What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is a term used to describe patches of skin that appear darker; they can vary in size and occur anywhere on the body. The cause of hyperpigmentation is the excessive production of melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its colour. The reasons for developing hyperpigmentation can vary widely, some people are born with patches of darker skin (birthmarks), and they are completely normal and harmless. Others may get hyperpigmentation as a result of irritation, acne, hormone imbalance, pregnancy, drugs and/or sun damage. Darker skin tones tend to be more prone to hyperpigmentation as the skin can produce more melanin than lighter skin tones. This article will give advice on how to deal with minor hyperpigmentation issues, but you can have darker patches of skin for more serious issues such as skin cancer. If you’re concerned about your hyperpigmentation or you have severe hyperpigmentation, make sure to see a doctor or dermatologist.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a water-soluble nutrient that naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables. It’s an extremely popular ingredient in skincare: appearing in regular over-the-counter products and pharmaceutical skincare, as it has many benefits like increasing collagen production, protection against sun damage, reducing redness, brightening, hydrating, and of course, reducing hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C reduces hyperpigmentation by regulating the enzyme tyrosinase, which in turn inhibits melanin synthesis. Continued use over time will allow the skin to turn to its original colour.
Here’s a list of vitamin C products to try:
- Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
- La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum
- Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum
- The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone
Alpha Arbutin is a chemical extracted from plants like blueberries and cranberries. It’s often marketed as a safer, more available alternative to another product that can treat hyperpigmentation: hydroquinone (which is banned in Europe due to its side effects). Alongside treating hyperpigmentation, arbutin is a great ingredient to help brighten the skin.
Arbutin works similarly to vitamin C as it interferes with the tyrosinase enzyme, preventing melanin synthesis, reducing the production of melanin.
Here’s a list of products containing alpha arbutin:
- The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
- Obagi Vitamin C + Arbutin Brightening Serum
- Paula’s Choice Radiance Renewal Mask
Retinol and Retinoids are a group of chemicals that are derived from vitamin A. It’s a popular anti-ageing ingredient and is also used to treat acne. The only difference between the two is that retinol is over-the-counter as it’s essentially a weaker version of retinoids that are usually prescribed.
Retinoids help increase cell turnover, cell renewal and helps shed the skin. This allows newer layers of skin to show, so naturally it will help hyperpigmentation caused by scars or irritation to fade faster.
Here are some recommended products that contain retinol. If you’re interested in trying retinoids, speak to your doctor/dermatologist:
- SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3
- CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum
- L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Pressed Night Cream
Kojic acid is a chemical extracted from certain types of fungi and fermented foods like rice. It’s often used as a natural preservative of foods, but as a skincare product, it’s especially useful as it has anti-microbial, anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Kojic acid reduces hyperpigmentation by targeting the copper molecule within the tyrosinase enzyme, which then causes a reduction in the production of melanin overall. It’s also generally safe for all skin types, including sensitive skin and won’t cause as much irritation as some of the other ingredients. The only downside is that it’s found in products that are on the pricier side.
Here’s a list of skincare products containing Kojic acid:
Whatever products and ingredients you choose, make sure to always put SPF/sun protection onto your skin. One of the main causes of hyperpigmentation is sun damage, and exposing your skin to UV rays can worsen hyperpigmentation, so always incorporate SPF into your skincare routine.
Isabel is a writer and editor with a passion for reading, art and philosophy. She often spends her time pondering the meaning of life and performing her rigorous skincare routine.