Understanding Hyperpigmentation- How to Correct & Prevent Uneven Skin Tone

5 essential ways to help reduce discoloration, according to experts.

We all dream of glowing, bright, clear skin that doesn’t need any foundation to look flawless.

But almost all of us struggle to attain the skin of our dreams because of stubborn dark spots and discoloration. Hyperpigmentation can be really confusing; so we talked to dermatologists, estheticians, and brand founders to break it all down.

What is hyperpigmentation?

When you notice darker areas or spots on your skin, chances are you are seeing hyperpigmentation. “Hyperpigmentation is caused when our pigment producing cells (melanocytes) make excess pigment (melanin). Melanin is the amino acid responsible for providing pigment to our hair, skin, and eyes,” Dr. Robert Finney of Entiere Dermatology explains. Understanding what is causing your hyperpigmentation is so important. Dr. Finney says “various factors can trigger increased melanin production, but the most common is sun exposure.” Sun exposure, estrogen fluctuations caused by birth-control or pregnancy, and injuries to the skin can all cause hyperpigmentation. Talk with your dermatologist to get to the source of the problem and identify the best treatment plan for you.

So how do you reduce uneven and discolored skin?

“When it comes to reducing pigmentation and scarring you want to exfoliate to even out skin texture, treat the skin with brighteners, stimulate the creation of new skin cells, and protect the skin from future damage,” esthetician Katie Sobelman tells us. “A great way to do this is by looking for multitasking ingredients that offer multiple actions in the skin,” Sobelman says.

Figuring out the best exfoliator for your skin

Exfoliators are one of the most universally used skincare products that when used correctly, buffs away dead skin cells and can improve uneven skin tone and texture. Exfoliators have come a long way over the years, but navigating the onslaught of options on the market can be overwhelming and confusing. There are two categories of exfoliators, physical and chemical.

“A physical exfoliant removes dead skin through the physical action of scrubbing the skin’s surface and includes facial scrubs, gommage, and even dermaplaning,” Sobelman explains. These are two of our favorite physical exfoliators that don’t irritate the skin like the rough exfoliators that we used in high school did.

Rose Inc Skin Clarity Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser
Ideal for people with oily or congested skin, this daily cleanser contains pomegranate enzymes and jojoba beads that unclog pores and removes surface buildup without stripping the skin. What makes it so great is the 12 amino acids and squalane replenishing the skin barrier’s moisture that won’t leave your skin feeling right or dry.

GOOPGLOW Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator
Inspired by the results of an in-office microdermabrasion treatment, this dual-action scrub will smooth uneven texture and replace dullness with a healthy glow. It contains glycolic acid and minerals like quartz, garnet, alumina, and silica in an air-whipped formula bordering a jar of marshmallow fluff.

“Chemical exfoliants remove dead skin through a chemical action of dissolving dead skin and sebum build-up,” Katie Sobelman says. Some of the most common types of chemical exfoliants that you’ll see are enzymes, lactic acid, Poly Hydroxy Acid (PHA), gluconolactone, and Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA).

Luzern AHA Exfoliating Peel
These pads soaked in Vitamin C, AHA, and lactic acid work to speed up the skin’s natural process of shedding dead skin cells. Use in the evening 2-3 times per week and you’ll notice brighter and younger looking skin. Keep in mind, ”it is often advisable to avoid using retinoids when using AHAs,” Sobelman notes.

Hero Cosmetics Lightning Swipes
Don’t let the super affordable price point fool you, these dual-sided pads will seriously illuminate your skin without drying it out. Pro-tip: I like to use the smooth side on my face then use the textured side on my chest and back.

Niacinamide: the multitasking ingredient
Niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3, is a nutrient that improves uneven skin tone, restores radiance, strengthens the skin barrier, and does so much more for the skin. “Niacinamide is another excellent multitasking treatment. It acts as a hydroquinone alternative, offering skin lightening while stabilizing melanosome activity within the cells to prevent the formation of additional pigmentation,” Katie Sobelman tells us.

Dr. Barbara Sturm The Better B Niacinamide Serum
This highly effective yet safe serum contains high quality, pure Vitamin B3 and Ectoin to protect the skin against environmental hyperpigmentation. It targets the pores and texture to smooth and refine the skin leaving you looking more even and radiant without the irritation or redness caused by some serums with too high of a concentration of topical Vitamin B3.

