Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Why Is Hyperpigmentation So Hard To Get Rid Of? June 23, 2016



One of the more difficult skincare problems to solve is hyperpigmentation or dark spots on your skin.  This is also a very prevalent skincare issue that affects people of all skin tones.   Just where do these frustrating spots come from and how can you get rid of them for good? In this post I want to give you some insight into what causes hyperpigmentation in the first place and how to combat it effectively.

How Does Hyperpigmentation Form?

There are a few different types of hyperpigmentation or dark (brown) spots that can form on the skin.  You can get hyperpigmentation from the sun, from hormones, or as a result of an injury to the skin.  This last type of hyperpigmentation includes the marks that show up on the skin after a pimple heals.  (Please keep in mind that while many people call the red or brown marks that are left on the skin after a breakout heals “acne scars” they are definitely not scars but rather hyperpigmentation)   Certain ethnicities are more prone to hyperpigmentation than others.  Interestingly enough the treatment for hyperpigmentation is the same no matter its source.

I’ve been having an internal debate how technical I should be in explaining how hyperpigmentation forms because it is easy to get very lost among the scientific terms and processes that occur in the skin.  I also feel that such an explanation can be a bit overwhelming for non-science people (I include myself in that category).

I decided to take a middle of the road approach in my explanation.  Here it goes.  Your epidermis (the top layer of your skin) contains melanocytes which produce melanin. Melanin determines your skin color and tone. Everyone has the same number of melanocyctes in their skin; your skin color is determined by the amount of melanin activated in the skin.  Melanin is also the pigment that protects your skin from UV rays.  So when your skin experiences excessive sun exposure or prolonged sun exposure year after year, day after day more melanin is produced in order to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.  A tan is actually a sign of your skin’s “self defense” mechanism kicking into gear.  Sorry to say but with every tan you get you’ve done damage to your skin. Dark spots from the sun can show up in a cluster on one area of your face, perhaps on the side of your face that is exposed to a window in your office or while driving, and can take years to appear after the initial damage has been done to your skin.  Many times as an esthetician I find it hard to convince people to use sunscreen on a daily basis simply because the damage daily sun exposure is doing to their skin is not evident at first.  It can be hard to for people to realize that they need sunscreen everyday when the damage they will see from the sun will only show up 10, 20 years later.  So please remember to apply sunscreen daily in order to prevent hyperpigmentation in the future.

Melasma is the hormonal hyperpigmentation.  Many women develop this type of hyperpigmentation during and after a pregnancy or from using birth control pills.  The hormonal changes that are going on in your body due to pregnancy or the use of birth control pills cause this type of hyperpigmentation to form though exactly what doctors are still not entirely sure.  Sun exposure can make melasma worse. Some lucky women may find that their dark spots fade a bit after giving birth, but for many women this type of hyperpigmentation is an unhappy side effect from a happy life event.

Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the red, brown, or even yellow marks that are left on the skin after an injury to the skin or after a breakout has healed. Once again as a defense mechanism, in this case a defense against skin inflammation, the body produces extra melanin.  If there is one positive from this type of hyperpigmentation it is usually the easiest kind to get rid of.


First of all it is important to keep something in mind when treating hyperpigmentation – there are no quick fixes for this skin care problem.  You need time, patience, and the daily use of skin care products in order to get rid of hyperpigmentation.  If you have had a dark spot on your face for 6 years you cannot expect it to disappear in just a month.  When I say patience I really mean it.  You need to religiously use the right skin care products at home in order to eventually see results months down the road.  Once hyperpigmentation occurs, with the exception of red marks (and some types of brown marks) left on the skin after breakouts heal, your dark spots have no real desire to go anywhere.  If anyone promises you a miracle cure for hyperpigmentation run in the opposite direction.  Also please don’t put lemon juice all over your face and go out in the sun expecting to fade dark spots.  No matter how many times this skincare hack appears in your Pinterest feed you need to ignore it.  You’ll just end up making your skin more sensitive or even causing burns instead of helping your skin if you follow this “tip”.

One of the reasons hyperpigmentation is so hard to get rid of is because you actually have to treat your skin in two different ways at the same time in order to lighten dark spots.  Though the skincare industry is constantly changing and innovating at the moment the accepted way to treat hyperpigmentation is to shutdown or suppress the production of new melanin, prevent the transfer of new melanin to the melanocyctes, and remove the existing dark spots.  This requires a combination of products to achieve; there is currently no one product on the market that can do all three of these things.  Usually hyperpigmentation is treated with one product that supresses melanin production and another product that brings excess melanin to the surface of the skin and then helps it flake off.

