Hyperpigmentation 101: What You Need to Know and How to Improve it With Your Skin Care Routine
Hyperpigmentation is one of the trickiest skin conditions to improve.
Sunspots (or “age” spots), melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation - you may have heard about or experienced one of these darkening effects that have everything to do with hormonal changes, excess exposure to UV rays, and acne.
If you nodded to one or more of these, don’t worry - it’s totally normal to have struggled when it comes to hyperpigmentation.
In fact, darkened areas of the skin, often the result of acne scarring or pregnancy, are one of the most common skin concerns across all age demographics.
“It’s a very common one that I've encountered throughout my entire 14-year career,” said Melissa Menard, ShopEco’s very own certified aesthetician whom clients seek out for a more holistic approach to their skin care routine. “The topic comes up nearly every time I'm available to work with the public, so that will tell you how common pigmentation concerns are.”
If you’re familiar with Melissa, you probably know that she’s helped renew the skin of countless clients over the years we’ve been offering skin consultations at our beauty and wellness boutique. But if you’re new to our website or have been looking to visit us at the shop, you should know that she’s a bank of skincare knowledge - especially that of hyperpigmentation.
With summer’s end in sight, it’s the perfect time to get ahead of some much needed recovery from the sun and other flare ups that have occurred this season.
In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about hyperpigmentation and how to manage it using your own skin care routine, with Melissa’s help, of course.
What is it?
At its core, hyperpigmentation is a term to describe skin that appears darker. It can affect the whole body and appear in small patches or cover large areas.
That said, there can be more than one cause.
“Hyperpigmentation is generally caused by the production of excess melanin. It can be induced by hormones or underlying illness, chronic inflammation, post-acne "scars," certain medications, sun exposure, skin trauma, and spa and medi-spa tool accidents,” Melissa told us. “There’s also hypopigmentation, which is the loss of pigment or melanin that can occur alone or alongside hyperpigmentation.”
One well-known example of hypopigmentation is the skin condition vitiligo, which can be seen on different areas of the body, including the hair.
“Melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing pigmentation, tend to enlarge as we mature which translates into enlarged hyperpigmentation spots,” Melissa continued. “Addressing hyperpigmentation takes time and patience, especially if pigment is being overproduced due to an internal imbalance or medication.”
What causes it?
Contrary to popular belief, the symptoms related to acne and pregnancy are not the only causes of hyperpigmentation.
“Sometimes I welcome new clients that have discolouration issues from using too many products with very active ingredients. Pigmentation causes are various and I enjoy the challenge of helping a client reach their skin care goals based around their individual triggers,” Melissa said.
Though hyperpigmentation can be seen across different ages, Melissa pointed out that maturing skin will naturally see a higher incidence of hyper- and hypopigmentation due to the slowing of skin cell rejuvenation and regeneration, the likelihood of underlying health conditions, the use of certain medications, hormonal fluctuations, and years of previous skin damage, particularly from sun exposure.
Use your whole routine
Between the chemical peels, microdermabrasion, dermabrasion, and laser treatments that dermatologists and medi-spas use to lighten dark spots, addressing hyperpigmentation can also look different depending on the source.
Take an inflammatory skin condition like eczema for example: the primary focus of the approach for eczema will include removing sensitizing agents from a skincare routine and ensuring the skin's moisture barrier is strengthened.
If the hyperpigmentation is a result of acne, focus will be on keeping the skin clear, enforcing the “no pick” rule, turning skin cells over, as well as brightening and evening texture.
No matter the combination of measures taken, it’s important to know that you can also tackle hyperpigmentation at home with your skin care routine.
Starting with your daily cleanser, why not use your entire routine to gradually improve the look of dark spots? Follow it up with a swipe of an exfoliating and conditioning pad or brightening and hydrating serum, finish with an antioxidant-rich moisturizer and you’re out the door. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming.
When shopping for skincare that’s formulated to help treat hyperpigmentation, Melissa recommends keeping an eye out for the ingredients listed below:
- Niacinamide - Protects from environmental stressors, moisturizes and reduces inflammation.
- Vitamin C - Neutralizes free radicals, regenerates and brightens.
- Glycolic, malic and lactic acids - Reduce inflammation and exfoliate.
- Retinol - Stimulates collagen production, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, softens and improves skin colour.
- Licorice extract - Inhibits the production of dark spots, brightens and smoothes.
- Glutathione - Neutralizes free radicals, detoxifies and lightens.
In addition to the products linked above, you can find more products effective for hyperpigmentation here.
Or, if you’d like personalized skincare recommendations to help improve your hyperpigmentation, you can schedule a consultation or personal shopping appointment with Melissa here.
5 easy steps to success
Ready to work your own magic?
Be diligent with the five steps listed below (as recommended by Melissa) and note the difference in the appearance of your hyperpigmentation.
If you want to take addressing your hyperpigmentation to the next level, or simply want to discuss your skin’s condition with a highly-trained professional, book your consultation with Melissa here.
Anastasia Barbuzzi is a freelance journalist, the Digital Editor of Style Canada, and a writer for Yahoo Canada. She's a bookworm and a lifelong shutterbug, and you'll find her reporting on beauty, fashion, life, and style on the web and in print. A brand with a clean, green attitude and an almond milk cappuccino are a couple of her favourite things.