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Natural products to treat dark spots

Stubborn brown spots require special solutions.

Stubborn brown spots require special solutions

Dark spots. The oft-dreaded sign of sun exposure and aging that is notoriously difficult to erase. And for people who look to more natural products, it's easy to get a little confused as to what ingredients will work best on those stubborn darker patches.

To start, it's important to know what even causes these complexion nuisances.

"There are a multitude of causes of brown spots," cosmetic aesthetician Victoria Radford says. She breaks it down like this: Our skin produces a cell called a melanocyte. These cells, which are what cause us to tan and also help heal the skin when we have blemishes or cuts, produces a brown pigment that can pop up to the surface of the skin, sometimes even years after sun damage has occurred. They can also become more noticeable with hormone fluctuations, such a pregnancy. Sun damage is most commonly seen on the forehead and under the eyes, while hormonal changes can cause what is known as the pregnancy moustache around the upper lip (thank you so much, Mother Nature!).

Radford recommends meeting with a cosmetic aesthetician to help determine the root of these spots and, if related to hormones, perhaps seeking the advice of a naturopathic or medical doctor who specializes in hormone imbalances and irregularities to help you get your system in order.

In the meantime, how can you work from the outside to help fade these stubborn little sun souvenirs? First, you can try an IPL treatment, aka intense pulsed light or photo-rejuvenation, which can be done at the dermatologist office or at a medi-spa. This is where light is used to help extract the melatonin, which either comes to the surface as a scab or goes out through the lymphatic drainage system. (IPL can cost around $400 to $500 or more.) If you're not into a visit to the medi-spa and want to try the topical route first (think serums and masks!), here are some products that promise to help.

The glow down

Radford is a big believer in lactic acid for helping to bring down brown spots. "It's very gentle, brightening, and it deals with actual pigmentation in the skin," she said. "Even if you don't have brown spots, it will brighten the complexion." This Glow Potion from Herbivore utilizes lactic acid from blueberries, while also brightening with the help of vitamin C from Kakadu Plum and citric acid from orange peels, and soothes thanks to aloe and rose water.

Herbivore Prism Exfoliating Glow Potion, $80, sephora.ca

Fresh find

Literally just-launched skincare line Veriphy, a Canadian brand started by a few women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), is aimed at giving us brighter, more nourished skin, thanks to some pretty innovative thinking. PhytoSpherix is a trademarked name for phytoglycogen, which was discovered through research done at the University of Guelph. Previously, glycogen could only be extracted from animal products, so this finding had a major implication for brands wanting to go vegan and more natural. And Veriphy is the first brand to harness its power — after seeing some pretty amazing clinicals the founders knew they had a beauty winner on their hands. "This powerful ingredient literally gives skin energy to produce collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, it fuels skin cells so they revitalize and rejuvenate naturally," said co-founder Jessica Kizovski. Couple that with AHA's and lactic acid in their Power Trip Facial Serum, and 97 per cent of people who used the products twice daily for four weeks saw a noticeable difference in the radiance of their skin.

Veriphy Power Trip Facial Serum, $105, veriphyskincare.com

Aesthetically pleasing

Radford also has a line of cosmetics and skincare products, and will be launching a new scrub. The Buff Daily Enzyme Exfoliant was actually delayed by one year until Radford could find the right ingredients to make it a vegan formula. This deep-action daily scrub, which should stay on your skin for 15 minutes, helps to brighten skin similarly to a lactic acid, but is more gentle on the complexion, making it perfect for anyone, not just people with sensitive skin.  

Radford Buff Daily Enzyme Exfoliant, $50, victoriaradford.com

Powerful powder

Vitamin C is a known brightening ingredient, but what some people might not know if that it is extremely volatile when exposed to oxygen. This means that when vitamin C is used in lotions, serums and the like, it can degrade pretty quickly. Finding a vitamin C antidote in a powder formulation will mean you are using the product at its most effective. Fresh has a foaming facial in this format that founder Lev Glasman loves to use to wake up his skin, especially after a long flight.

Fresh Vitamin C Brightening Glow Powder, $49, sephora.ca

Helping hand

A lot of chic and beautiful things come to us by way of the French countryside, including the inimitable Caudalie, a skincare brand that consists of grape extract as its key ingredient. What founder Mathilde Thomas noticed at her family's winery was outstanding — when women were picking grapes, they would slather the extra juices on the back of their hands to help fade dark spots. So Mathilde created the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, complete with viniferine, the sap from the grapevine. It's one of the brand's best sellers for a reason!

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, $89, ca.caudalie.com

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