In the United States one of the more prevalent skincare ingredients used to treat hyperpigmentation effectively is hydroquinone.  Hydroquinone is controversial for a few different reasons and has been replaced by a host of other ingredients to brighten dark spots because of the controversy surrounding it.  In order to better understand the controversy about hydroquinone I suggest reading Dr. Leslie Baumann’s article that I have listed below in “sources and further reading”.  There is a lot of misinformation circulating about hydroquinone so be sure to educate yourself on this topic before buying into the anti-hydroquinone hype.

Other skincare ingredients that can help treat hyperpigmentation are:  Vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice, arbutin, and azelaic acid.   A product with one or more of these ingredients is best paired with a retinol (or prescription Retin-A) for best results.  You can also use a product that brightens dark spots in conjunction with an AHA exfoliator though keep in mind a strong exfoliator can actually make hyperpigmentation worse or even cause hyperpigmentation for people with sensitive.  When in doubt see a professional in order to create the perfect skincare regime for your skin.  And above all, apply a generous amount of sunscreen each and everyday!  Use at least SPF 30 and make sure your sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays.  Don’t think that your make-up with SPF is giving you enough sun protection because you’ll never apply enough make-up in order to reach the amount of SPF listed on the product.  So be sure to always apply a sunscreen first and then your moisturizer and make-up.

Other Treatment Options

If you have the money for more expensive in-office treatments getting laser treatments from a dermatologist should produce faster results than using just home care products to treat your hyperpigmentation.  Of course you’ll get the best results from a laser treatment if you take proper care of your skin both before and after the treatment.  Follow the advice the doctor or their esthetician gives you; if they don’t give you any before and after advice go to another office.

You can also see an esthetician or dermatologist for a series of chemical peels that coupled with the correct home care regime can help get rid of hyperpigmentation once again faster than if you were just using products at home.  Just as you need a good home care skincare regime before and after a laser treatment in order to get the best results you need to do the same with a chemical peel.

Sources and Further Reading:

My Related Posts:



What I’ve Been Reading May 14, 2015

Filed under: Recommended Reading — askanesthetician @ 2:09 am
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A Woman Reading

I might not find time to blog like I used or read as many articles about skincare and beauty as I would like, but I’ve done enough reading lately to have a number of articles that I want to share with my readers here.

Those readers who follow my Facebook page know that I’ve been sharing quite a few articles about the nail industry lately.  Last week The New York Times published two very important articles that exposed the dark side of the nail industry in the United States.  The first article detailed the extremely exploitative work practices for workers in this industry, and the second article explained the health risks that workers suffer from because of the chemicals in nail products.  Happily, the articles caused a flurry of reactions both from New York’s governor and from the woman who regularly use these services.  Here is a list of all the relevant articles:

Now for some non-nail related articles.

Summer is on its way so and so are the sunscreen articles:

Once again I’ve come across an article about beauty elixirs or drinks, drinks that promise perfect skin.  I’ve written about this topic in the past here on my blog (see my articles Can You Drink Your Way To Firmer Skin? and Drink Your Way To Firmer Skin – Taste Test) so let me be clear – looking to a drink to clear your skin or make it firmer is generally a waste of time.  Instead invest your money in good skincare products and a proper and balanced whole foods diet.

If you read my previous post (which was from this past winter) than you know that I am writing the skincare articles on  You can easily keep up to date with my articles by following my Pinterest board devoted to that topic.

Lastly, just for fun.  It turns out that there is now a BB cream for nighttime use.  I can’t even imagine what they will think of next.

If you’ve read any interesting beauty related articles lately please share a link below.

