Best Way to Reduce Hyperpigmentation?
First off, hyperpigmentation is an umbrella term that is defined as any condition that leads to discoloration or darkening of the skin. There are several causes for hyperpigmentation, but the most common causes of hyperpigmentation are excess sun exposure, eczema, psoriasis, and acne (particularly when you choose to pop an annoying irritating little pimple).
How does this discoloration and darkening form?
Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin it’s color. Melanin also gives color to your eyes, your hair, your nasal cavities and even the inside of your ears. Everyone has a numerous amount of immune system cells in the epidermis layers of their skin. Into the very bottom of the epidermis layer of the skin also known as the stratum basale lies melanocytes. Melanocytes are a group of spidery looking cells which produce a pigment known as melanosomes. The melanosomes contain enzymes that produce melanin and they travel upward towards the surface of the skin which is the reason why we see darkening by the time it’s at the top of our skin.
A very interesting fact to know is that no matter how fair or how dark you are, we all have roughly the same number of melanocytes. Therefore, our actual skin color isn’t about the number of these cells that we have but rather about how far the cellular extensions known as dendrites extend and reach. These dendrites are used to transfer the pigment granules to the neighboring epidermal cells henc e the spread of hue. All around the melanocytes are several other epidermis cells known as keratinocytes. Keratinocytes look like little pillows with a nucleus inside. Keratinocytes have the responsibility of signaling to the melanocytes that they are in need of melanin and th e melanocytes sends melanin over to them. So, when the melanosomes transfer the keratinocyte, they gather together at the very top the kera tinocytes and shape a protective umbrella over the nucleus but let’s not forget that the basic role of keratinocytes is to create keratin and filaggrin which are proteins found in hair and skin. These proteins also help protect the skin from UV rays by preserving a healthy skin barrier function. Furthermore, keratinocytes help in protecting against allergens, microbes and bacteria.
Every day the melanin umbrella that the melanosomes create over the keratinocytes absorbs the UV rays that enter your skin and instantly protects you from sun damage. Now, whenever you forget to wear sunscreen and you spend a lot of time outside walking around, tanning, swimming in the pool your skin gets aggravated by the sun due to an overexpose to the sun and it’s strong UV rays. UV rays can penetrate deep into your skin and cells and consequently the keratinocytes hold way more melanin in their cells than usual and the pigment bursting at the seams are showing through. On top of that, when the UV rays reach the nucleus (the middle part that stores your DNA) of the keratinocytes it can get damaged, deformed or even mutated. Whenever this happens to lots of keratinocytes (many strands of your DNA are mutating and being wrecked), this then becomes the root cause of skin cancer and melanoma.
3 Different Types of Hyperpigmentation
P.I.H (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation)
Caused by inflammation to the skin = shows a dark red, purple or brown mark.
Why does post inflammatory hyperpigmentation happen?
When you get a wound, a rash, or a blemish, on your skin it reacts by becoming irritated and inflamed. We are inclined to perceive inflammation as a negative thing simply because of how awful it looks and how horrible it feels but we should truly keep in mind that whenever we get inflammation on the skin it’s our body’s natural way of protecting us from infection, bacteria and viruses, so in reality inflammation really is a good thing it just kind of looks bad. Pimples and breakouts happen because of inflammation caused by the bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells trapped in our pores.
Now tying all of this back to melanocytes under the surface of the skin, the inflammation causes the melanocytes to release excess melanosomes to the keratinocytes. Let’s not forget that keratinocytes also play a huge role in protecting the skin against outside invaders. This excess pigment then creates a discoloration around the wound of the irritated and inflamed area which is the blemish therefore creating hyperpigmentation. It’s important to know that the more inflamed or irritated your skin is the more noticeable your hyperpigmentation will appear on the surface of your skin and that’s why estheticians and dermatologists always tell us not to pick at our own pimples/blemishes because the hyperpigmentation will take way longer to fade and the wound won’t be able to heal properly.
P.I.H is more common in medium to darker skin tones and the deeper the inflammation is in the skin the longer it will take to fade. Good thing is with the help of certain ingredients the recovery process can speed up.
-P.I. E (post inflammatory erythema)
Post-Inflammatory erythema are reddish or purple marks that acne can leave behind.
