Hyperpigmentation is a term that describes areas of skin that appear darker than the skin around it. The color can vary, and the patches typically occur on the forehead, cheeks, neck, above the upper lip, and on the backs of the hands. Fortunately, the dark patches of hyperpigmented skin do not hurt or itch, they’re purely a cosmetic discoloration.
Risk Factors for Hyperpigmentation
The biggest risk factor for developing hyperpigmented skin is sun exposure. If you’re on medications that make you extra sensitive to the sun, then you’ll want to be particularly thoughtful about limiting your time in the sun. Everyone should ideally take preventative measures against sun damage by applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and wearing sun-protective clothing, like wide-brimmed hats and loose, long-sleeved shirts.
In addition to sun exposure, a few other factors that increase the risk for hyperpigmentation are:
- Environmental pollutants. People in highly industrialized societies are seeing an increase in the development of hyperpigmentation.
- Diet. A diet high in sugar and inflammatory foods triggers free radicals, causing glycation that can damage melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin. Hyperpigmented spots resulting from glycation are called “age spots.”
- Hormonal fluctuation. Pregnancy and contraceptives have both been connected with an increased risk for developing hyperpigmentation. In fact, hyperpigmentation during pregnancy is so common that it even has a nickname, “the mask of pregnancy.” Fortunately, hyperpigmentation related to hormonal changes typically fades naturally a few months after the baby is born or after contraceptives are stopped.
- Skin color. Black women and others with melanin-rich skin are at an increased risk of developing hyperpigmentation. This is because dark skin contains more melanin, which is more reactive to inflammation and injury.
- Skin inflammation. Acne and ingrown hairs can cause temporary hyperpigmentation. This is called “post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation,” and it responds well to chemical exfoliants like the Bright Skin Licorice Root Exfoliating Peel that activate cellular turnover.
It’s not at all uncommon for women to ask me about products for hyperpigmented skin when they visit Jessica’s Apothecary for facials or waxing. As a former sun worshipper with Greek lineage, I, too, am at an increased risk for hyperpigmentation. I’ve done my fair share of research over the years—both for my clients and myself—and here are the ingredients and products I trust most.
Natural, Skin-Brightening Ingredients
Many of the products used to lighten hyperpigmented skin are harsh, and they are not always safe for darker skin or for long-term use. Fortunately, there are also natural, botanical-based products on the market, including the Bright Skin Collection from Eminence Organics, that can help lighten existing hyperpigmentation and are safe for all skin types.
Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent that bleaches the skin and is used in many over-the-counter products for hyperpigmentation. There are safety concerns with hydroquinone, however, which is why I was excited to see that Eminence Organics includes a natural alternative in their Bright Skin Collection!
Eminence Organics’ Natural Hydroquinone Alternative is made from African potato and tara tree, and it offers the same skin-brightening properties as over-the-counter hydroquinone without the safety concerns. It’s also safe for all skin colors, which is wonderful!
Licorice root is a skin-whitening ingredient that’s used throughout Eminence Organics’ Bright Skin Collection. Licorice extract contains liquiritin, an active compound that helps to disperse and remove existing melanin in the skin. This means it helps prevent new dark spots from forming, while also fading existing ones. Like many plant-based extracts, licorice contains antioxidant-rich compounds that benefit the skin. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce swelling and redness.
The last natural, skin-brightening ingredient that’s used in both the Bright Skin exfoliating peel and boosting serum is lactic acid. Lactic acid helps gently exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells. It’s a common ingredient in products to treat hyperpigmentation and age spots, and it’s gentler than many other acids used in skin-care products.
These natural ingredients are used in select products throughout the Eminence Organics’ Bright Skin Collection, which I turn to often when working with clients who have hyperpigmented skin.
Below, I’ve outlined the 3-step protocol that I turn to when treating hyperpigmentation. (All of these products except for the Bright Skin Licorice Root Exfoliating Peel are safe for pregnancy.)
As winner of “Best Brightening Peel” Green Beauty Awards, 2016, this sought-after natural product features all three of the ingredients highlighted above, along with mandelic acid, azelaic acid, and daisy blossoms, all of which help to brighten the appearance of pigmentation. I recommend this product for hyperpigmentation in general, and also for post-inflammatory pigmentation from acne lesions and ingrown hairs.
