Did you know hormones, sun exposure, acne, heat, and more could be contributing to your uneven skin tone?
There is great diversity in the color of human skin around the world. But whatever each person’s unique shade may be, the general desire is for uniformity of skin color; no splotches of discoloration, spots, or other changes in pigmentation.
But… is it possible to get a perfectly even complexion? The answer may surprise you.
Before exploring the causes behind hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration, it is important to first understand pigmentation.
Pigmentation refers to darkening or lightening of the skin. It is a part of how your skin works as it reacts to external factors.
Melanin is the pigment that produces skin color. While it provides pigmentation in humans, it also plays an important biological role by providing protection against damage from the sun and UV light.
Melanin is produced in skin cells called melanocytes that live in the outermost layer of our skin. Think about these like pigment factories that can be triggered to produce melanin.
Fun fact: Scientists theorize that evolution over hundreds of thousands of years is responsible for the diverse palette of human skin tones we see around the world today. Our ancestors developed permanent pigmentation levels in their skin as a form of natural protection against the sun. Most skin pigmentation (coloration) disorders that break up your otherwise even skin tone are completely harmless, such as birthmarks and freckles. It is likewise normal to see new discolorations appear on our skin as we age. However, you may be interested to learn there are well-defined causes and treatments for some of these skin issues. Preventative measures may also be taken to improve your skin’s chances of achieving even coloring.
Back to Your Skin. What is Hyperpigmentation?
When excess melanin is produced, you have hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is a term that describes a common, usually harmless occurrence where the skin changes to flat, darkened patches due to the overproduction of melanin.
This can make spots and patches of skin appear darker than surrounding areas. It can occur in small patches, cover large areas, and even affect the entire body. Common examples of hyperpigmentation include freckles, acne marks, age spots (also called liver spots), and melasma.
Most Common Causes of Hyperpigmentation
Some people (maybe you) have always noticed some areas of their skin are different shades.
If this is a new development, it’s likely the hyperpigmentation can be linked to something your skin experienced.
Ultraviolet Radiation (Hello, Sun!)
That nice tan you have? Your skin doesn’t love it. The majority of pigmentation occurrences are caused by sun damage. Age or liver spots are the most common form of skin hyperpigmentation, and they occur due to sun damage. These small, darkened patches are usually found on the hands, face, or other areas frequently exposed to the sun.
Photomelanosis is increased pigmentation due to sun exposure, most commonly found on the face, neck and back. These areas may appear patchy or as diffused darkening.
Heat can be a trigger for melanocytes to start over-producing melanin! You’re more likely to wind up with heat-induced dark spots if you’re Asian, African-American, or Latinx, since susceptibility to hyperpigmentation is genetic.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (also called PIH)
This type of hyperpigmentation is linked to inflammatory causes that may have happened YEARS before you see the dark spots. When trauma occurs to your skin, melanocytes create melanin which then slowly rises to the surface.
Any harsh act that has occurred on your skin can cause hyperpigmentation in the future. Chemical peels, Microdermabrasion, Retin-A, and harsh facial scrubs are commonly linked to hyperpigmentation.
Picking at blemishes causes injury to the skin. And skin remembers. If you picked at acne as a teenager, it’s likely as an adult you will see slightly darker spots of pigmentation emerging from beneath layers of skin.
Melasma, or Chloasma, affects 90% of pregnant women. It shows up as spots or patches which are similar in appearance to age spots, but cover larger areas of skin. These will often appear on the forehead, face, and stomach. This is a type of hyperpigmentation caused by abnormal hormone levels in the body. Its surprise appearance could be influenced by pregnancy, ovarian or thyroid dysfunction, or even the contraceptive pill.
Treatment for Hyperpigmentation
Exfoliate regularly to break up the pigmented cells to allow them to fade.
Look for a lightening moisturizer that contains one (or some) of the ingredients on the list below!
The top recommended product from Bee Naturals is MelaClear Pigment Lightening Creme. This product is suitable for any skin type and contains all-natural, collaborative ingredients–Daisy Blossom Extract, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), and Panthenol (Vitamin B5)–to lighten UV induced pigmentation without bleaching surrounding skin.
Consider a series of corrective skin peels or cosmetic procedures to lighten areas of the skin. Options include the following: laser therapy, intense pulsed light, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels.
Time. This is the hardest thing, we know! It can feel like an eternity to treat hyperpigmentation. You won’t see drastic results immediately, but that doesn’t mean the brightening ingredients you’re using are ineffective. Place your trust in the science of skincare, be patient and allow your skin to naturally fade while consistently using sunscreen and other topical remedies–like the ones mentioned below.
Our Favorite Ingredients for Hyperpigmentation & Uneven Skin Tone
Alpha Arbutin: A choice brightening ingredient that is a lower strength derivative of hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is one of the most effective skin-lightening and spot-fading ingredients on the market, however, it can be harsh on your skin. Alpha Arbutin is a safer option which works by slowly releasing hydroquinone over time.
Kojic Acid: This ingredient is known to disrupt the production of melanin. It is a mild skin exfoliator which works to remove freckles and brown spots and also gets rid of the skin’s roughness and dryness.
Licorice Extract: Licorice extracts inhibits the production of tyrosinase, which in turn inhibits the production of dark spots. It also removes excess melanin and acts as a skin brightener!
Pea Extract: This ingredient keeps specific enzymes known as proteases from degrading skin proteins such as collagen and elastic, which are responsible for giving skin its firmness and elasticity. It protects your skin against the damaging effects of proteases activated by different types of skin abuse and the aging process
Resveratrol: An antioxidant found naturally in red grape skins. Resveratrol restores skin health by attracting and neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals in the skin can cause premature signs of aging and are created by too much time in the sun or environmental pollutants. Resveratrol’s topical application aids in the regeneration of healthier, longer-living skin cells which push dead, dying cells to the surface to reveal young-looking, more vibrant skin.
Combination Ingredients to Look For
Bearberry Extract with Vitamin C: This powerful skin lightening combination is found in skincare products, made from bearberry leaves extract and vitamin C. Contains a natural form of hydroquinone that inhibits production of melanin pigments in skin cells.
Lightening Herbal Blend: A blend of alpine plants, including Malva Sylvestris, Mentha
Piperita, Primula Veris, Alchemilla Vulgaris, Veronica Officinalis, Melissa Officinalis, and Achillea Millefolium. This blend inhibits the production of melanin pigments, reduces the appearance of age spots and evens out skin tone.
Amino Acid (phenylalanine) and lipids: Unique skin lightening agent made from natural amino acids. Inhibits the production of melanin, lightens age spots and dark skin areas.
Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa) Roots: A natural plant extract obtained from the roots of punarnava. Can reduce the number of different types of hyperpigmentation spots.
Starflower: The active ingredient (hypoxoside) is derived from Rooperi Rhizome extract. It has been shown to reduce the production of melanin in hyperactive melanocytes. It has effective properties helping to fade age spots, freckles, and hyperpigmentation.
How Can I Prevent Hyperpigmentation?
If you found our page, it may be too late to prevent what you already see on your skin.
But, great news! There are steps you can start taking today to prevent and manage future hyperpigmentation events!
Avoid exposure to the sun. Consider using a daily sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. This serves to prevent the hyperpigmentation from becoming more prominent.
Avoid picking at the skin. Avoid picking at acne and scabs to prevent hyperpigmentation from occurring via skin damage.