Hyperpigmentation is one of the biggest concerns for many of my customers, reasonably so as it can really be the biggest stealer of radiance.
Before we begin it is important to understand that hyperpigmentation is not a diagnosis, it is a general term that covers a number of different complaints, but the top two causes that I see in my clinic are melasma and post-acne marks.
Melasma is distinctive in appearance with mottled patches of brown pigmentation commonly seen on the forehead, cheekbones and upper lip. It’s strongly influenced by genetics, and can be triggered by hormonal changes like pregnancy , use of oral contraceptives and UV Light exposure.
Post-acne marks on the other hand are the brown footprints that remain after blemishes resolve.
So when it comes to tackling hyperpigmentation there are some few points to consider in order to attain the best outcome.
1. Know what you are treating
This is utterly crucial. Whilst the 2 commonest conditions mentioned are usually clearcut, there are more unusual conditions that can look similar but require very different treatment. If in any doubt, see a dermatologist.
2. Prevention takes priority.
We know that UV rays are a major culprit that can worsen hyperpigmentation. So paying attention to daily sunscreen use is paramount. Make sure it is broadspectrum covering UVB, UVA & Visible Light. Consider SPF 30 or higher with iron /zinc oxide.
Visible light has a big role to play in hyperpigmentation, especially high energy blue light. It seems to produce darker and more persistent pigmentation in darker skinned individuals. This is especially problematic if you suffer from melasma.
My recommendations- 360 Heliocare Gel Oil Free and the Mesoestetic Melan 130+ pigment control
3. Antioxidants are essential.
We know that the generation of free radicals in our skin from pollution, UV and cigarette smoking can also trigger that pigmentation pathway. So one of the best ways to neutralize that effect is by incorporating ingredients that have antioxidant functions, into your skin care routine. Vitamin C has additional benefits to its antioxidant properties in inhibiting melanogenesis, or the manufacturing of melanin.
My recommendations: Obagi -C Clarifying Serum
4. Target The Melanin Pathway At Various Levels
The most effective way of suppressing melanocyte function is to target an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is the rate-limiting step in the production of melanin.
The gold standard is topical hydroquinone, which we use on prescription in the clinic at a 2- 4% strength and I would always recommend that this is done under the supervision of a dermatologist because there is quite a lot of nuance to how its prescribed – in terms of how long for and the way it’s used – in order to be used correctly and safely.
There are other safer alternatives that are used in rotation with hydroquinone or in synergy which either limit melanin transfer or increase the elimination of melanin by stimulating exfoliating.
These ingredients include retinoids , azelaic acid , arbutin, traxenamic acid, niacinamide , Kojic acid and alpha hydroxyl acids
My recommendations: Mesoestetic Melan Trans3x Concentrate, Dermaceutics Mela Cream, Neoretin Gelcream SPF
5. Consider oral supplementation for an inside-out approach
Polypodium leucotomos is a very interesting fern backed by clinical studies which have shown that it has antioxidant and photo-protective properties that help shield against the harmful effects from the sun and has been found to improve melasma .
My recommendations are the Helicocare 360 Capsules and the Lamelle Ovelle D3
With carefully chosen ingredients that act at different points, you can target hyperpigmentation, but also get a lot of benefits in terms of the general appearance of your skin, blemish management and overall radiance of your skin .
6. Multi-tasking Works Best
When carefully chosen many of these ingredients can also tackle those other key causes of why we lose our glow. Niacinamide will boost skin barrier function and improve hydration. Azelaic acid will improve skin texture and prevent further outbreaks , as will AHAs and retinoids. This is why you need a cocktail of ingredients as no one ingredient can tackle it all.
7. Don’t make matters worse
It’s tempting to want a quick fix for skin issues – but I have to caution you, that if it’s faster, it’s also likely to be riskier. I’ve seen too many patients regret their YouTube quick fix for melasma or acne breakouts – if you pick or scratch your pimples you’re going to create a lot more pigmentation than if you just left it to be!
So whatever the cause of your hyperpigmentation always think about it in a really structured way. It involves quite a complex pathway – but it is easily achievable when you work hand in hand with your dermatologist.