Is Hyperpigmentation Getting You Down? Read This Ultimate Skin Brightening Guide
by The First Refresh
Much like dry skin and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation or uneven skin tone is almost inevitable for most people. And with celebs from Korea and other parts of Asia boasting fair and clear complexions, the universal quest for brighter skin doesn’t seem likely to die down anytime soon.
Before running out to try every brand of whitening cream on the market however, it is important to first understand what hyperpigmentation is and the exact cause of your uneven skin tone. This is how you can select the best method to solve your woes.
Get the 101
For the uninitiated, hyperpigmentation (or darker patches on the skin) is caused by the overproduction of melanin, the technical term for skin pigment. When you get tanned after a morning under the sun, this is caused by your skin cells producing melanin evenly all over exposed parts of your skin. With age and sometimes hormonal issues, the production of melanin can start to become uneven. This is how you get blotches of darkened skin, which can cause many women to lose confidence in themselves.
Hyperpigmentation can take the form of:
Freckles: Some girls are born with them and they may get darker over the years.
Sun spots or age spots: This is one of the most common forms of hyperpigmentation that is linked to exposure to UV rays.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This happens when a part of your skin becomes darker after an episode of acne, eczema or any other kind of skin injury.
Melasma: Prevalent among Asian women, melasma is often linked to pregnancy and is caused by hormonal changes, genes and UV exposure. In melasma, brownish patches appear on the cheeks (most common) and other areas of the face. Additionally, some medication and diseases can also cause hyperpigmentation.
Fix the problem
Hyperpigmentation is notoriously difficult to tackle. But the good news is that there are tried-and-tested ways to do the job—here are some to consider.
Get prescription-grade products
If you have serious and stubborn hyperpigmentation including melasma, skip the off-the-counter creams and head straight to a dermatologist or aesthetic doctor. While OTC products and those found at the clinic may contain similar ingredients, those dispensed by a doctor usually have a higher concentration so it works more quickly.
Know also that there are active skin brightening ingredients like hydroquinone and retinol (sometimes called Retin-A or tretinoin for more potent formulations) that can potentially irritate skin, so you should always follow the regime prescribed by your medical professional and avoid excess UV exposure while using those products. Hydroquinone is also not intended for long-term use as it can end up causing ochronosis, a blue-black discolouration of the skin.
Got a zit you’re dying to pop? Or a mosquito bite that is itching like crazy? Stop your fingers from reaching these spots or you risk skin damage and causing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Instead, whip out your skin creams and gently apply over the spot with a clean finger.
Check the ingredient listJust because a product makes brightening claims on the packaging doesn’t mean it necessarily works. Look for doc-approved ingredients such as vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic and lactic acids), retinol and salicylic acid (a form of beta hydroxy acid). Many of these ingredients help to speed up the skin renewal process so that darkened skin cells can be removed. This is especially helpful for ageing skin that has a slower turnover rate.
Get a chemical peelIf products are not working for you, doctors typically recommend going a step further and doing chemical peels. They help to exfoliate the upper layers of the skin more efficiently so darkened areas are shed off quickly. Lasers may also be recommended but not all work on melasma, and may in fact make it worse. So make sure you visit a medical doctor for such procedures.
Protect yourself from the sun
The best treatment for hyperpigmentation is prevention. So remember to slather on more sunscreen than you think you need—SPF 30 is the minimum and reapply every two hours. These days, sunscreens come in a wide variety of friendly textures including powders and light fluids. Also, as an added measure, put on a wide-brimmed hat if you are going for a long walk.
Even medical-grade creams will take four to six weeks to work if you use them every day OTC ones may take up to a couple of months. So keep at it, and don't give up!
Ready to kick hyperpigmentation in the butt? Start off with The Reset Facial with The First Refresh. With thoroughly cleansed and exfoliated skin, your skin brightening products will be extra effective!