A Powerful Natural Antioxidant for Health and Beauty

Natural Skin-Lightening and Spot-Correcting Effects of Alpha Lipoic Acid

Sun exposure, UV radiation, and aging can cause hyperpigmentation in skin known as age spots.

Are you plagued by melasma or unwanted dark spots on your skin, but worried about the side effects of hydroquinone? Studies suggest that alpha lipoic acid may be a natural, safe skin lightener to help even your skin tone. (v.3-4)

Dark spots are caused by many factors that trigger the cells that make pigment (called melanin) in the skin. (v.35-36)

These factors include: (v.35-44)

  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning booths.
  • Hormones (from pregnancy, birth control, or conditions such as Cushing's disease).
  • Chronic stress (leads to hormone imbalances).
  • Exposure to toxins or skin irritants, including from cosmetics, food poisoning, smoking tobacco, and PCBs.
  • Inflammation from injury, skin rash, or acne.

How Can Alpha Lipoic Acid Help Hyperpigmentation?

Studies show that alpha lipoic acid interferes with the internal pathways to hyperpigmentation. Moreover, alpha lipoic acid sets up multiple road blocks on those paths: (v.8-1045-48)

  • Anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Antioxidant protection.
  • Reduces expression of the key transcription factor protein that starts the skin pigmentation process.
  • Decrease enzymes that promote melanin production.

Alpha lipoic acid also increases glutathione. This natural antioxidant is produced in the body and can also be taken as a supplement. In a clinical trial, glutathione was shown to significantly lighten dark spots. Interestingly, alpha lipoic acid actually stops pigment production from UV radiation (which can promote skin cancer) better than glutathione. (v.4649-50)

There have been some small clinical trials using alpha lipoic acid in combination with other ingredients or phototherapy for cosmetic improvement of skin. Results suggest that not only can alpha lipoic acid lighten dark spots; it may also help improve the appearance of aging skin. (v.51)

Treating Vitiligo with Alpha Lipoic Acid

Vitiligo is a condition with areas of skin hypopigmentation.

Alpha lipoic acid could also help with conditions that cause hypopigmentation. That's because dysregulation of many of the same pathways that cause dark spots on the skin can also lead to loss of skin color. (v.11)

Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to not only block pigment pathways, but to actually regulate them in healthy ways. For example, in a small clinical trial involving patients with vitiligo, alpha lipoic acid helped improve conventional phototherapy outcomes. Alpha lipoic acid was given in supplements that also contained vitamin C, vitamin E, and polyunsaturated fatty acids for 2 months before and 6 months after phototherapy. The group taking the antioxidants had significantly more return of skin pigmentation than those who took the placebo with the phototherapy. Tests showed that the alpha lipoic acid and nutrient group had increased pigment enzyme activity and much lower levels of free radicals. (v.11)

How to Use Alpha Lipoic Acid

According to research, ingesting alpha lipoic acid (whether by food or supplement) improves levels of natural antioxidants. Some of these, such have vitamin C and glutathione, have skin lightening effects in the body. (v.4952)

Skin creams often combine alpha lipoic acid with other beneficial ingredients, such as antioxidants and fatty acids. Products containing alpha lipoic acid (or its derivatives) and a zinc compound inhibits dopachrome formation in melanoma cells. Researchers suggest this means the combination could help treat melasma. In fact, some report that the alpha lipoic acid-zinc combo actually works as well or better than other known skin lighteners, such as kojic acid and arbutin. (v.4553-54)

Microphthalmia transcription factor (MITF). (v.46)
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