Hyperpigmentation: How to Not Get It and How To Get Rid of It
Hyperpigmentation Issues For Women and Even Men!
We're gonna be here talking about a little skin issue that probably most of us have dealt with and it's hyperpigmentation. So have you got it? Yeah freckles and PIH.
The random pimples that I would just turn dark brown for me because I have acne scarring and it's all over my chin and we'll roll some b-roll of those brown kind of blotches that are left over after any sort of inflammation or breakouts.
Yes Hyperpigmentation is linked to sun exposure
Hyperpigmentation is also heavily linked and caused by the Sun and when hyperpigmentation is caused by the Sun it can actually be causing trouble to our DNA and so it gets pretty serious
But on a more general level it can occur on any skin type and it's caused by multiple reasons Because it's essentially darkening of a specific part of our skin. But do you know how discoloration forms and the layers of the skin? We're taking a deep dive by looking at what hyperpigmentation is and how it actually develops in the layers of our skin.
3 Types of Hyperpigmentation
The three most common types of hyperpigmentation: PI,E PIH, and melasma.
The best ingredients you can find and our favorite product recommendations that help with shedding dead skin cells and brightening those dark spots.
hen because we know it's not always about going out and buying products and buying skin care We're also gonna be sharing with you guys some natural ingredients and DIY tips you can try at home.
What is Hyperpigmentation
What happens in our skin when hyperpigmentation forms? It's not a simple thing So starting with the basics: what is hyperpigmentation? Generally, it's an umbrella term that's defined as any condition that leads to a discoloration or a darkening of the skin.
There are many causes for hyperpigmentation But the most common forms result from excess sun exposure, eczema, psoriasis, and even acne.
When you decide to pop that pesky little pimple, the recover process causes discoloration and even hyperpigmentation.
So we've covered that melanin is a pigment that gives color to our skin, our eyes, our hair, our nasal cavities, and even the inside of our ears. We have lots of immune system cells in our epidermis layer of the skin.
The Bottom Layer of the Epidermis
Now, zooming into the very bottom of the epidermis layer of the skin also known as the stratum basale lies melanocytes Melanocytes are a group of spidery looking cells which produce a pigment known as melanosomes.
The melanosomes contain enzymes that produce melainin. And these are all traveling upward towards the surface of the skin which is why we see darkening by the time it's at the top of our skin.
The cool thing is that no matter how pale or how dark Wherever you lie in between, we all have about the same amount of melanocytes So our particular skin color isn't about the number of these cells that we have but it's about how far the cellular extensions known as dendrites extend and reach.
What do dendrites do?
These dendrites are used to transfer the Pigment granules to the neighboring epidermal cells, hence the spread of color.
Fun fact: melanocytes have been with us in our embryo stages of life So we most likely started developing color in our skin in just those first three months of existence
All around the melanocytes are many other epidermis cells known as keratinocytes. These look like little cushions with a nucleus inside The keratinocyte is in charge of signaling to the melanocytes: "Hey we need melanin!" And then the melanocytes go "okay Roger that, we're supplying that right now" and that's their relationship.
So when the melanosomes transfer the keratinocytes They gather together at the very top of the keratinocyte and form a protective umbrella over the nucleus but the basic role of keratinocytes is to create keratin and fillagrin which are proteins found in the hair and in the skin.
Protecting the Skin by Creating a Barrier
And its role is to protect the skin from UV rays by maintaining A healthy skin barrier function. And we talk so much about skin barrier function, right? So this is kind of like zooming into the microscopic particles of what's actually happening.
And they also do a pretty bang-up job in preventing water loss and foreign invaders like bacteria, allergens, microbes from entering our skin and body. So on a normal day the melanin umbrella that the melanosomes create over the keratinocytes Absorb the UV rays that enter our skin and immediately protects us from sun damage.
Sun Aggravation which leads to hyperpigmentation
Now on a bad day, let's say we're outside, frolicking around and the skin gets aggravated by the Sun aka we tan or we get a sunburn.
When we overexposed ourselves to the Sun the UV rays are able to penetrate deep into the skin and the cells and What this really means is that the keratinocytes are holding more melanin in their cells than usual and the pigment bursting at the seams are showing through.
Not only that but when the UV rays reach the nucleus of the keratinocytes that middle part that actually stores your DNA, it can get damaged and deformed or even mutated.
If we imagine for a second that this is happening to many many keratinocytes meaning many strands of our DNA are mutating and being destroyed. This then is the cause of skin cancer and a melanoma.
