Hyperpigmentation is a very common skin condition. Read – you are not alone my friend. Hyperpigmentation can be diagnosed as age spots, melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and plain old uneven skin tone. Which do you have? Whichever camp you fall into, hyperpigmentation probably wasn’t a skin condition that concerned you, until you developed it – pesky how that works ‘eh.
Now hyperpigmentation has hit your radar – what can you do about it? What can you do to treat areas of pigmentation already developed?… and the most important, yet most commonly overlooked question – what can you do to prevent further patches of hyperpigmentation from forming?
3 questions – 1 skincare routine – many answers… let’s get going my friend.
What Is Hyperpigmentation?
Your skin is a clever machine. It births new skin cells everyday, it defends against dehydration, it protects your internal organs from UV radiation… the list goes on.
Take a look at your skin tone. What’s your ‘baby I was born with this’ colour? Do you tan? What’s your ‘baby I’ve been on holiday’ colour? Your natural skin tone and your tanned skin tone are both thanks to a pigment called melanin.
Just like the pigments you’d find in a blue eye-shadow, skin also has a pigment pallet of it’s very own.
The skin tone you were born with is thanks to a couple of factors;
- The amount of melanin your skin produces
- The size of cells responsible for producing melanin (melanocytes)
- The distribution of your melanocytes
Usually your melanin manufacturing system works evenly. Sometimes it’s upset. When it’s in the midst of a colourful tantrum – hyperpigmentation forms.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
The pigmentation family tree has 2 arms – hyperpigmentation and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The chemistry causing changes in pigmentation is the same – the cause is different.
Hyperpigmentation is most often provoked by internal changes. Can you take a guess at what they might be?
- Hormones e.g. melasma
- Age e.g. age spots
Hormones ‘eh, they’re responsible for a lot.
On the opposite side of the fence we have post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), a kind of pigmentation caused by external changes. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is made as a consequence of your skin’s healing process. It’s caused by;
- Sun damage
…and more. If your skin is healing, there’s a risk of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Which Active Skincare Ingredients Help to Treat Skin Pigmentation?
Oh, great question my friend. This is the key to treatment of your hyperpigmentation. If you’re a long-time Honesty reader, you will know the answer to that often asked, ‘will this skincare product really work?’ question, is always found in the ingredients list.
…or should I say is predominantly found in the ingredients list. Jamie Doran may hold first place in the 50-sexiest men of our time, however that fact does not make everyone’s heart pound to the same beat. Sometimes your biology is just a little different.
But most of the time, it is true – if you have a skin concern you want to treat, you need active skincare ingredients in doses that work.
When it comes to hyperpigmentation these are the skincare actives with world-renowned reputations;
- Niacinamide (most effective when combined with N-acetyl glucosamine)
- Alpha Arbutin
- Hydroquinone – which is a highly controversial ingredient – one which I won’t be recommending in your hyperpigmentation treating skincare routine.
- Vitamin C
- Kojic acid
If you’re contemplating a new skincare product for treatment of your hyperpigmentation and it doesn’t have one of these ingredients – I’d recommend putting it back on the shelf. It probably looks very pretty but for treatment of your pigmentation we want pretty and functional… and you can have both – promise.
Want to treat hyperpigmentation? Want to treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation? Don’t just cover it up, treat it with actives… pic.twitter.com/ccFWk6KaNZ
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 30 May 2017
A Skincare Routine for Hyperpigmentation
Knowing which skincare actives are effective against hyperpigmentation is one thing. Designing an effective skincare routine is very much another. It’s like knowing that vegetables are healthy for you, but not being sure how to make those vegetable taste yummy inside of your dinner.
Mixing of your skincare products is also another worry. Skincare actives can cause you irritation and sensitivity when used in the wrong combinations. They can also (not so excitingly) in-activate each other, or even work against each other.
This is why you have me, my friend – we are going to scout you some skin products for hyperpigmentation, we’re going to stick them together in a way that works and then to add a cherry on-top we’re going to speak about pigmentation prevention.
Let’s go… to skincare routine 1, if you have and oily/combination skin type and to skincare routine 2, if you have a normal to dry skin type.
Skincare Routine 1 – hyperpigmentation – oily/combination skin type
The best skin care for hyperpigmentation works in synergy with your skin type. If the 2 aren’t connected, your new routine will correct pigmentation while leaving you with one or many new skin concerns. It’s like walking into Topshop for a new pair of heels and coming out, with a size too big. They do the job, but blister-town is beckoning.
In a routine that treats hyperpigmentation alongside an oily or combination skin type, we will focus on actives that do both e.g. niacinamide.
- The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (£5/30ml)
- Followed by sunscreen Green People’s Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF30 (£22/200ml) – this is your prevention step – very important if you suffer from post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, also important to avoid worsening inside-out caused skin discolouration.
- Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Vitamin C Treatment (£48/15ml) – this is a strong treatment product, so if you consider your skin type sensitive or are not used to using active skincare ingredients try something like A’kin Brightening Rosehip Oil with Vitamin C (£24/20ml).
For treatment a couple of times per week;
- A salicylic acid based exfoliant to use in your PM routine e.g. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion Exfoliant (£25/100ml) – this helps speed up removal of hyperpigmentation whilst also helping to prevent an uneven skin tone.
Skincare Routine 2 – hyperpigmentation – dry/dehydrated skin type
Now If oily or combination does not describe your skin type, you’ll want to take a leaf from skincare routine number 2 – pigmentation treatment for normal to dry skin types;
- Eucerin Even Brighter Pigment Reducing Day Cream SPF 30, containing B-Resorcinol (£22.50/50ml) – be sure to use enough of this for adequate UV protection – read this to make sure you are.
- The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA (£7/30ml) – this product is very sensitive to pH changes which is why I’d recommend following with a few drops of…
- The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane (£5.50/30ml) – this is oil based so has no pH and will help to moisturise and condition skin while also protecting the delicate pH range alpha arbutin requires to treat skin discolouration.
For treatment a maximum of once per week;
- Switch out the above alpha arbutin evening serum for Paula’s Choice RESIST Weekly Resurfacing Treatment (£33/60ml) – apply this as you would a toner. If you have a resilient skin type you can leave this on exactly like a toner, or if you consider your skin sensitive, remove with water after 10 minutes. If you’ve never used a products containing glycolic acid, it’s probably best to go for option number 2 and see how your skin behaves.
Designing a new skincare routine can get expensive, so know you don’t need all the products mentioned above, however if you do combine 1, 2 or 3 – they will deliver a very effective anti-pigmentation routine. Oh and sunscreen… that’s the only step I’d deem essential – especially for prevention of pigmentation caused by inside-out factors e.g. hormones and age. And remember, prevention is always better than cure.
How to Integrate Skin Products for Hyperpigmentation Within Your Existing Skincare Routine
Now if you’re looking to get a bit fancy with these routines, you’ll want to take a peek at these 2 articles – each teaching you the principles of skincare mix and match;
You can integrate any of the above recommended products into your existing skincare routine by following the principles laid out in each of these articles. It’s like learning to use only 1-neon colour at a time, that black and brown should very rarely be dressed together and that if you flash leg, low-cut tops are banned.
Have questions? Want to know which of the above products would be the ‘one’ to get started with? Leave me your comments and questions below, let’s chat…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.