Eadem Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum
Formulated and approved by women of color, for women of color. Eadem’s founders sought out to create a serum that would target acne scars and spots without being too harsh for those with melanated skin. People of all skin tones and shades rave about how much this serum has faded their stubborn dark spots, even those with fair complections.

Maelove Nia10 Calming Serum
With 10% niacinamide, zinc, aloe, and white team this serum will brighten and calm your skin while lightening discoloration over time. It is said to be a good alternative for people that might be more sensitive to vitamin C, and can be a great booster to your skincare layered into your current routine.

Prevent hyperpigmentation with SPF
“I always tell patients if they only commit to doing one thing for their skin, it should be to use sunscreen every day,” Dr. Robert Finney explains. “When using active ingredients, such as Vitamin C, retinols, and AHAs, you must be extra diligent in incorporating sunscreen to your skincare regimen.” Sunscreen will be your best friend and the key to preventing hyperpigmentation. SPF will help prevent the formation of new dark spots and help protect your skin so that any current hyperpigmentation won’t get darker or harder to reverse because of sun exposure.

EltaMD UV Glow Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 36
This mineral sunscreen is my daily go-to, it is lightweight enough to wear under face makeup but has a nice tint and luminous finish that gives me enough coverage to wear in lieu of foundation. “It is imperative to begin using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher to prevent further damage,” Dr. Finney suggests.

Vacation Chardonnay Oil SPF 30
Include a broad spectrum SPF in your arsenal that is so indulgent that you won’t ever want to leave your skin unprotected from the sun’s harmful rays. Inspired by the celebratory nature of champagne, this hydrating oil is lightweight, reef-friendly, and infused with a bubbly aroma “Grand Cru ‘86.”

Keep correcting with a daily treatment
Whether you’ve always struggled with uneven skin tone or not, don’t overlook the importance of incorporating a daily treatment into your existing regimen. Daily treatments are meant to be gentle enough for prolonged use while keeping your skin bright and glowy.

SkinCeuticals Phyto A+ Brightening Treatment
Pesky marks that acne can leave behind are no match for this lightweight moisturizer. Formulated with 3% azelaic acid, 5.75% phyto botanical blend, and 2% alpha arbutin, itis a great way to soothe and correct uneven skin and improve the skin’s texture and clarity at the same time. This recent launch from SkinCueticals is sure to obtain the same cult-like following as some of their other incredibly effective products!

Incorporate Vitamin C into your routine
Vitamin C is an undeniably popular active ingredient due to the amazing results this antioxidant yields. “Active ingredients are helpful in repairing free radical damage and reducing signs of aging (fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, etc.),” Dr. Finney says. With the help of these Vitamin C products you can say goodbye to dull and uneven skin and hello to bright and glowy skin in no time.

Herbivore Botanicals NOVA 15% Vitamin C + Turmeric Brightening Serum
“One of the great things about NOVA is that it is so gentle, it can be used with pretty much any other skincare actives,” Herbivore founder Alex Kummerow tells us. “But we suggest spacing them out. So use NOVA in the morning and use your other activities—like AHA, BHA, retinol—at night,” Kummerow adds.

Alpyn Beauty Bearberry & Vitamin C Glow Serum
Bearberry leaf is a berry that helps target dark spots more gently than ingredients like hydroquinone, making it more suitable for darker skin tones. This serum pairs bearberry, licorice root, and Vitamin C to smooth and boost the skin’s brightness.

Rael Vitamin C Sheet Masks
We already know that estrogen fluctuations can cause hyperpigmentation. Rael designs skincare around your cycle, tailored to the skin’s varying needs depending on the time of the month. During ovulation when more oil is being produced use this Vitamin C infused brightening sheet mask to help with cell turnover (and much needed self-pampering).

 

Summer Fridays Light Aura Vitamin C + Peptide Eye Cream
Yes, Vitamin C is even an effective ingredient to banish dark circles around the eyes! This eye cream instantly brightens dark circles with natural optics and supports the long-term natural production of collagen for firmer, smoother under eyes. We love the immediate, noticeable results from this new Summer Fridays’ launch.

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With love,

FWO