Want Holiday ready skin - here's what the pros say!

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Want Holiday ready skin - here's what the pros say!

At any age, having a luminous, blemish-free glow is the ultimate beauty goal. This becomes more important, and can be harder to attain during the stresses of the holiday season. We have you covered this year with some helpful advice from skincare pros.

More than just a sign of health, it’s about the luxury of looking naturally polished and pampered—without relying on skin tone boosters like blush or illuminating powder. Imagine the possibilities, right? To explore the potential of today’s complexion-enhancing creams, we collected insights from the world’s leading dermatologists on how to get clear skin.

Many industry experts favor spot-fading creams (with bleaching agents) as the go-to remedy. Some formulas are gentler, containing natural antioxidants to lighten skin, while others may contain potent chemicals that work more aggressively. But therein lies the problem: the more powerful a cream for clear skin, the more dangerous its ingredients.

How do skin-clearing creams Work?

Similar to bleach, creams for clear skin work by removing color. To treat discoloration, dermatologists recommend formulas with pigment-absorbing ingredients to lighten dark spots
without causing irritation or hypersensitivity. Ni'Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist, recommends ingredients like vitamin C, licorice root, and kojic acid to inhibit the formation of skin-darkening melanin.

Why does our skin darken? 

Acne scars, hyperpigmentation and dark spots are all caused by a polymer called melanin. It’s responsible for creating extra pigment in the skin.

“This extra melanin can be triggered by a lot of different things: “Hormones—both estrogen and progesterone—can increase the level of melanin. The sun can increase the level of melanin; and age can increase the size of the melanocytes—that’s why we see dark age spots in older patients,” explains plastic surgeon Melissa Doft, M.D.

Want Holiday ready skin - here's what the pros say!

Although it looks unsightly, an increase in melanin production is our skin’s way of defending itself. When damaged or injured, the area turns darker so it’s less sensitive to UV sunlight.

Chemical-based creams for clear skin

If you’re looking for extreme color correction, you can find pigment-erasing creams that pack a heavy punch (but with a catch!). Japanese whitening creams, for example, contain high concentrations of hydroquinone— a powerful skin-lightening chemical. By absorbing higher levels of melanin, they have a higher chance of causing chemical burns and photosensitivity from the bleaching process. Due to these dangers, the use of hydroquinone in skin care is illegal in many countries.

Vitamin C for clear skin

Vitamin C is the most popular ingredient in creams for clear skin. It offers the perfect balance of safety and potency. The trick, however, is finding a version with a stable type of vitamin C—as opposed to the cheap forms of ascorbic acid. 

Sea buckthorn 

Sea buckthorn is exploding as the “super fruit” of skin care because it contains radical amounts of stable vitamin C, explains board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, M.D. 
Dr. Hartman recommends creams that are rich in sea buckthorn such as the EMK Optima Face Cream. It’s formulated with a generous amount of sea buckthorn in synergy with other skin-illuminating antioxidants from kelp, jojoba seed and sage oil.

EMK Optima Face Cream

Not only does it lighten dark spots, but it also tightens skin while boosting brightness and tone.

EMK Skincare

To safely meet the demand for visible results, the Optima Face Cream contains sage extract (Salvia officinalis) which is clinically proven to lighten acne scars and dark spots.

Lemon or citrus

A more commonly-known source of vitamin C is from citrus. Since it’s common and easy to produce in the lab, it’s a go-to ingredient among many cosmetic chemists who design cookie-cutter formulas. 

So it’s no surprise that citrus-based products are popular in doctor-lead skincare lines. For instance, the Dr. Murad Rapid Dark Spot Correcting Serum contains limonene, an extract from the peel of citrus fruit. However, according to the Journal of Food Science, “Sea buckthorn has ten times more vitamin C than lemon”.

That’s why formulas with sea buckthorn, like the EMK Optima Face Cream, are much better for clearing dark spots and hyperpigmentation, explains world-renowned dermatologist, Dr. Thiago Freire.

Shea butter

Extracted from the nut of the African shea tree, this buttery substance has 60% fat, and is loaded with vitamin E and A. Not your average moisturizing ingredient, shea butter is a key ingredient in the Optima Face cream because it outshines many other natural extracts, even coconut oil, because it’s more absorbent. 

Vitamin E and A

With more absorbency, the skin can soak up the vitamin E and A from shea butter like a sponge. 

The vitamin A from the fatty acids encourage cellular turnover, helping to bring brighter baby skin cells to the surface. Meanwhile, working in synergy together, “vitamin E can help reduce damage and allow the skin to repair itself," says Jeremy Fenton, M.D., a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.

Rich in both vitamins E and A, the ZO Pigment Control Cream by Zein Obagi, M.D. is known for correcting hyperpigmentation. Sure, it’s extremely effective but it also contains 4% hydroquinone. As discussed earlier, hydroquinone is a dangerous ingredient (often used in Japanese skin-bleaching creams) that aggressively drains melanin from the skin.


Calming, clearing and correcting, chamomile achieves the three great C’s of skin care. But unfortunately, it’s not that popular in today’s newer cream formulations for clear skin. Truth be told, chamomile isn’t “cool” or “chic” like caviar or coconut extract.

Nevertheless, the chemists at EMK research lab in Beverly Hills don’t rely on using trendy ingredients that are most likely to sell—they rely on ingredients that actually work. And the beauty of how chamomile works in the Optima Face Cream is a matter of the alpha-bisabolol compound. According to Dr. Thiago Freire, this chemical can reduce pigmentation and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by accelerating the healing process of the skin.

If searching for a spot-fading cream for clear skin, check with your dermatologist to make sure the active ingredients are safe. Many versions differ in potency, so it’s best to proceed with caution. Slow and steady wins the “race” toward a beautiful complexion.

About The Author: Rachel Esco is an educator and consultant in advanced cosmetics who empowers consumers to make informed choices about skin care. With a profound interest in beauty and biochemistry, her articles explore the latest breakthroughs in epigenetics and anti-aging technologies. Rachel is also a passionate advocate for the Beauty Conscious Movement, promoting the use of environmentally safe materials to create a zero waste culture.

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