Flawless skin is always the goal, but sometimes we find ourselves having to dodge occasional adult acne outbreaks, which often then contribute to unwanted dark spots. Hyperpigmentation is one of the most frustrating and common skin issues to treat.
Hyperpigmentation is the term used to describe spots or patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding areas. Essentially, everyone’s skin heals differently, and one of the ways it responds to injury or inflammation is by overproducing the pigment called melanin. These areas of abnormal melanin deposits manifest on the skin as discolouration, and fall under what we call post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
Though hyperpigmentation can affect everyone, people with darker skin tones are more prone to experiencing it, as they have more active melanocytes, which are also known as pigment-producing cells. So for those with darker complexions, any injury or irritation is more likely to result in excess pigment when it heals. For this same reason, hyperpigmentation is not only more common in darker skin tones, but also more severe and harder to treat.
Dr Alek Nikolic, a renowned specialist in aesthetic medicine and owner of an online skincare store, SkinMiles, believes that effective skincare for darker complexions doesn’t need to be scary or complicated. Below he shares how to effectively treat hyperpigmentation, whether it’s at home or in-clinic, as well as how to prevent this problem in the future.
How do you treat hyperpigmentation at home?
When it comes to the at-home treatment, you have to be careful not to cause any additional inflammation. The good news is, however, that it’s treatable – and you don’t have to switch to using exclusive products for darker skin to get results.
“I suggest using advanced formulations that are able to properly address your most common issues, including lifting pigment, reducing inflammation and repairing the skin barrier,” says Nikolic.
When looking for products to combat hyperpigmentation look out for these three main ingredients; kojic acid, niacinamide and vitamin C. Each one of these ingredients has its own superpowers.
Kojic acid not only exfoliates your current dark spots away, but also works as a tyrosinase inhibitor to block the excess production of melanin and prevent hyperpigmentation before it even happens. A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide makes the skin produce more ceramides, which help keep your skin’s barrier function intact so it can do its job and ward off inflammation. Meanwhile, an antioxidant with brightening powers, vitamin C protects the skin from free radicals, while also diminishing the signs of aging like sun spots.
“A combination approach to skincare gives the best results. This means using products with active ingredients, as well as in-clinic treatments, such as superficial chemical peels which are mild, but deliver fast results, micro-needling, and laser treatments,” says Nikolic.
When these treatments are carried out by an aesthetic medical practitioner, dermatologist or medical aesthetician with experience in treating darker skin tones, and using the right acid concentration or depth of the needle or laser, they can be incredibly effective. As with any ‘tweakment’ it’s important to do your research first.
Are there any ways to prevent hyperpigmentation?
There is a myth that darker skin doesn’t need SPF protection. While more melanin does mean a greater degree of inherent sun protection, meaning you won’t burn as easily, it doesn’t decrease risk altogether. The truth is you need to wear SPF every day even if your skin is darker, as doing so will prevent dark spots and hyperpigmentation in addition to skin cancer.
It really is your first line of defence, and if you’re treating hyperpigmentation without it, then you’re only working against your progress.