And now you know how all this works Let's take a breather. Breathe in, breathe out. Many terms that you'll probably scared.
So next let's take a look at three different types of hyperpigmentation that can occur in our skin because as we might have realized it's not just all about Sun.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation PIH
First up is post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Just as the name suggests this form of hyperpigmentation is caused by inflammation to the skin. So when you're left with a dark red or brownish mark after popping that pimple, there's a chance you have PIH.
And why does this happen though? Well whenever we get an injury, a rash, or blemish, your skin reacts by becoming inflamed. We tend to associate inflammation as a bad thing because honestly what we're facing looks and feels terrible But we should actually keep in mind that when we get inflammation on the skin It's our body's natural way of protecting us from infections, bacteria, viruses So it really is a good thing But just kind of looks bad.
And we know a pimple or breakout happens because of inflammation Caused by all the nasties that are trapped in our pores like bacteria, sebum It's like a cocktail of gross bacteria.
Now tying it back to melanocytes underneath the surface of the skin, the inflammation triggers the melanocytes to release excess melanosomes to the keratinocytes Remember that keratinocytes also play a big role in protecting the skin against outside invaders This excess pigment then creates a discoloration around the wound of the inflamed area Which is the pimple, therefore creating a hyperpigmentation.
Inflamed skin makes hyperpigmentation more obvious
The more inflamed your skin is the more obvious Your hyperpigmentation will look on the surface of the skin. And that's why many times and we're also guilty of doing this We're told not to pick at our pimples because the hyperpigmentation will take longer to fade and the wound won't be able to Heal as quick and heal as properly.
PIH is more common in medium to darker skin tones and the deeper The inflammation is in the skin the longer it will take to fade. Good thing is with the help of certain Ingredients the recovery process can be sped up and we'll go into this later when we mentioned some products So now moving on to another type which is PIE.
Post Inflammatory Erythema PIE
Post inflammatory erythema This form of hyperpigmentation looks very similar to PIH and this is why we can easily get confused between the two.
But unlike PIH, PIE happens because the inflammation agitates the surrounding capillaries and blood vessels and it's not due to an excess of production of melanin.
So it's a little bit different The first is like the actual volcano and this one is like the moat around the castle Ro: Ooooooh The cause for PIE is when the skin receives some sort of trauma so things such as acne, cuts and even aggressive exfoliation on the skin can result in PIE.
PIE results when the skin's capillaries are broken and the skin is trying to heal itself by dilating the blood vessels to increase blood flow because it's trying to heal itself.
That's why if you see pink or red colored marks on your skin it's most likely the case that you have PIE. Generally people who have lighter skin tones are more likely to have PIE instead of PIH. So when you pick at your skin or pop that pimple you're further wounding your skin and causing even more inflammation which then makes it longer for it to heal.
How to Tell the Difference Between PIE or PIH?
In worst cases lead to a permanent sort of scarring on the face. So how can I tell whether my hyperpigmentation is PIE or PIH?
A quick test is to take a small piece of see-through glass kind of like a Microscope slide or your finger and gently press onto the hyperpigmentation. When the hyperpigmentation turns white when you press down on it, that's the sign Your hyperpigmentation is PIE due to the vascular wound underneath the skin.
What is Melasma?
The telltale sign of melasma is if you have fairly large and spread out blotchy Areas that are brown in color, chances are that it's not PIH or PIE, but melasma Melasma is another form of hyperpigmentation — also the most commonly seen in women.
Just another thing to add to our list of potential issues in life Not easy being a girl Not at all You mainly see it in the areas like the cheeks, the bridge of the nose, forehead Chin and upper lip.
And just like PIH, melasma also occurs due to the excess production of melanin from melanosomes. But what makes it different to PIH and PIE is that melasma is believed to be also caused by things like genetics, UV exposure, and also Hormonal influences in the body.
Hormones, the cause of so many Skin issues in Women
Melasma may be caused by hormones This makes melasma much more difficult to treat compared to the other types of acne-related hyperpigmentation Or just like general freckling that we mentioned before.
Melasma is also known as the pregnancy mask because it can show itself in stages of pregnancy when our hormones are going out of whack and going through a rollercoaster ride.
So, how can you treat hyperpigmentation? This is the question you guys came here for!
Our skin renews itself every about 28 to 30 days so naturally the skin will shed itself and reveal newest skin which means the dark areas will naturally lighten but if the hyperpigmentation is on the deeper layers of your skin, it will take longer for it to go away completely.
