Hyperpigmentation is probably the skin concern clients come to me with the most. Everyone has expressed frustration over the dark spots often left on their skin from the result of acne, pseudofolliculitis barbae, and other skin conditions. There are treatments, serums, and creams galore that cater to hyperpigmented skin but this post will help you navigate how to treat and defeat hyperpigmentation for good!
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmenation causes some areas of the skin to appear darker due to an increase in melanin. Your melanocytes go into overdrive producing more pigment. This process is usually a reaction to external and/or internal factors such as sun damage, hormonal changes, picking at acne/scars, scratching mosquito bites, ingrown hairs, burns, reactions to prescription medications, or a host of other skin infections. Anyone can have areas of hyperpigmentation on their skin but those with medium to deep skin tones tend to experience it more than those with fair skin. Basically, the more melanin you have, the more susceptible you are to getting dark spots. Black, Latino, Asians, and Native Americans will experience this more in their lifetimes. And women are more likely to develop dark spots than men.
Can I prevent it?
Because hyperpigmentation is usually a reaction to something, it is hard to prevent. Following the right skin care regimen for your skin and being diligent in your sunscreen use are the proper foundation for combatting dark spots if they are caused by sun damage. For all other forms, you have to remember not to further irritate the area by scratching, picking, etc.
How can it be treated?
Not all hyperpigmentation is created equal. It’s important to work in tandem with your dermatologist and esthetician to be sure you are treating correctly. Below you’ll find safe treatment suggestions for the most common causes for dark spots. The suggestions below purposefully leave out hydroquinone and other bleaching agents. If you don’t see your specific hyperpigmentation concern, feel free to reach out to me, your Fairy Glow Mother, via email.
If you get the occasional breakout here and there (and you couldn’t resist the urge to pop) or if you got a scratch or scar from depilation, then spot treating should be effective in fading your dark spots. This can be achieved by using a serum or a cleanser with active ingredients including Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). Combining daily use of a serum with AHA toning pads can start to clear light to moderate acne scars up within six weeks.
If your acne scarring is much deeper/darker, you will want to do a series of Salicylic-Mandelic Acid chemical peels. These combination peels are newer and are up to 25% more effective at lifting acne scars than Glycolic Acid peels alone. You will start to see a significant improvement in your appearance within 12 weeks. Pyruvic Acid peels are also suggested for mild to moderate acne. Your esthetician and/or dermatologist will let you know which serums are safe to use while you’re undergoing a chemical peel series.
Glycolic Acid has been proven to be a safe and effective way of fading hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal changes. Using a face wash with Glycolic Acid in addition to a topical treatment is usually suggested. Since melasma typically affects pregnant women, a safe alternative to Klingman’s formula (a topical which includes hydroquinone and tretinoin), would be a Vitamin C serum or cream. Please confirm this with your doctor before trying if you are pregnant. Other safe active ingredients include: niacinamide, kojic acid, licorice root, and azealic acid.
Ingrown Hair (pseudofolliculitis barbae)
There are many studies that suggest using a laser diode (a form of laser hair removal) to cure pseudofolliculitis barbae. While effective for fair-medium complexions, it may not offer the desired results in darker complexions. Benzoyl peroxide 5% has been proven to be effective in reducing the inflammation that causes hyperpigmentation in men who shave regularly. If the hair is still trapped beneath the skin, light chemical peels are suggested so that the hair can be removed.