Struggling to fade your hyperpigmentation? Read on for some tips to help your products work better.
Hyperpigmentation is typically the result of acne, sun damage, or even hormonal changes and can leave its mark after the initial damage, making it a tricky skin care challenge to overcome. Ingredients like vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids can help speed the process along, but if you’re making the mistakes below, you may not be getting the best results.
You’re not wearing sunscreen.
You probably know by now that sunscreen is a necessity for everyone, no matter the skin type or skin concern. Overexposure to the sun can lead to many future skin problems, such as accelerated aging and even skin cancer, but it can also exacerbate current concerns, including acne and hyperpigmentation. “Wearing sunscreen is essential to helping dark spots fade since they can be made worse by sun exposure,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sourab Choudhury. Your brightening products can become pretty much worthless without wearing sunscreen everyday, since the spots can become even darker by just being outside.
This is especially true for those who have forms of hyperpigmentation such as melasma or sun spots, as those conditions can often be caused by sun overexposure and not wearing SPF. Melasma is also caused by hormonal factors such as pregnancy or use of birth control, but the dark marks can be made worse without regular use of sun protection.
Not to mention many ingredients that are popular for fading hyperpigmentation (such as vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids) make your skin even more sensitive to the sun, meaning that applying SPF is that much more important if you want to fade your pigmentation. Dr. Choudhury recommends “either a physical sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide or a broad spectrum chemical sunscreen. In either case, look for at least 30 SPF and reapply it frequently when outside.”
You’re switching products too often.
If you’ve been frustrated by dark spots that won’t seem to budge no matter what products you try, you’re not alone. “It can take several months or years for dark spots to fade, and it really depends upon the individual’s skin type and severity of the pigmentation,” says Dr. Choudhury. “The darker someone is and the worse the pigmentation, the longer it generally takes for hyperpigmentation to resolve.”
Most products and ingredients take about six to eight weeks to show any results at all, so it’s best to use one product consistently for that amount of time before you write it off completely.
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is easier to fade than something such as melasma, which doesn’t respond to brightening products in the same way that PIH does. Laser treatments are seen as the most effective way to fade dark spots from melasma.
You’re exfoliating too harshly.
Exfoliating is a common way to fade pigmentation, since it can clear away dead skin and reveal smoother and clearer skin underneath, therefore working to brighten any uneven skin tone. If you prefer physical exfoliating however, being a little too rough with your skin can cause more harm than good. “Patients sometimes try to aggressively exfoliate dark spots to fade them, but that can often make the problem worse,” says Dr. Choudhury. “Too much scrubbing can darken the hyperpigmentation.”
A chemical exfoliant might be a better choice than a physical scrub though it is still possible to over-exfoliate with a chemical formula, but you should be fine if you stick to use once a day, 1-3 times per week. Look for products that include ingredients such as glycolic acid or lactic acid, which are great for fading dark marks. We personally love the Isntree Clear Skin 8% AHA Essence and the Banila Co Hi Bye Vita Peel Clear Pad.
You’re not addressing the root of the problem.
PIH is the result of inflammation on the skin, such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis, and melasma and sun spots can both be caused by a lack of sun protection. If you want to fully treat your pigmentation, getting down to what’s behind it is just as – or even more – important as using products to just fade it. “The more difficult question is ‘what is causing the pigmentation?’ Determining the underlying cause allows us to treat the condition itself and not just the symptoms,” says Dr. Choudhury. Finding ways to treat acne and making sure you consistently apply (and reapply!) SPF can prevent pigmentation from popping up in the first place. If you focus on treating the root problem of your hyperpigmentation, you might be able to avoid it entirely in the future.