Treatment for hyperpigmentation is one on the most searched skincare question and I am constantly on the lookout for products targeted to pigmentation. Because of the massive amounts of information available, it is sometimes difficult to tell fact from fiction. So I will share some strategies and products which have helped in my quest for clear skin. So gear up because this is going to be a long post.
Causes of hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is any dark spots or patches on the skin. Most people suffer from four main types of hyperpigmentation which are post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, acne or skin injury, age spots and melasma from hormonal changes.
For people with dark skin post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne or injury is the most common. This often takes months to fade and can take a toll on one’s self-esteem at least it does for me. In the past few years due to stress and a host of other issues, I have struggled with constant breakouts. Which compounded with my inability to leave my face alone(AKA hand in face syndrome ) has led to hyperpigmentation.
Acne control Strategies
The steps I took to control my acne are broken down into 3 main steps so that additional pigmentation did not occur and they are listed below
- Prevent or control acne formation to prevent acne breakouts
- Lighten or brighten the pigmentation which has already occurred
- Prevent darkening from occurring
Some steps required more than one product or cut across more than one aspect of my skin care regimen.
Step one: Prevent or treat acne
The first step is to stop breakouts; you cannot reduce hyperpigmentation if regular breakouts continue to add to the mosaic of spots on your face. For this, I ensured that all the products I used in each stage of my skin care routine.
- Balanced or reduced oil/sebum production
- Had antibacterial properties and to deal with the acne causing bacteria
- Reduced hyper keratinisation to prevent blocked pores.
To cleanse my skin:
I made sure to double cleanse anytime I wore makeup to ensure that every speck was removed. For my first cleanse I used the Clinique take the day off balm, which from the post on double cleansing is a favourite of mine. I also used the PIXI nourishing cleansing balm, not one I particularly enjoyed but I used from time to time. For the second cleanse I used either Sunday Riley Ceramic Cleanse or SU:37 Miracle Rose cleansing stick. Ceramic cleanse is a clay cleanser which controls oil and sebum production, although it is expensive any water-based clay cleanser will do and Loreal has alternatives.
For Exfoliation :
I used Paula’s choice 2% BHA liquid which is salicylic acid based and is great for controlling and preventing acne. At night I followed this up with a 0.05% Tretinoin treatment, then the with the ordinary’s Niacinamide and zinc. Tretinoin is a prescription retinol which treats acne and increases the skins cell turnover reducing the appearance of pigmentation. The Ordinary’s Niacinamide is an absolute lifesaver as it reduces congestion and balances sebum production which can lead to acne. Once absorbed I would usually follow with up Azelaic acid also from the ordinary. This served double duty to prevent acne by killing acne-causing bacteria (antibacterial ) and lightened the pigmentation already present. I also included a clarifying face oil at the end my regimen after my moisturizer and Clarins Lotus face oil to further build on the theme of controlling sebum production to stop acne formation. So you can see the theme here is to attack the issue from all angles using multiple products to increase the likelihood of success.
Step two: Lighten or brighten pigmentation
For this, the main products I used were the Ordinary’s Vitamin C, Azelaic acid and 4% hydroquinone. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which neutralizes free radicals and preventing oxidative damage which allows skin heal and repair. Vitamin C also boosts collagen production and improves post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation by improving the skin’s natural healing response. There have been some complaints about this formulation being to ‘’gritty’’ and oily on the skin. Yes, it felt slightly gritty but not so gritty that it was unbearable to use and it did the job. I used Azelaic acid in the mornings and vitamin C in the evenings, followed by a prescription strength Hydroquinone just on the spots.
Hydroquinone is the most effective product to reduce hyperpigmentation and lighten dark spots. It prevents the skin from producing excess melanin which causes hyperpigmentation. 2% Hydroquinone can be purchased over the counter, however, I used prescription strength 4% hydroquinone. This would be followed by a moisturiser and Clarin’s clarifying face oil which I alternated with Trichology Rosehip oil which is moisturising and helps with skin rejuvenation.
Step three: Prevent darkening from reoccurring
The key for this step is ensuring you use sunscreen consistently because any skin brightening regimen without sun protection is worthless. Minimal exposure to UV light can counteract the most effective brightening regimen as exposure of a hyperpigmented area to UV rays triggers melanin production. This causes further darkening as the skin attempts to protect itself from damage from UV light. Thus the daily application of high SPF sunscreen is key to control melanin production because sun exposure has a knock-on effect on pigmentation from acne. In addition, UVA rays are the same strength all the year round so sun protection must be used to prevent further hyperpigmentation as the effects not immediately visible. My preferred brand of sunscreen is Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery essence because it is lightweight and does not cause additional oil production.
There you have it, my strategies for treating my hyperpigmentation. Bear in mind it takes a few weeks for the results to become visible especially with the much darker spots. However, if you are consistent with your regimen it will improve. I have included an Infographic AM and PM routine with the products used for each step. I hope you enjoyed this post, subscribe and follow me on Instagram for more tips.