Silymarin for Hyperpigmentation

An exciting new ingredient to treat hyperpigmentation, including melasma, has recently been undergoing clinical testing. This revolutionary new treatment ingredient is called silymarin. The best part? Silymarin is a natural ingredient derived from the milk thistle plant. The worst part? It is rather difficult to get your hands on this stuff! One of the only reliable sources for the product is through a company called Cloud Vitamin Cream. Though they seem to focus more on vitamin based treatments, they are confident enough in Silymarin that they have made it a showcase of their product line.

Melasma, a type of hyperpigmentation, is a common aesthetic skin concern. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) defines melasma as follows:  “It causes brown to gray-brown patches on the face. Most people get it on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip.” This overproduction of melanin sometimes looks like large splotches of freckles and can even cover entire areas with a brownish, uneven skin tone. The AAD goes on to add that, “Women are far more likely than men to get melasma. It is so common during pregnancy that some people call it the mask of pregnancy. Hormones seem to trigger melasma.” That being said, it is possible for men to have melasma, as well. As with many of the most common skin conditions, melasma can be exacerbated by sun exposure.

Silymarin works to eradicate hyperpigmentation, including melasma, by stopping the overproduction of melanin. It does this by inhibiting the production of tyrosinase, a protein that causes melanin production.  It also stops the overproduction of melanin by acting as a free radical scavenger. This is important because the sun, specifically UV radiation, creates free radicals in the skin. Free radicals stimulate the melanocytes, and they, in turn, produce more melanin pigment. Since silymarin is a free radial scavenger, it prevents this cascade of melanin formation caused by free radicals.

Is silymarin the best new skin treatment available? In addition to silymarin, there are a variety of treatment products available to treat hyperpigmention, including melasma. Examples of other topical treatments are tretinoin, hydroquinone, kojic acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid. These can have varying degrees of success, as well as side effects. Some typical side effects of these alternative treatments range from flaking or peeling of the skin to redness and swelling in the applied areas. Another potential problem is that it is not advisable for pregnant or nursing women to use tretinoin or salicylic acid, as their molecules are small enough to slip through the base of the hair follicle and into the bloodstream. This is unfortunate, as melasma frequently appears during pregnancy.

Clinical trials using silymarin to treat melasma were done by Tagreed Altaei at Hawler Medical Unversity in 2012. There were 96 adults with melasma in the study, both male and female. Silymarin displayed exceptional results. Altaei stated that patients, “showed significant excellent pigment improvement from the first week.” Not only was silymarin shown to be effective in treating melasma, but Altaei also added that, “Even in high doses, silymarin does not show any toxic effects and, in fact has no harmful effects on the embryo.” The proven safety of silymarin is incredibly significant for pregnant or nursing patients with melasma. Another exciting development in Altaei’s study was that none of the patients had any side effects. This is a breakthrough for those that cannot tolerate the side effects from other conventional hyperpigmentation treatments.

After completing the trials, Altaei concluded that, “Silymarin showed tremendous improvement of melasma in a dose-dependent manner, and was effective in prevention of skin damage caused by U.V. sunlight. It is a safe new candidate effective treatment for melasma.”
Silymarin is proving to be an innovative new ingredient to fight hyperpigmentation, specifically, melasma. It stops the overproduction of melanin, acts as a potent antioxidant, and it is safe and free of side effects. The bottom line, however, is that silymarin is completely effective for the treatment of melasma.
August 05, 2014 by Cathy Mohr
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