If you happen to struggle with hyperpigmentation (aka, discoloration and dark spots)—you’re not alone. Rest assured, it just so happens to be one of the most common skin conditions that affects all skin tones, shades and colors. Hyperpigmentation usually occurs from an increased number of melanocytes. This increase in melanin usually occurs on the epidermal, or surface of the skin, and can be caused by the following:
- Postinflammatory pigmentation (acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, trauma)
- Melasma* (hormonal imbalances and fluctuations from pregnancy or birth control pills)
- Solar lentigos (sun spots or damage)
- Ephelides (freckles)
- Nevi (a birthmark or a mole on the skin, especially in the form of a raised red patch)
Because hyperpigmentation is a condition of increased melanin production—and because our skin color is determined by melanin production—it’s important to recognize some differences in hyperpigmentation conditions and treatments based on skin color:
- When your skin color is darker, it’s already producing more melanin, so when you’re exposed to a trigger, like hormonal imbalances or trauma, your skin will naturally start producing more melanin, which can cause hyperpigmentation.
- If you have darker skin, treating hyperpigmentation is a balance between diminishing dark spots without irritating or causing further inflammatory damage—we’ll discuss treatment options below!
- Those with lighter skin are more prone to struggle with visible sun damage and sun spots. However, the risk of overproduction of melanin is less likely to occur.
Darker skin types should avoid IPL laser treatment, hydroquinone and aggressive glycolic peels—this can actually worsen hyperpigmentation issues and cause an increase in melanin.
While hydroquinone was once regarded as the gold standard for treating skin discoloration, it’s now considered too aggressive and potentially toxic—so, it should be avoided by all skin colors.
But have no fear! Treatment serums containing the right balance of ingredients can be just as effective as some of the older, more aggressive peels and laser treatments. Bonus: they can be used by all skin colors! The best ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation include:
- Vitamin C: Known as the “brightening powerhouse” of skincare, this single ingredient helps treat current pigmentation issues and prevent further dark spots and sun damage by reducing the enzyme tyrosinase that helps produce pigment. Want to know more about Vitamin C? We wrote all about it here!
- Arbutin: Naturally derived from bearberry, this hyperpigmentation life-saver works by reducing melanin production.
- AHAs: Gentle alpha hydroxy acids such as lactic acid or fruit acids work well for all skin colors without being too aggressive and potentially irritating. Reserve stronger glycolic peels for the use of in-office treatments at your dermatologist. Using a daily, gentle AHA also helps to remove dead skin from the surface of your complexion and allow potent serums to work better and go deeper to reduce hyperpigmentation issues. You can read all about fruit acids here!
- Licorice Root Extract: This natural extract helps to lighten pigmentation and reduce inflammation. It also aids in fighting against redness, which is a sign of increased inflammation in lighter skin colors. It works by inhibiting pigmentation issues in response to sun exposure and is unique because it’s one of the less irritating, yet effective ways to treat dark spots.
Besides preventing melanoma (and that’s kind-of a biggie!), sunscreen is a must if you want to reduce hyperpigmentation. While it’s not an ingredient that actually fades sun damage, it prevents further damage and allows your skin to tolerate many of the above ingredients, without causing more hyperpigmentation issues. Daily application of at least SPF 30 will help to shield your skin from UV light to control melanin production on a cellular level (psst...be sure to reapply every two hours when in direct sunlight). If you don’t already use SPF, get on it ASAP! Us? We’re big fans of Supergoop!
You’ll also want to use an antioxidant serum during the day. This will help your sunscreen further protect from damaging UVA/UVB as well as free radicals from pollution.
Your Hyperpigmentation Quick Fix
For best results, pair our Multitasker Night Serum with our antioxidant-packed Go-Getter Day Serum. The Multitasker Night Serum combines gentle, yet effective fruit acids that work well to mildly exfoliate all skin colors without increasing the risk of irritation and further pigmentation damage. Plus, it combines bearberry extract with naturally derived arbutin to help reduce melanin production. The Go-Getter, on the other hand, combines brightening Vitamin C with a hand-selected botanical blend of plant-based antioxidants to fight pollution and increased sun damage. Use these together, and you’ll be well on your way to a more even complexion!
Let’s face it: hyperpigmentation can be, well, annoying (to say the least!). Although you may not be able to say goodbye to dark spots for good, these tips will help fade and prevent most discoloration in the easiest way possible.
For further information, be sure to check out Candace Read’s recent blog post, “My Journey with Adult Acne.”
I want to hear from you! Do you struggle with hyperpigmentation? If so, do you find it difficult to find ingredients and products that treat dark spots without irritating your skin? What treatments have you tried for hyperpigmentation? Leave a comment below!
*Melasma can be one of the most difficult hyperpigmentation conditions to treat because it also affects the deeper dermal layers of the skin.