We’ve all been there. A pesky zit leaves an unsightly blemish on your face that, try as you may, just won’t fade. Sound familiar? If so, you’re part of 80% of women who experience skin discoloration, or hyperpigmentation, according to a study by Environ Skin Care. And while it may be more noticeable in those with darker skin tones, nobody is immune. As Dr. Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip explained to Cosmopolitan, skin becomes inflamed when a pimple pops and, as a result, the body goes into overdrive to heal the underlying trauma by producing an excess of melanin. In darker skin tones, this melanin tends to be more noticeable.
Of course, it’s not just those with acne that have to deal with hyperpigmentation. We can also get them as a result of hormones, sun damage or aging.
So is there anything we can do to treat this all-too familiar condition? You best believe it!
RULE NO. 1: HANDS OFF!
Chances are, if you’ve got discoloration marking your complexion, they were most likely caused by a burst pimple on your face. Dermatologist Michelle Henry explains to PopSugar how, by picking at zits, you are effectively causing increased blood circulation and inflammation at the site of pimples. This bruising is what ultimately leads to unwelcome brown scars. “Simple is better when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation because you don’t want to make your condition worse,” she advises.
RULE NO. 2: LOOK FOR EXFOLIATING INGREDIENTS
Salicylic acid, glycolic acid and retinol – these are the top three ingredients most trusted by dermatologists to target hyperpigmentation. If you suffer from active acne breakouts and have an oily skin, it’s best to start out with salicylic acid, a gentler exfoliant. Glycolic acid is excellent at targeting hyperpigmentation in drier skin while also reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Then there is retinol, recommended by Dr. Henry. “[Retinol] helps unblock pores and fights acne, which will result in the development of fewer new spots. It’s also anti-inflammatory and will help lighten dark spots.”
A word of caution though: start small, says New York-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love to CNN. “If too high of a concentration or too many ingredients are started to treat the hyperpigmentation, there is risk of developing irritation, which will then lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation,” she warns. “This isn’t a worsening of the underlying issue but instead the creation of a new, similar issue.”
RULE NO. 3: WEAR SUNSCREEN
Probably the most important tip of all: slather on the SPF! “If you’re not using a sunscreen every day all year long, you are wasting your time on other products,” so says New Jersey-based dermatologist Jeanine Downie. Exposure to the harsh UVA and UVB rays of the sun will only darken hyper pigmentation and make them worse in the long term. Also remember that ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid cause skin to be even more sensitive to the sun.
Once the skin is adequately protected, make use of the power of vitamin C during the day. Not only does it combat fine lines, it also inhibits the synthesis of melanin in the skin. A great product to get you started is Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum. Use it in the morning immediately after cleansing, three to four times a week to begin with.