Skin Science:

Skin Care Tips:

Skin Discoloration and Hyper-pigmentation

Your skin colors come from pigments called melanins. Epidermal melanins come with eumelanins(black-brown) and pheomelanins (red-yellow, rich in cysteine, a sulfur containing amino acid). The production and the ratio of eumelanins/pheomelanins differ in different skin photo types. This ratio is higher in dark skin.


Epidermal melanins are synthesized in a skin cell called melanocyte and in its specialized organelles called melanosomes by enzymatic conversion of the amino acid tyrosine that is catalyzed by the enzyme tyrosinase. Melanocyte passes its melanosomes to neighbor keratinocytes where they deposit around the nucleus to protect it from the attack of sun UV radiation (See illustration). The melanosomes are more active in darker portions of the skin. The growth of melanocytes and its production of melanin are controlled by a tight communication between skin cells via cytokines secreted by these cells and by the body such as melanocortins and growth hormones in response to intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Illustration of Skin Pigmentation Formation

Skin hyper-pigmentation such as melasma, liver spots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, etc., is caused by the miscommunication between melanocytes and other skin cells and body, disrupting homeostasis that leads to local increase number of melanocytes, increase melanosome generation, and increase eumelanin production.

Dark circles of the lower eyelid and eyelid bags involve multiple etiologic factors that include hyper-pigmentation, periorbital edema, superficial localization of vasculature, and shadowing due to skin laxity. 

High risk population: Woman at high risk to develop hyper pigmented discoloration include ones at age with hormonal changes (eg. pregnancy and various stages of menopause), side effects of medcation, laser treatment for other purposes, workers who over expose to UV light (dentists, dental assistants, manicurists, etc...). Manicurists have high risk to develop the problems due to both expsure to UV light and the chemical vapor (i.e., acetone from nail paint and cleansing solvent). Stress, genetics, post-inflammation, drugs such as birth control pills, and incorrect laser treatment for skin dark spots are also among several contributing factors leading to these skin conditions.

Chemical peels such as cream containing high concentrated glycolic acid have become a popular modality in the treatment of melasma and other skin hyper-pigmentation issues. However, the most disturbing side effect of this procedure that happens to some customers is post-peel post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (means that the problem is better when you peel but after you stop, your skin’s dark spots become worse than before)


Hydroquinone is the most common dermatologic agent that is used for skin lightening, until regulatory agencies in Japan, Europe, and most recently in the United States questioned the safety of this substance. Hydroquinone inhibits the activity of the enzyme tyrosinase so that melanin cannot be produced (see the picture). In laboratory experiments, it is also cytotoxic (kill the cells). 

On August 29, 2006, the FDA proposed a ban on over-the-counter sales of cosmetic products containing hydroquinone because some animal model evidence suggested that it is a carcinogen. Some studies also reported abnormal function of the adrenal glands in people who have chronically used hydroquinone-containing cosmetics for skin whitening. For these reasons, over-the-counter sales of hydroquinone has already been banned in Japan, the European Union, and Australia. This ban does not affect the sale of hydroquinone by prescription. Commonly, hydroquinone by prescription is recommended to use not more than 6 months.

The most disturbing cosmetic side effect of hydroquinone is hyper-pigmentation in some customers: After stop using hydroquinone, their skin’s hyper-pigmentation get worse than before that is very difficult to treat.

Scientifically, this hyper-pigmentation could be explained by the illustration in this page: Melanin production is a natural process to protect the skin cells from the attack of sun UV radiation. It involves several steps with several factors and enzymes, in which tyrosinase involves in last steps. When a person uses hydroquinone that inhibits melanin production, and simultaneously expose to sun light, the skin cells just sense that there is not enough melanin to protect the skin. They abnormally make a lot of factors and enzymes that are needed for melanin production. Once hydroquinone is stopped and therefore tyrosinase is no longer blocked, melanocytes will be over stimulated to make lots of melanin that causes super hyperpigmentation.

For all these reasons, hydroquinone should only be used in a short initial period to prime the induction of depigmentation. Then it should be replaced by safer naturals natural depigmenting ingredients.




LaBelle Cosmeceuticals’ scientific approach aims to resolve cosmetic issues of skin discoloration byaddressing all the factors that can cause the problems. Our products are specially formulated with a combination more than 40 natural active agents that synergistically act as humectants, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, cell supporting agents, and specific natural depigmenting agents. These pure natural depigmenting agents are isolated from natural botanicals or other natural sources such asArctostaphylos uva-ursi (bearberry) leaves, Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) roots, and Aspergillus oryzae(Koji fungi), etc. These natural active ingredients synergistically work to address all the roots that cause hyperpigmented discoloration and provide the best harmony environment for optimal skin health that improves skin's clarity and tone.

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