To use, dispense one to two pumps of the solution on one of the cotton rounds that’s provided with purchase. Apply in circular motions on clean skin, covering your face and neck. Use up to three times per week or as required. Purchase yours here, or keep reading for special savings if you purchase all three of these skin-brightening products together!
(If you’re pregnant and interested in a peel, I recommend scheduling my “Organic Facial for Expecting Mothers,” which includes even gentler skin-brightening ingredients that are free from glycolic acid and salicylic acid.)
This extra-strength brightening serum can be used alone or with the peel to boost its effectiveness. It includes the three natural ingredients highlighted above, plus a trademarked concentration of “GigaWhite” that’s derived from well-researched plant extracts, including mallow, peppermint, primrose, lady’s mantle, and more. This serum is also a Tyrosinase inhibitor, which means it blocks the enzyme that destroys healthy melanin production.
To use, apply a thin layer over your entire face, or apply to the affected areas, 1-3 times per day. Purchase yours here, or keep reading for a special savings!
This mattifying moisturizer is perfect for all skin types, including acne-prone skin, and is designed to address the look of hyperpigmentation while you sleep. In addition to licorice root extract, the Natural Hydroquinone Alternative, and GigaWhite, it also includes punarnava root extract, which helps even out skin tones and reduces the look of dark spots. Blended with bearberry extract and moisturizing shea butter, it’s no wonder this correcting cream was the winner of the “Brightening” category at the Best Product Awards, LNE & Spa, 2018.
To use, apply a thin layer over your entire face and neck area and leave it on. For extra hydration, I suggest layering with the Lotus Detoxifying Overnight Treatment on top.
Purchase your Bright Skin Overnight Correcting Cream here, or keep reading for special savings if you purchase all three of these skin-brightening products together!
If you want to treat yourself to a special skin-brightening ritual, then try the Bright Skin Masque by Eminence Organics. It features bearberry extract, an antioxidant that helps lighten the appearance of dark spots, in addition to GigaWhite, licorice root extract, and the Natural Hydroquinone Alternative. This powerful masque is a wonderful boost to your regular skincare routine.
To use, emulsify a small amount in your hand with a few drops of water or Birch Water Purifying Essence. Apply evenly over your entire face, neck, and decollete. Allow masque to dry 10-20 minutes and then gently remove with a lukewarm face cloth. Rinse thoroughly with clean water. Purchase yours here.
These skin-brightening products are most effective when used together. Start tackling your dark spots—and save money with bundle pricing—by purchasing all three of these products together!
Professional Facials for Hyperpigmentation
Many of the facials that we give at Jessica’s Apothecary feature skin-brightening products to help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. In addition to the products above, we also offer medium-depth peels using Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and Mandelic acid.
See your esthetician for a facial and to discuss the steps necessary to prepare your skin for a peel.
Natural Products to Prevent Hyperpigmentation
The best way to prevent hyperpigmented skin is to reduce sun exposure and wear sunscreen (my favorite is the Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40 by Eminence Organics).
Vitamin C is photoprotective, which means it helps our bodies cope with the damage caused by sunlight. You could consider applying a Vitamin C-based product before you spend time in the sun (my favorite is the Citrus & Kale Potent C + E Serum by Eminence Organics).
Eminence Organics’ Rosehip Triple C + E Firming Oil is another great choice when it comes to preventing hyperpigmentation. It protects the body’s melanin-producing cells from something called “glycation,” which is when proteins and sugars cross-link to form non-functioning structures. One of the causes of glycation is having too much sugar in the diet, resulting in premature aging and skin damage. Pair this natural product with a healthy diet that limits sugar.
If you’re regularly exposed to environmental pollutants, then you may want to consider Eminence Organics’ Microgreens Detox Collection. This powerful trio harnesses the action of microgreens to cleanse and protect the skin from environmental stressors. It features the Stone Crop Cleansing Oil and the Lotus Detoxifying Overnight Treatment.
Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that happens to people around the world. Fortunately, you can take preventative measures by limiting sun exposure and sugar intake and by applying preventative products, like those mentioned above.
When signs of hyperpigmentation do occur, there are plant-based products that will help you lighten the appearance of dark spots without exposing yourself to potentially harmful chemicals.
If you have any questions about hyperpigmentation or would like to schedule a virtual consultation to discuss your skin’s specific needs, then contact Jessica directly at [email protected] or 734-604-5971.