Ever since I was a teenager and I started to get hormonal spots I have been aware of the dark marks that breakouts would leave behind. Although at the time I had no idea what these lingering patches were called, I knew that they always bothered me more than the actual spot had done. It happened all over my body too—not just on my face. Any skin trauma, from a cut to an insect bite, would result in a deep brown mark being left behind on my skin.
A few years back, after the worst forehead breakout I’ve ever had, the marks were deeper than ever and they weren’t going anywhere. Because I was new to working in the beauty industry at the time, I took to trialling a multitude of skin resurfacing products which, when mixed together, only irritated my skin further. Enough was enough and I decided it was about time to speak to some skin experts for a helping hand. The dark marks were diagnosed as a type of hyperpigmentation and are surprisingly common.
Keep scrolling for everything I’ve learnt how to to treat hyperpigmentation and the products that actually work.
“[Hyperpigmentation] refers to patches of skin that are darker than its surrounding skin or natural skin colour,” says Bianca Estelle, Skin Specialist and Founder of Bea Skin Clinic. “This excess melanin (skin pigment) presents itself in many forms including ‘age spots’ (known professionally as solar lentigines), melasma and even freckles. Another common form of hyperpigmentation is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). This type of hyperpigmentation is usually temporary and can occur for many reasons, such as a dermatitis, but even a simple pimple break out or acne can cause PIH.”
One of the most common misconceptions about hyperpigmentation is that it only happens to Black skin. While it is often more visible on dark skin, it can affect everyone.
Over the years, I have tried hundreds of products to speed up the fading process as soon as I notice any marks appear and I finally feel like I have a skincare routine that helps keep it under control. However, one thing I have noticed that’s made the biggest difference is wearing a high SPF every single day without fail—even if I’m working from home all day. And it’s something that Bianca recommends too.
“When tackling hyperpigmentation, there are ingredients that help to brighten the skin and therefore ‘fade’ the dark patches, but I’d also recommend taking steps to prevent hyperpigmentation from worsening and this includes wearing an appropriate SPF.” While I still tan in summer, the darks spots don’t deepen further or become more noticeable because of this extra step in my skincare routine.
Adding in specific acids into my routine was a game-changing move for my skin too—the right combination faded the hyperpigmentation, plumped the appearance of my skin and evened out the tone. In the past, when acid-based products used terms like ‘brightening’ I was always wary of them, mainly because of the prevalence of skin-lightening products aimed at Black women that use similar terminology. However, having spoken to many medical professionals and skin experts who have filled me in on what specific acids do and what they’re good for, I now feel more confident incorporating them into my skincare routine and I haven’t looked back since.
“If we look at brightening agents, there’s alpha-hydroxy acids (aka AHAs) like kojic Acid, lactic Acid and mandelic acid, plus alpha arbutin. This suppresses tyrosine which is an enzyme that helps our bodies to produce melanin,” explains Bianca. “By blocking this tyrosine pathway, you’ll be less reactive to UV trauma and less at risk of hyperpigmentation. These ingredients will also help to prevent melanin-hyper synthesis in the cells.”
Given that hyperpigmentation is my biggest skin concern, I have never been happier with my skin than I am right now, and I know it’s down to these products…