What are the causes of P.I.E?
Acne, picked/popped pimples, cuts, sun exposure, chemical burns, or harsh over-exfoliation can all cause P.I.E. Post inflammatory erythema happens when the skin receives some sort of trauma.
So basically, P.I.E results when the skin’s capillaries are broken and the skin is trying to heal itself by dilating the blood vessels to increase blood flow because it’s like, “save me ! heal me!” that’s why if you see rosy or reddish colored marks on your skin it’s most likely the case that you have P.I.E. Fair-skinned individuals are more likely
to have P.I.E than darker-skinned people.
Remember, when you pick at your skin or pop a pimple, you’re further wounding your skin and causing even more irritation and inflammation which then makes it longer for it to heal. Picking a pimple can actually lead to permanent scarring on the face, if not done properly.
You can recognize melasma by many ways, but the most obvious signs of melasma are fairly large and spread out blotchy areas that are brownish. Melasma is another form of hyperpigmentation that is most commonly seen in women. You mostly see it in areas like the cheeks, the bridge of the nose, forehead, chin and upper lip and just like PIH melasma also occurs due to the excess production of melanin from melanosomes but what makes it different to PIH and PIE is that melasma is believed to be also caused by things like genetics, UV exposure, and also hormonal influences.
Since melasma can possibly be caused by hormones this makes melasma much harder to treat compared to the other types of acne-related hyperpigmentation or just like general small spots.
How can you treat hyperpigmentation?
Throughout our life, our skin constantly changes for better or worse. In fact, our skin regenerates itself approximately every 28 to 30 days so naturally our skin will shed itself and reveal fresh skin which means that the darkened areas will naturally lighten but if ever the hyperpigmentation is on the deeper layers of our skin unfortunately it will take longer for it to go away completely. What you need to do is to look for ingredients that can inhibit melanin production in the skin to basically stop it from producing in the first place. While melanocytes to their job in creating melanosomes, they also create an enzyme called tyrosinase. This enzyme contains copper and is essential for activating melanin from inside the melanosomes. So, when you apply a whitening or lightening treatment to help treat P.I.H or melasma the product directly targets this melanin overproduction by inhibiting tyrosinase from doing its job.
As for hyperpigmentation produced by P.I.E, you’re going to want to soothe the inflammation to the skin and to prevent irritating your reddish marks even more avoid picking at your skin. You’re also going to want to avoid ingredients such as alcohols when looking for a toner. It’s better for you to avoid using astringents that can be overly drying on the skin like witch hazel. Last but not least, stop using highly concentrated or potent ingredients such as undiluted tea tree, citrus or other essential oils and always wear sun protection to prevent further damage since unprotected sun exposure can actually worsen your hyperpigmentation.
Ingredients for treating hyperpigmentation
Hydroquinone is kind of controversial, but several studies have demonstrated and proven that it works. Hydroquinone is one of the best ingredients for brightening dark spots by decreasing melanocytes and thus melanin production. Since hydroquinone is so potent it can’t be used for a long-term period and can even cause some undesirable side effects like skin sensitivity and irritation plus it’s also worth knowing that hydroquinone is not recommended for pregnant women and is currently banned in several country’s due to these concerns. If you are not
pregnant, I suggest you use hydroquinone since it’s actually effective in lightening dark spots compared to other treatments, particularly when combined with using a topical retinoid. If you’re more into natural and clean ingredients perhaps hydroquinone won’t be your top pick. But if you’re into something extremely potent, then I have few products that include it.
1. Paula’s Choice Resist Triple Action Dark Spot Eraser
2. Ambi Fade Cream Oily Skin
3. Myriad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum
If you are into Korean Skincare and bought few products off of SokoGlam especially those advertised for lightening, bleaching and whitening your skin tone, chances are you’ve come across this ingredient known as arbutin. It’s an extract derived from the bearberry plant as well as blueberries and also cranberry plants and helps to brighten the skin by interfering with tyrosinase, which we previously mentioned. By preventing tyrosinase from doing its job; the production of melanin is slowed down and remarkably reduced. Basically, it’s like hydroquinone, but without the potentially harmful side effects for pregnant women.
