO Medical AkneBright

ACNE. It’s a four letter word for most of us. Even when you think you’re in the clear after you hit your mid 20s, blemishes can still plague your complexion and can be a problem well into your 40s and beyond.

Acne can be mild, moderate or severe, and it can show up on your forehead, cheeks, nose, chin, chest, and back. It’s important to know what kind of acne you have to chose the most appropriate and effective treatments and products.  That is where a visit to a dermatologist or skin specialist comes in. Basically, acne can be categorized into two main types – inflammatory and non-inflammatory. The mildest and most common is the non-inflammatory type – such as blackheads or open comedos, and whiteheads or closed comedos. Inflammatory acne can be quite severe, resulting in painful, hard cysts and nodules that lie deep under the skin.

As a leading acne specialist, Dr. Zein Obagi and ZO Skin Health are always on the cutting edge of acne therapies. The newest member of the ZO Acne family is  ZO Medical AkneBright™ Acne Spot and Pigmentation Treatment.

This fast-acting targeted blemish treatment brings rapid relief of acne lesions and also prevents post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. AkneBright™ uses the power of encapsulated salicylic acid to prevent the formation of new pigmentation. It contains potent broccoli extract, sunflower seed oil and glucosamine to calm and soothe redness.

In addition to fighting acne, ZO Medical AkneBright also helps prevent pigmentation. Clinically proven Manuka Honey aids in preventing post acne scarring, and is a natural microbial clinically proven for wound healing. It has also been proven to stimulate tissue growth in wounds in just 7 days by over 60%

So if you are suffering with breakouts and the dark spots that often follow, ask your ZO doctor if ZO Medical AkneBright is right for your skin.

Radical Night Repair – Now Even Better

When it comes to anti-aging skin care, technology is the driver of beauty breakthroughs. Some of the most important categories of ingredients for anti-aging used today include; DNA repair enzymes, plant stem cells, growth factors, retinol, and peptides. Retinol has long been considered a hero anti-aging ingredient because it triggers natural skin hydration from deep within, by upregulating extracellular matrix production (collagen-1, hyaluronic acid).

You can find a potent form of retinol in the new advanced formulation of one of our best sellers – ZO Skin Health Ossential Advanced Radical Night Repair. A full 1% concentration of retinol found in this powerful anti-ager stimulates new cell activity and collagen formation in UV-damaged skin faster and more effectively than any other anti-aging treatment on the market.

Due to the high concentration of retinol, initially you can expect to have some dryness, irritation and mild peeling. These symptoms typically develop within a few days to one week after your first application. This shows that your skin cells are awakening and  damaged skin is being repaired. If you are a first time retinol user, start gradually. After cleansing, apply 2-3 pumps twice a week in the evening, 30 minutes before bed time. As your skin gets used to retinol, you can increase the frequency of use as your skin can tolerate it.

According to Dr. Obagi, “Topical agents should promote skin health and not induce further harm. Your regimen should therefore be created using scientifically proven, active ingredients, suited to their skin type and needs. Novel delivery systems and techniques allow us to customize a regimen for each individual.”

NOTE: Two important things to know about retinol: First, you must wear an SPF30 daily if you are using retinol for sun protection, and secondly, it is not recommended for use during pregnancy or while breast feeding.

How Long is a Skin Cycle?

The concept of Skin Health Restoration, advanced by Zein E. Obagi, MD, is the optimum process to restore skin activity, vitality, strength and youthfulness, while also treating any skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, or pigmentation. This process ultimately leads to the best possible results for your skin, and will allow you to maintain these results for the long term. But you will need to be patient because skin health restoration doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to revitalize your skin and wake up your cells that Dr. Obagi describes as having been sleeping because they get lazy.

Dr. Obagi defines one full skin cycle as the time it takes from baby cells to be born at the deepest layer of the epidermis (the skin’s outer layer), and mature as they rise to the surface of the skin, and ultimately are shed off. This process takes approximately six weeks.

Why is this important? Because it explains why you should not expect to see improvement in your skin when you begin on the ZO Skin Health regimen before the 6-week mark, because healthy, new cells have not yet had a chance to mature and rise to the surface until a skin cycle is complete. In fact, the best results you can achieve will occur after three full skin cycles  – which is approximately 18 weeks or between four and five months, according to Dr. Obagi.

Skin health restoration – the process of making your skin healthy, strong, and youthful, while concomitantly treating any existing skin problems – will take an average of approximately five months that is, if you follow the treatment regimen your ZO doctor or skin care professional has recommended without interruption. If you choose to slow down by using less product than recommended or interrupt the cycle by skipping days, you can still see a significant improvement, but it will just take longer than five months to reach the optimal results.

Skin Enemy #1

The sun presents a great conundrum for dermatologists and skin care professionals. On the one hand, it is the life-giving source of all natural living things. On the other hand, UV exposure is the cause of premature aging and, even worse, skin cancer.