Image: “A Woman Reading” by Camille Corot from The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Starting The Year Off With An Apology January 24, 2015

Filed under: Esthetics/Estheticians,Recommended Websites — askanesthetician @ 11:23 am
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I meant to write this post at the end of December, 2014 and now it’s almost the end of January, 2015.  Anyone who has been following this blog for a long time might have noticed that I have been posting less and less.  My newest subscribers might be wondering if I ever write new posts so I feel like it is time to offer an explanation.  Normally I don’t share that much about my personal life on my blog, but in this case if I don’t share some personal information my readers might just think I’ve stopped blogging.  Rest assured I still love the idea of blogging, I just don’t have the time I used to in order to devote myself to writing new posts that are up to (my self-set) standards.  In the middle of June, 2014 I had a beautiful and healthy baby girl, and she is home full-time with me until September, 2015.  If you are a parent yourself than you know that being home with a baby means every moment that the baby is awake you are pretty much with the baby.  So much for blogging during the day.  Then in the evening once the children go to sleep (I have an older son as well) I think “now I’ll write!”, but I’m exhausted so once again, so much for blogging.  As the picture says above: please bear with me.  I don’t lack for ideas of what to blog about I simply lack for time and energy at the moment to follow through with writing posts.

Another reason I don’t have time to blog regularly is that happily in September, 2014 I started working as the skin care expert (their words, not mine) for   While some of the topics I’ve covered for have been covered in my blog as well others are new like a post I wrote about chia in skincare products.  If you haven’t already looked at my articles you can check them out here.  If there is a subject or question that you would like covered in an article for please let me know by commenting below.

What I do have time for is posting to my blog Facebook page.  There I share skincare related articles that interest me.  I also continually pin articles and tips to my Pinterest skincare page.  I’m still completely and totally obsessed with Korean skincare products and make-up.  I have a Pinterest board for that as well, of course.  Recently I ordered quite a few Korean skincare products to try; once I do try them I’ll be sure to share my thoughts and experiences here.  I’m still reading books about skincare and hope to write a review or two sometime soon.  Lastly, I’m always thinking about how to grow my business and how to improve as an esthetician and wouldn’t you know it I have a Pinterest board for that too.  :)

If you are a newish reader of this blog be sure to use the search option in order to find posts for topics that might interest you.  I’ve covered a wide range of skincare related topics (plus some make-up and nail topics) over the years so I might have already written about a subject you want to learn more about.

Once more please bear with me for now, I’ll be back to regular blogging before you know it.  In the meantime keep in touch with me through Facebook or Pinterest.

Belated Happy New Year to all my readers!  Wishing you health, prosperity, happiness, joy, and peace in 2015.

Image from


Winter Skincare Round-Up December 14, 2014


Winter can bring about a lot of unpleasant skin changes – dry and itchy skin, red and irritated skin, cracked hands, chapped lips.  Fun, right?  As always I want to help my readers best care for their skin under any weather conditions, but instead of writing a new post about winter skin care I’m going to share my older posts on the topic.  Looking back at my previous posts I realized I had covered so many issues related to winter skincare that, at the moment, there wasn’t something new to add.

Happy reading and wishing you beautiful and healthy skin during the winter!


Photo from


Gua Sha and Your Skin September 22, 2014

Filed under: Skincare Treatments — askanesthetician @ 7:00 am
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A few months ago I took a wonderful course that was called “Japanese Facial Massage and Acupuncture”.  I had a blast in the course – learning new massage techniques, finding out about new acupressure points on the face, and discovering how to use gua sha and a jade roller to help my clients’ skin.  Some of my readers may have heard of gua sha and/or have seen pictures of red, bruised backs (or other body parts) that were treated with this Traditional Chinese Medicine healing technique and are already wondering just how this relates to the skin and to facials.  It turns out that gua sha is wonderful for stimulating blood flow and lymph drainage in the face.  But before I get into all those details let me first explain what gua sha actually is.

In the article Scrape Away the Pain (found on Dr. Oz’s website) Jamie Starkey explains the principles of gua sha:

Gua sha is an ancient healing technique used by many clinicians of TCM. In this procedure, a lubricating medium, such as massage oil, is applied to the skin of the area to be treated. A smooth-edged instrument is used by the acupuncturist to apply short or long strokes on the skin, typically in the area of pain or on the back parallel to the spine. This stroking motion creates raised redness (petechiae) or bruising (ecchymosis).

Pain, both acute and chronic, is the most common indication for gua sha. In the TCM tradition, pain is oftentimes caused by the stagnation of blood in the local area of discomfort. The guiding principle behind gua sha is that this technique has the ability to break up stagnation, to promote the smooth flow of blood in the area, thereby relieving pain.

While gua sha is most commonly used to treat pain, it can also be utilized by TCM clinicians to address conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, fever, heatstroke, fibromyalgia, strains, sprains, and muscle spasms.