1. The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% and Hyaluronic Acid
2. Obagi Clinical Vitamin C and Arbutin Brightening Serum.
Kojic acid lightens up dark spots and hyperpigmentation and has anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and anti-microbial properties. This ingredient is rich in antioxidants and can offer some degree of protection. Kojic acid is produced from fungi and is naturally produced from fermentation process of foods like soybeans, rice and sake. Most of the time, kojic acid is listed as fermented soy extract, fermented rice extract and fermented rice filtrate in the ingredient list but in the end, they all mean the same thing. So how does kojic acid help brighten your skin? Remember how hydroquinone targets the melanocytes and arbutin targets tyrosinase from within the melanocytes, well kojic acid aims at the copper from inside the tyrosinase. Kojic acid is normally safe for all skin types including pregnant women and unlike hydroquinone it can be used long-term and you can pair it with things like glycolic acid to get greatest results, kojic acid and AHA’s are a match made in Heaven but keep in mind that there’s a possible risk of contact dermatitis and sunburns if you do not protect your skin properly from UV rays so make sure you don’t forget to apply sunscreen.
1. SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense
2. Glytone Dark Spot Corrector
3. iS Clinical Super Serum Advanced Plus
Azelaic acid is naturally found in our skin. This ingredient is particularly great for helping with P.I.E, melasma, rosacea and even acne.
azelaic acid has the ability to kill P. Acnes that are trapped in the hair follicles.
1. Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
2. PCA Skin Pigment Gel
3. Ren Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic
AHA’s such as mandelic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid are naturally derived from plants, milk and fruit extracts and can help get rid of dark spots and hyperpigmentation by assisting the skin with the cell turnover process which naturally occurs anyway every 28-30 days. AHA’s chemically exfoliate the skin and help to get rid of dead skin cells and the gunk that sticks them together which then causes things such as breakouts. Alpha-hydroxy-acids main role is to encourage new cells to emerge which results in fresh and bright looking skin.
1. Krave Beauty’s Kale-lalu-yAHA
2. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
3. Pixi Glow Tonic
4. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel
Licorice extract essentially hinders the production of melanin in our skin and also contains glabridin and licochalcone which are antioxidants. Antioxidants essentially fight off free radicals by neutralizing them (giving up some of their electrons) and protect the skin against UV sun damage. They also help to soothe inflamed skin and help to regulate oil production which is why you’ll see it in a lot of skincare products for acne-prone skin. Glabridin is an active ingredient containing five flavonoids that act to de-pigment or lighten the skin while blocking an enzyme that causes damaged skin to darken.
1. Skin Inc Licorice Serum
2. Eminence Organic Skin Care Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster Serum
Numbers of studies have shown that azelaic acid can significantly diminish the appearance of skin blemishes, help fade post-acne marks and
other discolorations, refine skin’s surface, and reveal a more even skin tone. It can even reduce skin sensitivity and is suitable for any skin
type but especially acne-prone skin since
Vitamin A, B, C
Vitamin A, B3 and C are great to combat hyperpigmentation because they help to shed the skin like AHA’s do. These vitamins help increase cell renewal so essentially, they turn over your skin cells so that new skin shows which means that naturally the hyperpigmentation will fade but keep in mind that you need to be consistent and patient.
Vitamin A (retinoid) = good for PIH & melasma Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) = good for pie & melasma Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid) = good for pie& melasma
1. Vitamin a Paula’s Choice 1% retinol booster
2. Vitamin b3 The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
3. Vitamin c Paula’s Choice C25 super booster
Wearing SPF is the most essential part of your skincare routine.SPF is hugely important in preventing hyperpigmentation. It prevents the accumulation of photodamage that leads to brown spots and PIH. Also, don’t forget that the sun’s UV rays can penetrate into your cells, penetrate into your DNA and mutate it.
1. Krave’s beet the sun SPF 50+
2. EltaMD UV Facial SPF 46
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily SPF 50
Lastly, with every ingredient and product that I’ve recommended above, you have to be very consistent in using them so you can’t just like use a product or ingredient once or for one week and you’re like it doesn’t work so I’m going to stop. Be patient and your skin will thank you.