Hyper pigmentation is incredibly frustrating, and dealing with it effectively can be tricky. There are, however, various ways to address the problem, from skincare products to peels and lasers.
I asked few professionals in the industry to weigh in on the best ways to treat hyper pigmentation, and I recommended a few products that are worth trying down below.
Why did you get pigmentation?
There are various factors that can lead to pigmentation, which will influence your treatment options. So why are you experiencing pigmentation?
“When there is a change in the hormones, i.e. contraceptive pill, pregnancy or menopause it can cause pigmentation,” explains Sonette Donker, Skin Specialist from SkinID, which specializes in chemical peels for acne, hyperpigmentation and ageing. “It is due to estrogen stimulating the melanocytes, causing them to produce pigment. Normally only the Melanin Stimulating Hormone does this.”
According to Donker this is the most difficult type of pigmentation to get rid of. “Often it can only be minimized but it is a long term battle.”
One of the primary functions of your skin’s melanin is to protect it from UV damage. “When the skin is exposed to the UVA and UVB rays, it triggers melanin production as a response to the injury caused,” explains Unine van Rooyen, Corporate Trainer for Dermalogica South Africa. “A ‘tan’ is an example of your body’s melanin response to the sun.”
Excessive and long term sun exposure can cause damage to your melanocyte cells. According to Donker, “UV rays release free radicals which is often absorbed by the melanocytes. This can damage the melanocytes, causing them to malfunction and produce pigment.”
Donker adds that pigmentation caused by UV damage is the easiest to treat, but the best is to prevent it from happening in the first place with a daily SPF.
A mouthful, I know. Basically this is pigmentation left behind after you’ve had a skin injury like a pimple or a scar.
“Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs when a skin injury or trauma heals and leaves a flat area of discolouration,” explains van Rooyen. “It’s commonly found among acne sufferers, but any sort of skin injury (such as scrapes, cuts or burns) can cause PIH, as well as cosmetic procedures such as dermabrasion, laser treatment and chemical peels.”
How can you treat pigmentation?
Before taking any steps to treating pigmentation, it is important to consult a professional who can help to identify the cause. Van Rooyen explains that during your assessment, “a doctor or professional skin therapist needs to look at your skin, take a medical history, and ask about your personal routine. From there they will prescribe skin care products and treatments best suiting your needs.”
What are your treatment options?
During a chemical peel an acid solution is used to remove the damaged outer layers of skin. “In essence this exfoliates the outer layers of dead skin, revealing a new skin layer with improved tone, texture, and colour,” says van Rooyen. “With hyperpigmentation specifically, this process gets rid of the pigmented cells faster, allowing the new cells to take their place.”
The intensity of your peel will be determined by your skin therapist or dermatologist, depending on the issues at hand. “There is a variety of peels available on the market to treat pigmentation, from superficial to deep,” explains Donker. “These are very effective, but it is normally a long treatment time. I have found a combination of peels and micro-needling treatments work very well.”
When you’re considering a chemical peel, it is important to choose a competent, experienced therapist or doctor. “The biggest risk is that the wrong peel is used on the wrong skin,” says Donker. “i.e. deep peel on a dark skin. This can lead to hyper or hypo pigmentation.” Hyper pigmentation means even more pigmentation has been triggered, while hypo pigmentation refers to lightened or white spots on your skin.
Another treatment option is the use of laser treatments, which aim to destroy pigmented cells without harming the surrounding tissue. “During the treatment, laser energy is delivered to the pigmented cells in a series of short pulses,” explains van Rooyen. “This energy is absorbed more efficiently by the dark cells containing the most pigment, and the energy causes the pigment to break down.
“Laser hyperpigmentation removal generally calls for a course of sessions, depending on the extent of hyperpigmentation”
As with chemical peels, you need to make sure you are visiting a reputable clinic for laser treatments. “Caution is needed when treating darker-skinned people as permanent hypopigmentation (loss of pigment) may occur,” says van Rooyen.
Certain skincare ingredients can help to treat pigmentation by disrupting the processes leading to discolouration.
According to Christelle De Wit, SkinCeuticals Education & Product Manager, it is essential to have a treatment plan that prevents, protects and corrects. She explains that the goal is to
- Inhibit tyrosinase: which stops the production of excess melanin. Tyrosinase is the enzyme that starts the chain reactions that leads to melanin production.
- Second, inhibit the transfer of melanin to the surface of the skin.
- Third, you have to break up the existing melanin clusters on the skin’s surface.
Donker explains that you should look for skincare that contains a blend of brightening botanicals, vitamins and hydroxy acid. She recommends looking for Mandelic Acid, Kojic Acid, Arbutin, Salicylic Acid, Phytic Acid, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin B3, Vitamin C and Ferulic Acid.”
Try these at home:
SkinCeuticals Multi-Corrective Metacell Renewal B3
R1 799 for 50ml, dermastore.co.za
This new moisturiser works to target the various symptoms of photoaging, including discoloration, dehydration and rough texture. It contains 5% Niacinamide which helps to reduce discoloration, increases cell turnover, strengthens your skin’s moisture barrier, and decreases redness. They’ve also added a tightening tri-peptide concetrate that helps your skin to produce hyaluronic acid, thereby boosting firmness and hydration. And the serum contains 15% glycerin, a powerful humectant that attracts moisture to it, delivering intense hydration.
I love the lightweight, silky feel of this product. While it is ultra light, it still left my skin feeling soft, comfortable and completely moisturised. I also saw definite lightening of post-inflammatory pigmentation on my chin area where I normally get breakouts, and my skin looked beautifully plump and smooth.
You can use this twice a day. If applying it in the day, make sure you apply an SPF over it.
Eucerin Even Brighter Serum Concentrate
R499 for 6 x 5ml ampules, Dis-Chem, Clicks and select pharmacies
This is the latest addition to the Eucerin Even Brighter range, which offers even more pronounced results. The active ingredient here is B-Resorcinol which obstructs Tyrosinase, a key player in the formation of melanin. In this way it helps to keep melanin production on a normal level. The B-Resorcinol works with Glychyrrhetinic Acid, which protects skin from UV damage, stress and environmental harm. This combination has proven to deliver significant results within four weeks of treatment.
You’ll apply this twice a day, before your moisturizer.
Dermalogica C-12 Pure Bright Serum
R1 450 for 30ml, dermalogica.co.za
This serum specifically targets hyperpigmentation. It contains a blend of peptides that control the formation of melanin, as well as phytic acid, the antioxidant Zinc Glycinate, and Red and Brown Algae to help regulate melanin.
I particularly like the light texture, which absorbs quickly and easily. I also felt that when using this as part of PowerBright range, I could see a significant improvement in my skin tone, with a reduction in pigmentation spots and an overall radiance.
Optiphi Complexion Control
R1 156 for 30ml, optiphi.co.za
This serum contains antioxidants Resveratrol and Ellagic acid that help to fight off free radicals. The Ellagic Acid also works with Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) and Vitamin B3 to address the formation of melanin pigments. And then they’ve included Retinol for skin rejuvination, and to further treat pigmentation and photo-damage.
I love potent blend of active ingredients, the lightless and airtight packaging to protect your antioxidants, and it also helps that they are local. Upon that the product really shows results. Just be careful if you’re not use to retinol – if irritation occurs, try using it less frequently and build it up until your skin adapts.