Paula’s Choice recently held its first annual Skin Intelligence 2022 conference hosted by former Elle Beauty Director and New Beauty Editor in Chief, Emily Dougherty. The conference presented “big picture seismic shifts in skin care based on the latest clinically backed research that will affect how we approach skin today, in 2022, and beyond,” said Emily. A panel of experts talked about everything from hyperpigmentation to estrogen + younger-looking skin to maintaining a healthy skin barrier and included dermatologist Dr. Corey Hartman; Paula’s Choice Content and Research Director Bryan Barron; Paula’s Choice Senior Research and Education Manager Desiree Stordahl; and Paula’s Choice Global Director of Skincare Knowledge Deborah Kilgore.

Hyperpigmentation Heroes: Breaking News on Treating Discoloration

“Most discoloration is either post-inflammatory, like after an acne breakout, or from UV light,” said Dr. Corey Hartman, the founder and medical director of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. The second source is referred to as dark spots, age spots or sunspots, all of which can be treated with topicals. Dr. Corey’s first solution is tranexamic acid. Other options include vitamin C, azelaic acid, and bakuchiol.

“When you’re struggling with stubborn discoloration, you’ll need to use multiple products with different active ingredients to see a significant difference,” Dr. Hartman said, explaining that multiple causes of discoloration call for different remedies and that it can take up to three months to see a discernible improvement in discoloration.

Sunscreen, of course, is key when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation. “If you’re not going to commit to applying a broad spectrum SPF 30 or greater every single day, then you shouldn’t even bother treating your dark spots,” Dr. Hartman said, noting that it’s similar to putting on a raincoat when you’re already soaking wet.

Brown skin, of course, also needs protection from the sun. “Despite the conventional wisdom that inherent melanin does not require as much protection from the sun, darker skin tones do need sunscreen,” Dr. Hartman said.

Blue Light and its Effects on Melanated Skin

Blue light can trigger or worsen melasma, Dr. Hartman said. “The biggest culprit is blue light emitted by digital devices. We’re all spending much more time on our phones, increasing our risk of hyperpigmentation, unless you set your display to night mode,” he said. This setting “disables the blue light in favor of a heartless yellow light.” He noted that blue light is more concerning for people with darker skin, because melanin is an excitable factor that blue light responds to. “If you have more melanin, you can be affected more adversely from exposure to blue light since melanin senses the blue light and reacts by speeding up the processes that cause excess melanin, which leads to hyperpigmentation,” he explained.

Estrogen and Skin: Topical Breakthroughs to Prevent and Treat Estrogen-Depleted Skin

Paula’s Choice Global Director of Skincare Knowledge Deborah Kilgore noted that estrogen has a strong impact on healthy skin. “Most people don’t realize the impact it can have on skin and how that changes skin when levels decline over the years,” she explained. This decline can begin when someone is in their late 30s.

“When those estrogen dips start to happen, essentially signs of aging can accelerate,” Deborah said. “It means that skin can become duller, drier, more sensitive, and a bit fussier,” she added. Skin can also take on a crepey texture.

Skin decreases in thickness about 1 percent every year; collagen decreases 2 percent every year. “There ultimately ends up being a 30% decrease in collagen over the years,” Deborah said. “When we start to look at it this way, we can understand the important role estrogen plays in healthy skin.”

To address estrogen-related effects on skin, Deborah recommended using retinol, bakuchiol, vitamin C, exfoliating, and applying sunscreen daily. “Plant-based phytoestrogens topically applied can really have an impact on skin and can complement other products,” Deborah noted.

Paula’s Choice Content and Research Director Bryan Barron added that, of course, it’s always easier to prevent than repair. “Topical phytoestrogens are not only well tolerated but they’re also safe and they primarily work by interacting with estrogen receptor sites, which is the dominant form found in our skin cells,” he said. “They essentially become part of the signaling network, and they convince your skin that it has a normal amount of estrogen.”

Soy-derived phytoestrogens have been most researched, while resveratrol and flax are other types of phytoestrogens that commonly show up in skin care, he said.

Playing Defense: The New Science Behind Boosting the Skin Barrier

Dr. Hartman noted that the skin’s barrier has a very important job because it works to keep all the good things in and the bad things out. “Fatty acids, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid all work together to produce a seal that locks in hydration, otherwise water can evaporate so we get dry,” Dr. Hart said.

When the skin’s barrier is compromised or damaged, irritants can enter skin more easily, causing problems with itchiness, irritation, rashes, and other kinds of damage. Thanks to a few new studies, the derm community is learning more about the components that contribute to a healthy skin barrier, Dr. Hartman said. One vital protein called theragran has a pivotal structural role in the stratum corneum, helping provide natural moisturization. “It plays a role in providing humectant activity to the skin as well to lock in moisture. One recent study found that particulate matter (particle pollution) is quite damaging to the production and retention of healthy theragran,” Dr. Hartman said.

A few signs of a compromised skin barrier include redness, dehydration, sensitivity to elements, being reactive to products/sensitive to products. Items to help replenish skin can begin with ingredients such as ceramides, omegas, and peptides. “It doesn’t have to come in just a moisturizer, you can also layer these in with serums, toners, and essences to give the skin the ability to heal on multiple layers,” he added.