Melanin is a natural skin pigment found in the top layer of our skin, the epidermis, and is produced in our cells as a reaction to sun exposure. It is what makes skin appear to be “tan” during the summer. When exposed to too much sun, however, melanin will gather together and overproduce unevenly. This leads to what is commonly referred to as uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation, and it happens to people regardless of age and skin colour.
Hormonal changes (for example, during pregnancy or menopause) and genetics can influence melanin production as well, and result in hyperpigmentation, especially when combined with sun exposure.
Increased levels of melanin are also found in areas affected by wounds, inflammation, and irritations. This is why we get darker marks for weeks, if not months after wounds and blemishes heal. Here again sun exposure makes the pigmentation darker and more persistent.
Protect your skin from the sun. Wear a product with a broad spectrum sun protection (meaning with protection from both UVA and UVB rays) with the SPF30 , if not more, on a daily basis, year round. This is important for any skin tone - while darker skin tones burn less in the sun, they are more prone to hyperpigmentation compared to fair skin.
Avoid wounding and irritating your skin. This means avoiding picking at it! Stay away from scrubs and brushes that can scratch it, irritating shaving products, and any other products with potentially irritating ingredients (for example, essential oils).
Create a consistent minimalist skincare routine to treat existing hyperpigmentation. You will need to stick with it for at least 2 months to notice substantial change. Minimalism in skincare is important for hyperpigmentation because the less products and ingredients you use, the less likely you are to irritate your skin. This is why your skincare routine needs to include only a few carefully selected products with effective ingredients. A good minimalist skincare routine for evening out skin tone includes:
A mild non fragranced cleanser. Use it once (in the evening), and no more than twice daily, to avoid overcleansing (overcleansing can make your skin more prone to irritation, which in turn, can trigger hyperpigmentation).
A broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF30 or more. Wear sunscreen every time you are outside.
If your skin can tolerate it, consider using a product with a retinoid at night. Start applying it every other night for the first two weeks and gradually increase the frequency to every night. Select a retinoid product without fragrance and other no value irritants.
Try using a product with vitamin C daily (for example, in the morning).
Use a product with niacinamide on a daily basis. A convenient way to incorporate niacinamide in your routine is to choose a moisturizer and / or sunscreen with this ingredient.
You can also consider adding a product with a compound called Resorcinol (Isobutylamido-thiazolyl-resorcinol in full, or Thiamidol). This compound has been discovered recently. The first studies show that it can help reduce hyperpigmentation without causing skin irritation, but more research is needed to confirm these findings.
A good non-fragranced moisturizer to help your skin maintain its barrier function and reduce the risk of irritation.
If hyperpigmentation causes you distress, you might consider using a product with hydroquinone. This ingredient is the most powerful anti-pigment ingredient available in skincare today. But it should not be used on a constant basis. If you decide to try it, use it for no more than two months, then stop it for a few months before considering another cycle. If you believe that this regimen would not be enough for you, please consult with a dermatologist. Be aware that hydroquinone can cause skin irritation. You should not start both a retinoid and hydroquinone product at the same time. Start with one, and add the other one only after you are sure that your skin is tolerating the first one well.
Do not introduce too many products and active ingredients at the same time. Avoiding irritation should be one of the main goals of your skincare routine. It is important to introduce one active ingredient at a time, let your skin adjust for a few weeks, and only then consider introducing another product.
Do not expect quick results. You need to wait for at least two month to see any lasting benefit for the evenness of your skin tone :)
** Please note this is not medical advice. This resource is provided for educational purposes only. If you suffer from or suspect eczema, melasma, psoriasis, acne, or other skin disease seek advice of a medical professional. The information provided in this guide is intended for adults. Seek advice from your paediatrician to select skincare for babies and children.