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Worried About Skin Spots? – Herbs Can Help

Preventing skin spots is a challenge, since so many outside factors lead to their formation. The main causes are so-called normal aging, sun damage, skin trauma, and even genetics.

Other factors contributing to hyperpigmentation include burns (including sunburn), acne, waxing and other harsh skin treatments, insect bites, cuts and abrasions, and inflammation-causing chemicals in many household products. All of these are associated with inflammation of the skin, which is a normal healing response. However, skin spots often remain long after the inflammation has subsided.

What is particularly disheartening about skin spots is that, regardless of their cause, they can hang around for months or years. They seem to become a never-ending impediment to achieving the clear, even complexion that you really want and deserve. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to prevent or reduce their occurrence.

You no doubt already know that sunlight is harmful. Staying out of the sun is a good first step. However, this is often not practical. Avoiding sunlight also eliminates some of the good things that you can get from it, most notably the formation of healthful amounts of vitamin D. Sunscreens are not always a good choice, either. Too many contain toxic substances that you do not want to put on your skin.

Toxic chemicals seem to be everywhere, at work, at home, and out in public places. There are way too many to list in one place, so good advice is to be aware of where you might be exposed to toxins that can get into contact with your skin. One strategy for reducing your exposure to toxins is to use only organic skin care products.

Antioxidant Warning

We normally lump antioxidants together in our minds as good things. However, they are not all the same, even if they are on the labels of natural skin care products. Indeed, when it comes to help with hyperpigmentation, one common antioxidant in cosmetics has attracted considerable negative attention. This substance is called hydroquinone.

On the plus side, hydroquinone is very effective against skin spots. In addition, product labels that cite its natural occurrence are right. It is known from a few plants, from a mushroom, and even from a bombardier beetle.

Commercial hydroquinone in natural skin care skin care products, however, is in reality a synthetic chemical. Furthermore, its use in such products has become controversial. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration has classified hydroquinone as a safe product, as currently used, even though in 2006 that agency proposed its ban as an ingredient in over-the-counter products. In addition, hydroquinone has so many reported side effects that its use as a skin whitener is prohibited in countries of the European Union.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics advises against the use of hydroquinone in any skin care formula. This organization also warns against ingredients that contain hydroquinone appearing on labels as tocopheral acetate, tocopheral, tocopheral linoleate, and other ingredients with the root ‘toco’.

Herbal Skin Care

Many kinds of herbs provide antioxidant activities that inhibit the formation of melanin, the dark pigment that makes up spots on your skin. One of the most well-known is white mulberry.

White mulberry produces a number of substances that are known to have antioxidant activities. These substances include different classes of phytochemicals such as stilbenes and flavonoids. A few of the stilbenes have particularly potent effects on enzymes in skin cells that are known to drive the synthesis of melanin.

Recent research at Korea University in South Korea examined these effects. This study was published the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, in 2011. It showed how the stilbenes from white mulberry can inhibit the production of melanin when it is induced by UV light. Specifically, these stilbenes slowed down the activity of key enzymes and other factors that control the synthesis of melanin.

The overall recommendation by the researchers who did the study was that stilbenes from white mulberry could be helpful cosmetic agents. Isn’t it interesting that such modern research merely confirms the ancient wisdom about white mulberry? After all, this herb has been an important component of in herbal skin care products for centuries.

Still Seeing Spots?

Although modern science plods along slowly, we already know what to look for when it comes to herbs that can help with those unsightly skin spots. Knowledge from Traditional Chinese Medicine points the way. Besides white mulberry, look for organic skin care products that contain such herbs as white peony, burdock root, and green tea. All of these herbs produce a variety of powerful antioxidants that help you keep your skin healthy and beautiful.

Dr. Dennis Clark, Ph.D.