It was once believed that only UVB was damaging because it causes the epidermis to burn and turn red. But now we know that UVA is equally damaging, if not more dangerous. UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface. They cause skin cancer by damaging skin cells called keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis, where most skin cancers occur. In the past few years, the US FDA has required that all sunscreens sold in the US offer broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB.

Together UVA and UVB are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. They also are responsible for every type of skin change that we consider normal aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, dark spots, freckles, coarse texture, and other discolorations. It also breaks down the elastin in the skin, causing it to sag and stretch. This is why the parts of your body that are regularly exposed to the sun look so different than the covered parts.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, protection is the first step in avoiding the damaging effects of the sun. Wear protective clothing, seek the shade when the sun is highest, and apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your face and body every two hours when you are outdoors.

“Sun damage and skin cancer are the most common skin problems that we face,” says Dr. Zein Obagi. “They are on the increase, no matter how high the SPF.” In addition to broad-spectrum sunscreen, he believes that antioxidants can help skin fight the bombardment of aging free radicals. ZO® Skin Health Oclipse® Sunscreen + Primer SPF30 is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that also addresses the issues of inflammation and free radicals. It is a physical sunscreen, the best kind, and features titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for UVA/UVB protection. It also includes melanin, nature’s own skin protectant, which helps prevent melanocytes from having a negative response to UV.

Dr. Zein Obagi recommends that you treat your skin for excess sebum before applying sunscreen so it will stay in place, and apply sunscreen to dry skin.

Complexion Correction

What do you want to correct about your skin? Are you concerned with uneven skin tone, dark spots, fine lines or redness?

The good news is that the most effective anti-aging ingredients—prescription retinoids and retinol, both vitamin A derivatives—target skin texture, hyperpigmentation, and lines and wrinkles for younger and healthier looking skin.

Retinoids and sunscreen offer a one-two punch in fighting signs of aging. But sometimes this duo is not sufficient to diminish discoloration or hyperpigmentation that has resulted from sun exposure.

Used for the past 50 years to treat pigmentary concerns, hydroquinone remains the gold standard for reversing dark spots, melasma, and uneven complexions. ZO® Medical Melamix™ contains 4% hydroquinone and is available by prescription only through physician offices. ZO® Medical Melamin™ also contains 4% hydroquinone, but with the addition of vitamin E to fight free radicals and repair damaged cells.

Dr. Obagi recommends that you only use hydroquinone under medical supervision because of potential side effects like irritation. Many alternative skin-lightening products have been developed. For example, ZO® Medical Brightenex™ uses a blend of retinol, melanin inhibitors including soy, and antioxidants to brighten skin. Dr. Obagi often recommends using Brightenex™ after Melamin™ for optimum results.

Chemical peels also work to brighten complexions and diminish the appearance of dark spots. The ZO® 3-Step Peel™ is an in-office procedure that causes some redness, peeling and flaking—enough to let you know it is working—resulting in a clearer complexion. If you can spare the downtime—up to one week of extreme redness and peeling—a ZO® Controlled Depth Peel™ will reveal a new layer of undamaged skin with smoother texture, less lines and wrinkles, and more even skin tone,

No matter what condition you seek to correct, ZO® Skin Health has the right solution for your skin.

Out of the Dark – Reversing Sun Spots

In addition to lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dark spots, and discoloration can add years to your complexion. Studies have shown that hyperpigmentation can significantly contribute to the overall appearance of skin aging, increasing your perceived age by as much as 10 years. But discoloration doesn’t have to be a fact of life.

If you want to keep your skin clear of discoloration, STAY OUT OF THE SUN!

Our skin tone is determined by the amount of melanin contained in the epidermis. With UV exposure, cells called melanocytes are stimulated to create additional melanin, resulting in a tan. As we age and accumulate repeated exposure to UV radiation, melanocytes become damaged and permanently switched on to overproduce melanin. This results in dark spots – called age spots, sun spots, and formerly liver spots – or solar lentigines, which are benign flat brown spots that usually appear on the face, chest, and the backs of the hands that get the most sun exposure.

Your first line of defense to prevent dark spots from forming is sun avoidance. Wear protective clothing, seek the shade during peak hours, and always, always, always wear broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays outside. If you protect your skin from birth, you could actually avoid developing spots.

UV exposure is cumulative and sometimes its effects don’t show up until we are well into our 50s or 60s. In fact, 90% of fair skinned people over the age of 60 will develop dark spots from the sun.

For years, the treatment of dark spots has been comprised of chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser resurfacing. Removing the outermost layers of the skin through exfoliation helps improve skin texture and tone. For more dramatic results, the skin should be treated topically before any procedure is performed. In some cases, topical treatments can adequately reverse the problem without the need for more invasive procedures.

Hydroquinone has long been considered the gold standard for reversing pigmentation. It works by disrupting the function of melanocytes, therefore prohibiting the production of melanin. Products sold over-the-counter can only contain up to 2% hydroquinone, while physician dispensed treatments are usually more potent.

To keep skin bright and even toned, Dr. Zein Obagi developed 3 key products designed to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

NOTE: With any skin lightening or brightening therapy, you must use daily SPF30 to protect your skin.