Spreading Clean Beauty

Why natural action on genetic factors is key to combatting melasma

Hyperpigmentation has long been a key concern for women all over the world. It’s particularly the case for women with darker skin tones, where the appearance of melasma, or any other facial hyperpigmentation, has strong and culturally held associations with aging. 

Thus it is the responsibility of the beauty industry to meet women’s diverse concerns about hyperpigmentation disorders like melasma naturally and safely. Here, we give an overview of the root of the causes and discuss how naturally-derived ingredients can even and brighten the skin by acting on the molecular factors that regulate melanin production.

The root cause of melasma

Melasma, a hypomelanosis of the face, is a common skin problem for middle-aged women of all racial groups. However, it tends to affect women with dark complexions more. Its exact root cause is evasive, but genetic factors, exposure to sun exposure, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, thyroid dysfunction, cosmetics, and drugs all have connections to the condition.

Irrespective of their cause, to better understand the origin of these irregularities we need to understand the skin’s pigmentation mechanism. Researchers have found that two different types of melanin occur within melanocyte cells, which lead to nuances in skin tone: 

  • Eumelanin: Brown or black-colored, which provide the dark colorations.
  • Pheomelanin: Yellow or brownish-red pigments, responsible for light colorations.

The key enzyme involved in the synthesis of all melanin types is tyrosinase. A succession of oxidations catalyzed by tyrosinase leads to the synthesis of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), which then produces a common intermediary compound: dopaquinone (DQ). As of this point, two different pathways lead to the formation of eumelanin and pheomelanin.

Therefore, gene regulation in skin pigmentation, or more specifically, in the melanin synthesis pathway, is essential to keeping eumelanin production under control. The transcription of the genes that encode tyrosinase and other enzymes, such as the protein related to tyrosinase 1 (Tyrp1), is under the control of the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF). This factor is crucial, both for melanocyte proliferation and for melanogenesis.

Approaches to regulating hyperpigmentation

The classic treatments of melasma were traditionally part of the skin lightening market. Products contained ingredients like Kogic acid, which have now been found to break down the skin’s natural barrier and even cause dermatitis. Instead, women need a non-toxic, natural approach to managing and improving the appearance of melasma, promoting skin positivity and inclusivity, while addressing their anti-aging concerns. For instance, Mintel has observed that beauty brands across price points are centering inclusivity in product stories.

Therefore, brands need to find ingredients that act on the genetic regulation of melanin in the skin, rather than lightening at the expense of the skin’s natural barrier. One such mechanism concerns peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), which participate in several physiological processes by controlling gene expression in different cells. The study of the mechanisms of action of PPARγ on melanocytes originated in melanoma research. 

However, the cosmetic industry has since applied this knowledge to establish PPARγ as a new mechanism for brightening activity. It has been seen that this nuclear receptor’s agonists are capable of acting directly on melanocytes and influencing gene expression via interactions with transcription factors or signaling proteins. The influence of PPARγ has been described on certain key melanogenesis regulators, such as the regulating gene for the MITF, mentioned above.

Provital’s research on gentle treatments for an even skin tone

In response to these new findings, researchers at Provital developed Melavoid™. Once PPARγ was identified as a key mechanism in skin pigmentation modulation, scientists began the search for a compound of natural origin that could have PPARγ agonist activity. After performing an in silico screening, the actives from the root of the Boerhaavia diffusa plant were selected as potential PPARγ agonists.

In conjunction with other elements, this active has a smart depigmenting action to help neutralize the appearance of dark spots. In an in vivo study, it was observed that after 56 days of treatment, the decrease in pigmentation intensity was greater in the hyperpigmented area than in normal skin. This makes the overall effect of Melavoid™ a uniform, homogenous evening of the skin.

This smart depigmentation action responds to key consumer demands: that the appearance of forms of hyperpigmentation like melasma are managed and this is done naturally and gently. With innovative plant-derived ingredients, Melavoid™ meets this demand head-on.

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