You're going to want to look for ingredients that can inhibit melanin production in the skin basically, stop it from producing in the first place Like, "hey friend, calm down.
What do Melanocytes do?
While melanocytes do their job in creating melanosomes, they also create an enzyme called tyrosinase This enzyme contains copper and is essential for activating melanin from inside the melanosome.
When you apply a whitening or lightening treatment to help treat your PIH or melasma the product directly targets this melanin overproduction by inhibiting tyrosinase from doing its job.
For hyperpigmentation caused by PIE You're going to want to calm down inflammation to the skin and to prevent aggravating your red marks even further Avoid picking at your skin.
Toner problems, no it's got nothing to do with your laser printer
But also with toners you want to avoid things like alcohols, but not all alcohols are created equal. You can also avoid Using astringent that can be overly drying on the skin like for me witch hazel is a little bit too stripping.
It might be a good time to stop using highly concentrated or potent ingredients like if you were using any sort of citrus or undiluted tea tree oil and also essential oils because although essential oils can be good They are actually very strong as well.
I used to have a blood clot on my face, and then I popped it and that took me five months to go away because it was so deep in the skin.
It traumatized so many layers of the skin and it was black for about two weeks. It was just purple and black So that is intense trauma Keep in mind to always wear sunscreen to prevent further damage from sun exposure and worsening hyperpigmentation
So now when we're outside we're looking for products that hopefully will help us to treat this sort of hyperpigmentation Here are the ingredients you should look for.
What Chemicals Actually Lighten Pigmentation?
So the first one is a little controversial But has also got a lot of studies that has shown that it works is hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is considered the gold standard ingredient for brightening dark spots by decreasing melanocytes and thereby melanin production
But here's the catch. Because hydroquinone is so potent it can't be used long-term and can even cause some unwanted side effects like skin sensitivity and also irritation and it's also worth noting that hydroquinone is not recommended for pregnant women.
And it's currently banned in European countries due to these concerns So things like vitamin A also not recommended to be used if you're pregnant and I think Europe is actually much more strict with the ingredients that they have out there.
Vitamin C to help with hyperpigmentation
Vitamin C is Pretty promising as well because vitamin C also really helps in brightening and lightening The next ingredient is kojic acid and this ingredient has been asked by our Beauty fam a lot because it's recently started to gain a lot of traction So what is kojic acid? It's a natural alternative to hydroquinone, again, that can lighten up hyperpigmentation on the skin and it's also antimicrobial.
It's rich in antioxidants. It has anti-inflammatory properties It's anti aging and can offer some degree of protection against the Sun Kojic acid is produced from fungi and is naturally produced from the fermentation process of foods such as soy, rice, and sake.
In many cases kojic acid can show up as fermented soy extract, fermented rice extract, and fermented rice filtrate in the ingredient list But they all mean the same thing So how does this ingredient help brighten the skin?
If hydroquinone targets the melanocytes and arbutin targets tyrosinase from within the melanocytes, Then kojic acid aims at the copper from inside the tyrosinase It's like an inception situation going on in here And kojic acid is generally safe for all skin types Including pregnant women and can be used long-term and you can pair this with things like glycolic acid to get maximum results.
So AHAs work well together but keep in mind that there's a potential risk of contact dermatitis and increased chance of sunburns if not properly protected so make sure you apply SPF.
And because it's from fermented soy and fermented rice Naturally, you will see this in SKII, the facial treatment essence which everyone raves about But there's also super affordable kojic acid soaps.
Next is azelaic acid (which is) naturally found on everyone's skin. Azelaic acid is especially great for helping those with PIE, melasma, rosacea, and even acne When they discover that your skin has abnormal melanocytes that are producing way too much melanin They target the tyrosinase within these cells and basically tell them to chill out and for all our acne-prone skin fam, including myself Azelaic acid has the ability to kill P.
Acnes that are trapped in the hair follicles So you're pretty much looking at something that can do many things for your skin.
Some people may love azelaic acid. Which may be added into a serum or you can add it into your moisturizer at however.
What about people with sensitive skin and Hyperpigmentation?
So if you have sensitive skin, some may opt for affeandelic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid. Chemical exfoliants may be beneficial in helping the skin.
AHAs are naturally derived from things like plant and fruit extracts and can help to lessen hyperpigmentation By helping the skin with the cell turnover process which naturally occurs anyway but it helps to slough off that dead skin and the glue that sticks it together which causes things like breakouts.
