All posts in Whitening & Hydrating

Beauty Questions? Ask Dr. Irwin
- The Best Treatments For Pigmentation


Reader’s Question

I’ve pigmentation on my face. May i know what the best treatment for pigmentation.



Dr. Irwin’s Answer

How I wish there was a simple answer to this question and I know you and millions of other women would like one too. To answer, please remember that there are many different causes of pigment on the face and you must know the cause (your diagnosis) because it’s the only way that treatment will be effective. So…….. do you have melasma (more horrnonal and pregnancy), sun damage spots (lentingines) or blotches, more raised brown growths (seborrheic keratoses), certain medications or spots that are post acne or after other rashes/ irritations?? And then there are some rarer internal causes like adrenal gland problems. Some women have 2 or 3 of these problems together. Most causes of pigmentation are light/sun activated. Notice I didn’t say just sun – but natural LIGHT!!

Once you know what you have, then it’s easier for you and your dermatologist to figure out treatment. “Bleaching creams,” for example, can help some pigment problems but do nothing or very little for others problems. ALL treatment plans for pigmentation require sun and light protection and I really recommend double layering your sunscreen. The first one should contain zinc oxide 10% or higher. There are some nice tinted ones now. See under products for examples. The second layer depends on how much you are outdoors. If you are indoors, a mineral pigment makeup is good or even a tinted moisturizer or makeup with an SPF 15 or higher could be fine.

I hope this will at least get you started. Good luck to you!

Dr. Irwin

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Skin Care Information & Anti-Aging Tips with Dr. Irwin


“Eat Your Water” For A Healthy Looking Skin


Do you know water is our body’s most essential nutrient and more than 70% of our body weight is water? Without water, every organ system including the skin (the biggest organ) won’t function properly. Hence drinking water is vital not only for our body but also for our skin too.

Drinking water is essential to keep skin hydrated and it is in fact one of my beauty and anti-aging secrets for my youthful looking skin.

Keeping skin well hydrated and lubricated from the inside is as important as from the outside too. Although a well-formulated moisturizer can replenish the natural moisture factors in the upper layers of the skin but in order to achieve an optimal skin hydration, hydrating the skin from the inside out can help to boost our skin’s natural ability to retain moisture for a long-lasting benefit.

When skin is lack of hydration, all sorts of skin problems will surface such as dryness, tightness, flakiness, sensitivity and wrinkling. However when skin is properly hydrated, skin will become soft, tone and plump up. And it also becomes more receptive to skincare products.


Hydrating our skin from the inside

Human body is comprised of more than 70 percent water and it is commonly recommended to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day to replace the water we lose naturally. In fact a percentage of your water intake actually comes from the food you eat.

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Beauty Questions? Ask Dr. Irwin
- Hyperpigmentation On Cheek Areas

Reader’s Question

Hi Dr Brandith,

I was wondering if you could provide some direction. I’m approaching my 40s but have hyperpigmentation on my cheeks which seem to be deepening even though I use an SPF50+ sunscreen daily. I’ve tried dermabrasions and IPL but nothing seems to help. I’m told that with an Asian background, it’s likely that I may not be able to remove or lighten the hyperpigmentation, even with laser (which in fact may worsen the condition). I’ve been told that my hyperpigmentation is due to genetic and hormonal reasons and form from the inner layer of my skin, rather than from the surface like freckles caused by sun exposure. Could you advice me on the options that I have available to help with this concern? Thank you.



Dr. Irwin’s Answer

Dear Kaz –  I’m glad you asked about this because many women are concerned about pigment. The first thing to do, and you may need a Dermatologist to help you, is to figure out an accurate diagnosis. In other words, is the pigment melasma (more hormonally driven), sun damage, stucco keratoses (small slightly raised tan bumps), freckles (lentigoes), etc. Or sometimes, it’s a combination of several of these. I’m wondering from your description if you might not have melasma (since you were told it was more hormonal) but I would never want to try to diagnose something over the internetl!

It’s important because the treatment options and the likelihood of success change with your diagnosis. A series of peels might be the perfect thing for mild sun damage in someone who is 30 but do absolutely nothing for stucco keratoses. Or that IPL, when done in the right time of year, can be perfect for lentigoes but can make someone with melasma worse or just not improve them at all. There is a good section on melasma on our website at

Dr. Irwin

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Skin Care Information & Anti-Aging Tips with Dr. Irwin


What Are Natural Moisturizing Factors? And What Are The Good Hydrators For A Beautiful Skin?