There are several theories that may explain why this ancient technique works: gua sha increases blood flow (microcirculation) in the soft tissue, potentially stimulates the body’s natural pain-relieving opioid systems, and it may block the pain response pathways so you feel pain relief.

But how does this work with facials and skincare since you definitely don’t want to bruise the skin or cause long- lasting redness?  When it comes to facials and treating the skin gua sha is modified and the esthetician is much less aggressive when rubbing the skin.  While you still want the skin to get red you don’t want to leave marks that can last for days.  During a facial gua sha actually feels nice as the tools gently glide across your face after the esthetician applies a cream or oil.   Gua sha is used during a facial to increase blood flow to the face and to move lymph. In order to do both of these things there is no need to be aggressive.  I was even taught in the course I took to gently rub wrinkles and lines with the gua sha tools in order to stimulate collagen synthesis in those areas.  Following the gua sha treatment the esthetician can gently roll a jade roller all over the face in order to calm the skin.  Jade helps to soothe the skin.

You don’t need to wait to have a facial in order to benefit from gua sha.  If you have the tools you can do gua sha on your face for about 10 minutes a day if you want in order to enjoy the benefits of this traditional treatment.

Resources and Further Reading:

Image from


Beauty after Baby September 2, 2014


Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child



Any mother with a newborn or a baby knows one thing for sure – your baby’s needs always come before yours.  That’s just the way it is.  Finding time for yourself, not to mention household chores, sometimes seems like the most impossible thing ever when you have a baby at home.  Depending on how much sleep you are getting, probably very little, taking care of yourself quickly falls by the wayside once you have a baby.  So I’m here to remind you that even when you have no energy or it seems to silly to invest in your appearance because so many other things require your immediate attention, that you should and can take five to ten minutes a day for yourself each day.  Believe me I know how ridiculous that sounds when you’ve had four hours of sleep or when your baby decided to start their day at 5 am.  It’s hard; it seems pointless, but consider giving it a try.  Yes, if you had an elaborate skincare routine before you gave birth you probably can’t keep up with it now.  Don’t beat yourself up about that.  Keep in mind that when you feel good about how you look (even if you haven’t lost all the baby weight and that takes lots of time) your outlook changes about everything around you.  So don’t neglect yourself after you’ve had a baby.  Do take a few minutes each day to concentrate on your appearance; there is nothing selfish or wrong about that.

In no particular order here are some tips for a fast beauty routine when you have a baby at home:

  • Remember to wash your face – at the very least at night.  Once you’ve gotten your baby to sleep (or passed off childcare to your partner) take a moment to wash your face.
  • Use sunscreen!  Take a moment in the morning to apply sunscreen.  In case you need a reminder about why sunscreen is so important take a look at this video.  If your skin really needs a moisturizer use one with SPF in order to cut-down on skincare routine steps until you have more time for yourself.
  • Find an under-eye concealer you like and use it.
  • Use multitasking make-up products like Nars The Multiple which is for both lips and cheeks.
  • Think about what beauty or make-up product always makes you feel good and use it.  Is that product mascara?  Or a facial mask once a week?  Don’t give up those feel good products.  The baby can cry for a moment while you apply your mascara and everything will still be fine with the world.
  • Is there a beauty service that you really can’t live without?  Well don’t!  For a lot of women getting their eyebrows professionally waxed is just something they can’t give up and in my opinion shouldn’t.  Eyebrow waxing when compared to other beauty services is one of the fastest and cheapest services out there.  You can probably even bring your baby along to your eyebrow wax so keep up with having well groomed  brows.   Remember that having your eyebrows waxed or tweezed can change the look for your entire appearance for the better.  For other people their weekly manicure is a must so I fully endorse finding the time to keep up with the beauty service that makes you feel like yourself again after giving birth.  Keep in mind that there are many estheticians and nail techs that will come to your home to provide services so if you really can’t leave your baby or don’t want to have the service come to you.


I strongly believe that the better we feel about ourselves the better parents we can be.  So even if it’s only a few minutes each day take that time for you.  Even your baby will appreciate it.


Further Reading:


Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child by Kitagawa Utamaro



A Slew of Interesting and Important Sunscreen Articles July 21, 2014

Filed under: skin cancer,sun protection,Uncategorized — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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Allure magazine’s Daily Beauty Reporter recently published a few excellent posts about sunscreen that I decided to share here all at once instead of posting them piecemeal on my Facebook page:



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