Hyperpigmentation Situation? Here's how to treat (and get rid) of it.

In this article we discuss hyperpigmentation, what it is, how it’s caused, and how best to treat it.

 

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a broad umbrella term to describe dark spots (excess pigmentation) and uneven skin tone. It is usually harmless and can occur after acne or injury (dark scarring), during pregnancy (thanks, hormones), from melasma or just naturally with age and sun exposure. 

Nearly all of us will experience it at some point in our lives, and for some of us, it’ll be a constant plague. The good news is that your skincare routine can effectively treat and in certain cases, vanquish hyperpigmentation for good!

Prevention is better than cure

There are a couple of things you can do to prevent hyperpigmentation, or stop it from becoming worse.

  1. One of the most important of these is wearing SPF, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen is critical to your skin’s health for a number of reasons. Excess sun exposure and skipping sunscreen prematurely ages your skin, produces sun spots, and darkens existing pigmentation.
  2. The other is to avoid picking at your face. This includes zits – which are so tempting to fiddle with. We’ve all been there! However, picking at scabs and pimples can cause permanent scarring and dark spots.

 

Good skincare can even out patchy skin

There are plenty of skincare ingredients that effectively treat hyperpigmentation. Not all of them are suitable for everyone but here’s a table of the most common solutions, which skin types are a good fit.

Ingredient

What it does:

Suitable for:

Not suitable for:

Azelaic acid

Significantly diminishes the appearance blemishes and evens out skin tone.

Everyone.

Even sensitive skin can benefit from using azelaic acid, as it can actually reduce skin sensitivity!

AHAs

• AHAs exfoliate surface-level skin, and is effective on light acne scars.
• AHAs include lactic acid, glycolic acid and mandelic acid.

Surface level scars and Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (i.e. acne scarring).

Our favourite products:

By Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water;

Jumiso Yes I Am Toner AHA 5%; and

Krave Beauty Kale Lalu yAHA Toner.

• Sensitive skin or skin with open sores.
• People with dairy allergies should avoid lactic acid.
• AHAs aren't always suited to darker skin tones, with mandelic acid being the exception.

Kojic acid

Kojic acid inhibits tyrosinase (the enzyme responsible for melanin production). This nifty ingredient can reduce and prevent the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

Melasma, scars and sun damage.

• Avoid if you have dematitis, are prone to sunburn or have sensitive skin as it can exacerbate these conditions.
• A concentration of 1-2% is recommended to reduce the chance of skin irritation.

Retinol

• Retinol speeds skin cell turnover, thereby fading dark spots faster (and erasing fine lines at the same time - bonus).

• Note retinol is a highly active ingredient and involves a very gentle, gradual introduction.

• Everyone can benefit from retinol use.
• It's particularly good for oily and acne-prone skin (just be aware you might experience a purge at the start).

Our favourite products:

IOPE Retinol Expert; and

COSRX Real Fit Retinol.

• Pregnant women.
• You also have to be careful because if your retinol causes redness or irritation, it could trigger instead of treat your hyperpigmentation!
• Dry and sensitive skin can still safely use retinol, but start with a low concentration (0.1%).

Vitamin C

The glow maker! Vitamin C will brighten dark spots and protect against UV damage. It can significantly fade hyperpigmentation after ~2 months of consistent use.

• Everyone. Just be aware it is a notoriously unstable ingredient.

• Sunlight, air and heat cause oxidization - so store in a dark, cool place with the bottle tightly sealed (or in the fridge).

Our favourite products:

Dear, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop; and

Neogen Dermalogy Real Vita C Serum.

• Do not use if you're using benzoyl peroxide.
• Also, sensitive skin may find it a bit stingy, so start with a low percentage concentration (e.g. 5-10%).

Niacinamide

A form of vitamin B3, this wonder ingredient is known to manage rosacea, acne, fine lines and of course, hyperpigmentation.

 • Everyone - it is a highly compatible ingredient. It works best in tandem with retinol.

• Pregnant women can even use niacinamide as a safe alternative to retinol.

Our favourite products:

TIA’M Vita B3 Source;

SVR Topialyse Intensive Balm; and

Purito Galacto Niacin 97 Power Essence.

For people who are severely allergy-prone, niacinamide might not do you any favours as it can cause the body to release histamine. However, this isn't common (patch test first).

Oligopeptide-68

It's strange how some really great skincare ingredients fly under the radar. This peptide is one of the best skin brightening ingredients, even more so than Vitamin C. It provides almost instant results.

Everyone.

Our favourite products:
SVR Clairial Night Peel; and

SVR Clairial Radiance Serum.

Peptides suit any skin type. But as with any new skincare product, always patch test first.

Arbutin

Arbutin is a naturally occurring derivative of hydroquinone without the harmful side effects. It lightens dark spots and evens out skin tone.

Everyone.

Our favourite products:

Some By Mi Yuja Niacin Blemish Care Serum;

Some By Mi Yuja Niacin Brightening Sleeping Mask; and

Some By Mi Yuja Niacin 30 Days Brightening Starter Kit.

 

Note that heat can degrade the effectiveness of this ingredient, so make sure to store your arbutin product in a cool, dry place.

A solid moisturizer

• A great moisturizer (think glycerin, sunflower oil, aloe vera and hyaluronic acid) is the cherry on the top of a great hyperpigmentation routine.
• Dry skin exacerbates dark spots and flaking.
• Keeping your skin hydrated will promote a smooth, even skin-tone.

Everyone, even oily skin, should moisturize!

Our favourite products:

Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Cream;

belif – The True Cream Aqua Bomb; and

Etude House Soon Jung 2X Barrier Intensive Cream.

Is there anyone that shouldn't moisturize?

Aloe vera

Bet you didn't know Aloe Vera helped with hyperpigmentation! It contains a compound called Aloesin which inhibits the production of melanin in the skin.

Everyone, especially those with sunburnt, rosacea-prone and sensitive skin.

Our favourite products:

Nature Republic Soothing & Moisture Aloe Vera 92% Gel; and

Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner.

Aloe vera is one of the safest skincare ingredients around.

Licorice

Research suggests that glabridin (commonly present in licorice root) has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and skin-brightening effects.

Everyone.

Our favourite products:

Beauty of Joseon Repair Serum; and

Jumiso All Day Vitamin Brightening & Balancing Serum.

While pregnant women should avoid eating licorice, licorice in skincare is generally considered safe.

 

For a complete range of hyperpigmentation-combatting products on Kanvas Beauty, check out our dedicated page to evening out your skin tone!

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