When skin is dehydrated, it is suffering from lack of water in the surface. Skin becomes dehydrated from too much sun, weather exposure, harsh cleansers and aging.

Humectants are water-binding agents that are water loving. They have a strong attraction to water. Many chemically bind water to them, holding many water molecules.

Natural humectants, lipids or hydrating agents found within the intercellular cement are known as natural moisturizing factors or NMFs. The NMFs in the skin help to preserve water or hydration within the epidermis, keeping the barrier function intact and keeping the skin soft and supple. Impaired barrier function can mean a lack of NMFs from missing lipids or other components and can cause dehydration, flaking, esthetic problems and increased skin sensitivity. It can also cause wrinkly and loss of firmness appearance to the skin surface.

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Choose The Correct Skin-care Products With These Lightening Ingredients


Hyperpigmentation or dark spots, is one of the first signs of what we think of as aging. Sun-induced skin discoloration begins in the late teens and early 20s and get continually worse. The main noticeable difference between teenage skin and skin in the early 20s is the discoloration caused by deposits of melanin. 

Before you start

It is best to avoid sun exposure if you are treating for any form of hyperpigmentation. Even hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal imbalances can be made worse by sun exposure. 

And if you continue to expose yourself to the sun and not use a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen, melanin production will continue.

Before buying any skin lightening skin-care products, you may start to look out for these beneficial ingredients which may help to reduce pigmentation and sun spots, and some have claimed to help on brightening up the complexion too.


To prevent, lighten or remove dark spots:

- Arbutin                                 – Cocos nucifera (coconut fruit juice)

- Azelaic acid                           - Epilobium angustifolium (willow herb)

- Bearberry extract                  - Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice extract)

- Cucumber extract                  - Gallic acid                          

- Hydroquinone                        - Kojic acid                                      

- Mulberry extract                    - Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate     

- Niacinamide                           – Pycnogenol (a pine bark extract)

- Resorcinol                             – Salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid)

- Retinol                                 – Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)     

- Saxifraga sarmentosa extract (strawberry begonia)            

- Throstat      

.               ..

Remove Pigmentations With Vitamin A & Hydroquinone



Retin A & Hydroquinone 4%

Retin A can be mixed with Hydroquinone 4%, a bleaching cream to enhance the removal of pigment or brown spots which improves the anti-aging effectiveness of Retin A. In addition, when used in conjunction with microdermabrasion, Retin A’s penetration and effectiveness are enhance.

Retinol 0.3% & Hydroquinone 4%

Combining Retinol 0.3% with Hydroquinone 4% is effective in resolving fine lines, pigment and improving skin texture. Retinols are not as strong as Retin and, therefore, can be used by many people who cannot tolerate the stronger products. 

Save Your Face – Dr Brooke Rutledge Seckel, M.D. 


Tretinoin & Hydroquinone

A great deal of research has shown that the use of tretinoin, also found in the prescription medications Renova and Retin A, can be effective in treating skin discolorations. However, when tretinoin is used in combination with hydroquinone, skin discolorations can show a far more noticeable and impressive improvement. Because of this, tretinoin is generally not recommended as the only topical option for melasma, but is best used to reduce darkened areas of skin in combination with other effective topicals, particularly sunscreen and hydroquinone.

Don’t go to the cosmetics counter without me - Paula Begoun

The Benefits Of Hydrating Skin


Hydrating is so essential to our health that every organ system, including the skin, has a built-in hydrating system that is continually supplied with water from the bloodstream. When the cell membranes are healthy, the cells are filled with fluid. Then each layer of skin contains hydrating molecules to keep all of its structures moist.

For most healthy young people under twenty, the natural internal hydrators are sufficiently effective to keep skin plump with moisture regardless of the environment stresses. But with aging, poor diet, and environment damage, the skin factory becomes less and less efficient; the cellular equipment begins to break down, and the internal hydration system suffers.

