Hyperpigmentation. It’s something we all struggle with, unfortunately. There are a lot of products out there making huge promises to get rid of it for. I’m going to break it down and explain to you the best options for the skin, without damaging the skin. As you know, that is always my goal. Let’s fix the problem without causing another one.
Some people are more prone to it than others, based on genetics, but everyone is susceptible. From the fairest skin to the darkest. This is why wearing sunscreen is so important for everyone (I’ll get more into that later).
Remember, no one is born with it. Every baby is free of hyperpigmentation, including freckles, which is also a type of hyperpigmentation.
Freckles are caused by melanin. Melanin is a pigment in the skin and is what gives skin its color. When the sun hits the skin, it causes a production on melanin so that it can protect the skin layers underneath. Once melanin builds up in one place, a freckle is the result.
Here are some ways our skin develops the pigmentation.
Sun Exposure- The sun triggers the production of melanin. The skin is usually worse in the summer months. Using good skin care and regular facial treatments, you can minimize damage. It is completely normal to have your skin get darker in some spots in the summer and lighter in those same spots in the winter. I want to also say, and this is important to remember, sun damage can take up to 10 years to show. That means you can think that your skin is fine after a summer in the sun but later your skin will show the damage. I haven’t tanned my face in 10 years and I am still surprised at the damage that shows up. I had a good time in my teen years and my 20’s!
Heat- This one usually surprises people. Most think that as long as they avoid the actual sun, they will not have any pigmentation. It definitely helps but heat triggers inflammation and inflammation triggers the increase of melanin activity. So even if you go to the beach and wear sunscreen, big sunglasses, a big hat and sit under a big umbrella you can still get the damage. Sorry, folks!
Over-Exfoliation- I am super careful with my clients on how often they exfoliate. When I create a home care plan for them, I consider both the physical and chemical exfoliations. Too much can cause pigmentation. As I said above, inflammation triggers the increase of melanin activity. Even if you can’t see the inflammation, it can still be happening.
Picking at Blemishes/Acne- This is bad for many reasons but one of the biggest ones is that it can create what is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). And like sun damage, you don’t always see it until a few years later.
Hormones- Due to the increase of hormones during pregnancy, melasma is often caused. Just another form of pigmentation but harder to lighten. A lot of women will experience what is called a “pregnancy mask.” The upper lip will darken. This can also happen with birth control and even some medications. Always ask your doctor. I have seen many clients with melasma all over their face so it’s not exclusive to the upper lip. Everyone is different in how they will react but there are some worse than others. I once took a birth control pill and immediately started getting that mask above my lip and I switched that pill real fast! Luckily, no long-term damage was done.
Now I will discuss ways to help the pigmented areas.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, shown to reduce the number of sunburned cells as well as reverse age-related damage to the skin. Antioxidants help fight cell damage from free radicals, which are molecules that could injure cells and increase inflammation.
It does not replace sunscreen, but Vitamin C protects against and may repair UV damage, like discoloration. It also helps brighten the skin, which can make the overall appearance of the skin healthier. This is safe for those pregnant or lactating.
Retinol- A natural form of Vitamin A, this boosts the thickness and elasticity of the skin therefore reducing the signs of wrinkles.
There is an abundant amount of evidence to support that retinol works! Finding it in the right products is the tricky part because you need to have enough to get results. Most over-the-counter products cannot put enough retinol in them to give you the benefits you need. Retinol works by promoting cellular renewal and collagen production to improve skin texture and to diminish brown spots. Not safe for those pregnant and lactating.
This serum is a little more expensive but you only use it about twice a week so lasts longer!
Exfoliation- It’s important not to exfoliate the skin to break up the pigmented areas. As I said before, be careful not to over-exfoliate. I have a great scrub that also acts as a mask. It has glycolic acid and retinol in it with gentle jojoba beads. I love it because over time it helps to lighten and lift hyperpigmentation.
I also have these amazing Glycolic/Retinol Pads that act as a toner so it’s a leave-on. Perfect for hyperpigmentation.
Sunscreen- Wear it everyday. SPF 30 is the perfect number. Most damage is done incidentally (about 78%), which means when you are not at the beach but just running errands around town or sitting in your car or next to a window at work. And just as a reminder, sunscreen in your makeup will not help. You have to wear about 7x the amount to actually get that number on the bottle. Sunscreen is skin care and skin care is separate from makeup. Skin care first, makeup second.
Facials- Always important but getting a facial (book with me if you're local!) when dealing with a specific skin issue will definitely help. Make sure you address your concerns with your esthetician. What you see and what she (or he) sees may be different.
Chemical Peels- Oh my gosh! Anyone who knows me know these are my favorite especially when done in a series. I will only perform the chemical peel series between November and May because of the sun exposure. I am strict on this rule. No point in fixing the skin while damaging it. My series are done weekly over 8 weeks. Slow and steady. I recommend a home care plan so my clients can get the most benefits. They basically have no downtime and can resume normal activities. They might experience some flaking but nothing embarrassing or that will make you want to hide out in your house. You don’t have to peel with a peel because all the change is happening under the top layer.
Results from a Chemical Peel Series and using recommended home care products.