It encourages new cells to emerge which then creates fresh and bright skin.
Licorice Extract For Skin
Even though they taste pretty nasty It's actually really good for hyperpigmentation But before you go about eating licorice to get the benefits.
You can save your taste buds by topically applying products containing licorice extract instead. So how does licorice extract help to lighten hyperpigmentation?
Licorice extract basically hinders the production of melanin in our skin and it also contains glabridin and licochalcone, which are antioxidants that help to fight off free radicals and UV sun damage, help to soothe inflamed skin, and also helps to regulate oil production Which is why you'll see it in a lot of anti acne skin care products.
Glabridin is an active ingredient Containing five flavonoids that act to de-pigment or lighten skin while blocking an enzyme that causes damaged skin to darken So if you're checking the ingredients, keep note that licorice extract might be listed as dipotassium glycyrrhizate So we have one product recommendation with licorice extract and its Skin Inc's Licorice Serum It's a pretty common ingredient.
Vitamin A, B and C which is Retinols, niacinamide, and vitamin C. These also help with hyperpigmentation Because once again like AHAs, it just helps to shed the skin It helps boost cell renewal. Basically, like turn over your skin cells so new skin shows which means that naturally the hyperpigmentation will fade. And if you're like What are vitamin A, B, and C? We did a separate series diving deep into A, B, and C. It's kinda like the ABCs of skincare Last ingredient is zinc oxide or.
PSA: Always Use Sunscreen
Always use sunscreen. Because you know by now how the sun's UV rays can penetrate into your cells Penetrate into DNA and mutate and break it down So that's how powerful the Sun is regardless of whether you have hyperpigmentation or not It's super important to protect your skin at all times. If it's cloudy, if it's rainy, if it's sunny, just slap that on your skin My all-time favorite sunscreen here:
What about ACV?
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which can help decrease hyperpigmentation Like PIH and melasma and helped to decrease melanin production in the skin.
Another great ingredient is green tea or matcha So green tea is known for its super high amounts of antioxidants known as EGCG and it's Anti-inflammatory properties which makes it such a great ingredient for helping with PIE.
And it's also said that green tea can help to lighten hyperpigmentation by inhibiting production in the tyrosinase.
After steeping your tea take the green tea bags and apply them to the pigmented areas of your skin massage them gently until the tea is absorbed into your skin Or make the matcha mask (Ro: honey) Yeah, I think because matcha is so much more potent than green tea because it's grinded tea leaves So it's got all that goodness in it Whereas the green tea bags are just the leaves.
Why Green Tea Also Works
And also the way it's grown. It's harvested, it's hand-ground It's pretty magical. Yeah, so if you pair that with honey and a little bit of water you get this flourishing Antioxidant concoction.
Milk? Really? For Hyperpigmentation?
And the next one is milk! Milk contains lactic acid, which is useful for lightening of dark marks and reducing hyperpigmentation to the skin So what you want to do is heat a bowl of milk The milk should be comfortably warm when you dip your finger in it and at this stage.
You can also stir in some honey for moisturizing benefits Once it's heated take a washcloth and soak it into the milk, wring out the extra milk So it's fully saturated without dripping.
On clean skin, gently massage the milk into your skin And then once the washcloth is dry, dip it back into the pot, bring it out again, do it again It's kind of like multi toner-ing. You basically do that until the pot of milk is gone and then once it's dry on your face, just rinse it off.
Once again, just keep in mind everyone's skin is different. It won't work the same way It might work really well for some people, it might not change anything for others.
So just keep that in mind But I mean I think at the very least milk is something that's very easily accessible compared to these skincare serums that could be upwards of $50 to $100 $3 toner!
Yeah And that is how you deal with hyperpigmentation! So there are a lot of different ingredients and products out there that can Really help with fading dark spots, fading acne marks, fading things like melasma But I think just keep in mind that it takes time It's not gonna be an overnight process because the cell renewal is such an intricate process as you probably know now.
Sunscreen, Always Put Sunscreen
Patience is key. But then it just pushes you to take more preventative measures so that it doesn't form in the first place. And on top of sunscreen I think it actually does help a lot to wear a hat or to physically protect yourself. Choose to walk in the shade rather than under the Sun.
I think Sun is fun. Yeah, but it's just these little repercussions that we realize later on when we see those brown discolored spots appear don't make it fun any more.
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