Technically, oily skin needs help with hydration, too. Most of the natural oil that makes skin look shiny is sebum. Truly, it’s a natural lubricant, and since sebum is occlusive, it helps hold water in the skin, but a person with oily skin can still lack structural lipids, which hydrate the deeper layers of the skin. So in certain situations – in a dry, cold, or windy climate, for instance, or when the skin is overcleansed – even skin that typically seems to have too much oil, or sebum, can become dry if not enough structural lipids are being produced.

Keeping skin well hydrated and lubricated from the outside does several things.

- A well-formulated moisturizer can replenish the natural moisture factors in the upper layers of the skin.

- A moisturizer helps to loose edges of the dead skin cells adhere more closely together, smoothing the skin’s surface.

- Depending on the formulation, a moisturizer can leave a fine film on the skin that acts like a water-holding seal, preventing moisture from escaping into the environment.

The net effect is immediately rejuvenating. It’s true that the smooth, moist appearance is temporary, but if hydration is frequent and consistent, the improvements can be maintained. As non-invasive treatments like laser and chemical peels can remove surface imperfections and may increase collagen production as the skin heals, but they don’t affect the skin’s water-holding capacity or the size of the pores. And fillers such as fat or collagen only give the illusion of smoothness; they don’t alter the way the skin performs.

Aside from looking smooth and feeling soft, hydrating the upper layers of the skin with water and moisturizing ingredients also improves the barrier function. And an intact, healthy barrier allows the skin’s own moisturizing system to operate at optimum capacity. It also gives you a better defense against environmental assaults.

Keeping skin well hydrated is also a result of what you don’t do. That means avoid products that you know irritate or dry your skin.

How To Treat Pigmentation & Dark Spots


What’s pigmentation?

Pigmentation and dark spots are characterized by the presence of brown spots or patchy brown or reddish brown areas on the face, most typically in the areas of the face that receive the most sun exposure.

Regardless of your ethnic background or skin color, eventually most of us will struggle with these problems. Skin will either appear lighter or darker than normal in concentrated areas, either in blotchy, uneven patches of brown or gray discoloration or freckling. 

What’s the cause?

Pigmentation and dark spots appear because the body produces either too much or too little of the pigment melanin. When the melanin-producing cells are damaged, they increase in size. This appearance is triggered by several factors: sun exposure, response to inflammation as the acne, or a hormonal factor.

Off-the-counter skincare treatments

Pigmentation is one of the few skin conditions that responds extremely well to simple off-the-counter (OTC) skincare treatment. Most of the products available are called skin whiteners, lighteners, or bleachers.

All they can do is gently retard or block the production of melanin you already have from coming to the surface of the skin, preventing spots from forming. 


The most commonly used ingredient in whiteners and bleachers is hydroquinone, sold OTC in up to a 2 percent concentration. Other approved ingredients include arbutin, kojic acid and licorice extract. You can also try using OTC creams that contain vitamin C, vitamin A, and/or soy, as these all have a mild spot-lightening effect.


Ideally, you should begin seeing visible results in days from any bleaching/lightening product. Bear in mind that ‘visible’ doesn’t mean a dramatic shift from black to white or from brown to white. Instead, you should see a general improvement to your overall skin tone as well as a gradual fading of freckles and spots.

Home Treatments

You can also speed the lightening process along by using home peels and home microdermabrasion, or a complete lightening regimen. Their exfoliating properties will allow the acive ingredients in the lighteners to penetrate more effectively.

Most consumers may think it will bleach out spots on skin the way chorine bleach rids clothing of spots and stains. OTC brighteners/lighteners are not spot treatments. They must be used over the entire face. And if the hyperpigmentation spots are very dark, they may not respond to any OTC treatments at all. And, of course, no brightening will happen unless you use your sunscreen. Hence, the best method to prevent hyperpigmentation, it is essential to wear sunscreen in the day whether indoor or outdoor.

All bleaching product can be harsh even when used as directed. They also cause hypersensitivity to the sun. Both irritation and photosensitivity actually can make dark spots darker and increase our chances of getting new ones. 

Non-invasive treatments

As effective as some bleaching agents can be, especially stubborn sunspots may require a few sessions of laser therapy to eliminate them. Try either IPL, GentleWaves, Titan or Chemical Peels. A light peel will be ideal and a deep peel is not recommended. A series may have to be repeated.

Lasers can work wonders on hyperpigmentation, as the pigment lasers are specifically designed to target brown spots. Fraxel is good. Thermage are not intended to treat hyperpigmentation.