In my last post, we started to unpack hyperpigmentation, a term that’s used to describe several varieties of skin discoloration. Most people will experience at least one type of hyperpigmentation over the course of their lifetime. Yet, as common as it is, it can be difficult to treat. Here, we’ll get into the most effective of those treatments.
But, first, how can you prevent hyperpigmentation in the first place? While the reasons behind the different kinds of hyperpigmentation may vary, there are a few preventative practices that apply to all of them. At the top of that list, is protecting yourself from the sun.
Hyperpigmentation results from an overproduction and irregular distribution of melanin. The skin can be triggered to overproduce pigment for a slew of reasons, but the most common, by far, is sun exposure.
No doubt you’ve heard this before, but wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more every day, rain or shine, is perhaps the most important thing you can do to support the health of your skin. If you’re planning to be outside for long stretches at a time, remember to reapply every couple of hours. You’ll also want to wear a hat and avoid direct exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM because even the best sunscreens are going to let some UVA rays through.
Pimples and rashes can also lead to hyperpigmentation. The discoloration that lingers after skin trauma or inflammation, including acne, is referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. So, it’s important not to pick at any pimples or scratch mosquito bites. If you cut yourself, covering it with a Band-Aid will help prevent a permanent dark mark.
Not all lightening products do what they say they do. The ones that tend to be the most effective feature kojic acid, licorice extract, mushroom extract, or hydroquinone—widely considered to be the gold-standard ingredient for lightening dark spots. Hydroquinone is available over-the-counter in concentrations up to two percent.
You’ll also want to look for a retinol formula or an exfoliating agent, like glycolic and lactic acids, as well antioxidants that can help treat the damaged cells in the epidermal layer, such as vitamin C.
That said, hyperpigmentation treatments are not one-size-fits-all. Knowing what type of hyperpigmentation you have is important because it will allow you to make the treatment more pointed. If, even then, you’re not seeing much difference, consult a board-certified dermatologist. They’ll reevaluate your regimen and may recommend a prescription with a stronger dose of active ingredients.