Let’s talk about the only ingredients that reverse hyperpigmentation and what you need to know about them! There is so much BS on the internet about random products magically transforming someone’s and erasing pigmentary spots. And when you’re struggling with hyperpigmentation, using these products can be really disheartening when you find out they don’t work. It can also make you anxious about your skin's progress.
Appearances are not everything, and they do not dictate what we can do for this world, but if we are struggling with an insecurity, and that’s all that we see when we look back in the mirror, it’s completely understandable how hyperpigmentation can impact everyday life. So, it’s normal to want to make matters into your own hands. But during that process, it’s easy to spend a bunch of money on a product that doesn’t work. And sometimes, not only does it not work, it makes your skin irritated! While this is discouraging, the good news is that there are ingredients medically proven to help with hyperpigmentation. So, if you’re going to spend any money, time, or effort, you should not only spend on products that fit your budget, morals, and values, but on products that are actually proven to work.
We’re going to give you a short list and a cheat sheet on the ingredients that are proven to help. But, first we have to understand what exactly hyperpigmentation is.
What is hyperpigmentation?
Any damage that the skin feels or perceives can cause it to have an inflammatory reaction. This inflammation is basically your skin’s wound-healing reaction, but unfortunately, that entire process can leave behind marks. These marks can look like scars or er even pigmentation.
How does the skin create this pigment?
When it comes to how our skin creates pigments, we have these amazing cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes create melanin.
Melanocytes produce more melanin when there is damage or hormonal changes. The melanin is sent to hang out on top of your skin cells or keratinocytes. Melanocytes are meant to protect the skin from the sun or perceived damage. While this is a healing process used to protect us, things can get out of control and cause uneven pigment or dark spots known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
However, you can also have light spots, and that’s called hypopigmentation. For example, if you see little white spots on your skin, that is hypopigmentation. You can get hypopigmentation from acne instead of dark spots. You can also have pigmentary issues such as melasma.
Melasma is normally caused by hormonal changes in the skin. But, it can also happen with sun exposure and yes, even trauma to the skin like an upper lip waxing.
What are the ingredients you need to look for?
Our skin creates melanin using tyrosinase, an enzyme that is necessary for melanin to be produced, but if we use a tyrosinase inhibitor, it inhibits the skin from producing the tyrosinase. Tyrosinase inhibitors include things like tranexamic acid, licorice, kojic acid, azelaic acid, alpha arbutin, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Let’s break each of these down.
Good Molecules Discoloration Correcting Body Treatment - $15
This has tranexamic acid, and when it comes to tranexamic acid, this is another ingredient that is wonderful for helping stop hyperpigmentation or uneven pigmentation of the skin.
Alpha arbutin basically turns itself into hydroquinone, but it’s not nearly as potent. Hydroquinone is one of the best things you can get for dark spots even though it’s prescription only. It works at stopping rebound hyperpigmentation too. Rebound hyperpigmentation is when a product meant to clear hyperpigmentation actually causes it later on. That’s why it’s so important to speak with a care provider to match you with a proper tyrosinase inhibitor. This is a great over-the-counter option because it’s related to the hydroquinone ingredient that we spoke about.
The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% -$11
This has both ascorbic acid and alpha arbutin. This is a very oily serum, but it’s wonderful for anything who’s struggling with pigment. You can put this around some dark under-eye puffiness because this is non-exfoliating
The Agency dark spot corrector also has kojic acid and azelaic acid which help tyrosinase from being created.
Agency Dark Spot Corrector
Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster -$12
Topicals Faded Serum - $38
Topical is another great brand that does over-the-counter azelaic acid and kojic acid. This was a best-seller, and it works so well. This has azelaic acid, licorice root, niacinamide, and tranexamic acid.
Topicals Slather Exfoliating Body Serum -$30
They also have this body serum, and it’s wonderful if you’re struggling with pigmentation elsewhere on the body. This is also great for dry elbows, legs, and knees. If you have weird pigmentation on the back of your neck or anywhere on your body, you’ll want to get that seen by a dermatologist. It’s important to make sure it’s not another condition. It’s important to get those things diagnosed properly.
There are luxurious, and there are more inexpensive types vitamin Cs.
One of Cassandra’s favorites is TruSkin vitamin C serum.
TruSkin vitamin C serum - $21.97
This is like $20 at Target, and it’s so good. It has vitamin C and antioxidants. It also has hyaluronic acid, and it’s perfect for those who have oily-prone skin. It’s really inexpensive and effective. If you want to spend a little more money, Dermalogica does have the bioluminescence serum.
Dermalogica bioluminescence serum -$89
This isn’t perfect for Cassandra’s skin, but if you have more mature or combo skin, this is a good one. This is from Dermalogica’s age smart line, and it’s awesome for graceful aging. This does absorb very well, and it is a stabilized form of vitamin C. So, it doesn’t go bad as quickly. It is actually stabilized by the bottle as well.
If you’ve been thinking about a cruelty-free version of the SkinCeuticals CE ferulic, this is a great one. Plus, this is a better, elevated version. It’s about the same price too. But, Cassandra has gotten this on sale before for $120 on Amazon or even as low as $72. This is wonderful, and if you want something luxury, this is absolutely worth it. Because it is a vitamin C ester, it actually works with the oils in your skin and penetrates much deeper than waterbased vitamin Cs. This was hard for Perricone MD to formulate, but they did a good job.
Another ingredient that is very potent at combatting hyperpigmentation is tretinoin. We know this as a retinoid and Retin-A. It’s amazing for acne, scars, fine lines, and wrinkles, but it’s wonderful for hyperpigmentation as well. It’s a little easier to use than hydroquinone, but it’s still prescription. Retinal and retinol are less potent Vitamin As that are great alternatives to tretinoin.
SPF is your SPF
Pair your SPF to strengthen your tyrosinase inhibitor! Many sunscreens also have tyrosinase inhibitors withing their formulas. Sun is one of the main causes of hyperpigmentation. So, SPF is a great treatment option for hyperpigmentation.
Niacinamide (does not inhibit tyrosinase)
Niacinamide stops hyperpigmentation from spreading, and it’s also wonderful for making pores less severe and regulating oil production. Niacinamide is an antioxidant that helps prevent the spread of hyperpigmentation even when the melanocytes have already created some. It’s especially great for anyone who’s struggling with blemishes, acne, or little dark marks left behind. If you’re struggling with melasma, that’s when you want to go for something like vitamin C, or better yet, a prescription. But, if you are someone who worries about oil control, has acne or large pores in addition to hyperpigmentation, niacinamide works great.
This also has lactic acid so Cassandra wouldn’t recommend putting this around the eye area.
You can layer some of these products. You use a prescription along with a sunscreen, niacinamide, or tranexamic acid. Just remember to use the ingredients that have actually been proven by science to help with hyperpigmentation. For example, a charcoal mask might be fun and enjoyable to use on the skin, but it doesn’t have the science and medical backing to help with hyperpigmentation.
Coverphoto cred: Q7 Paris