Here, we’ve listed the three best products from the Ordinary to treat irregular pigmentation.
Irregular pigment and pigment disorders within the skin can be very hard to treat because depending on your skin type and genetics, your skin can react differently to treatments. On top of that, sometimes the problem is super deep within the skin. Your skin has multiple layers, and the location of the pigmentation or discoloration has a lot to do with treatment. If it’s at the top, it’ll be easier to treat. If it’s at the bottom, you’re going to need to see a doctor, dermatologist, or specialist who can help using lasers or advanced treatments. However, we understand that most people value at-home skincare, and the great news is that cosmetic science has come a long way! When we work to understand our skincare and learn about the specific ingredients in our products, we can understand more about how they’ll work for our skin. In order to understand how these three ingredients are going to work on irregular pigmentation on the skin, we have to figure out what irregular pigmentation means.
What is pigmentation and what can cause it?
Melanin gives our skin color, and some people naturally have more of it while some have less. Although pigmentation disorders (we put quotes around "disorder" because if it doesn’t bother you, it’s not a disorder or dangerous to your health) are more common in Fitzpatrick levels 4-6, it can still happen with people who have levels 1,2, or 3 on the Fitzpatrick scale.
There are pigmentation disorders that can happen from trauma to the skin, hormones, sun exposure, or conditions such as melasma. Hyperpigmentation usually happens with deeper-skinned individuals, and it can be hard to remove. Age spots are also a cause, and they are largely related to sun exposure. Two of the most common types of pigmentation disorders are hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation. These are often associated with acne and scarring. If you’ve ever had a pimple or something traumatic happens like being in the sun too long, your skin may start to get little white speckles (hypopigmentation).
On the other hand, your skin may start to get purple, brown, or darker in those little areas. If something seems like hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation, you should get it diagnosed by a doctor to be sure. Both of these conditions tie back to melanocytes which are little cells that create melanin. Extra melanin doesn’t just get created. The right circumstance has to occur. So again, this could mean trauma to the skin, sun exposure, popped pimples, or even hormones. What's key in understanding melanin is that there’s something in your body that tells your skin cells to start producing it. That is called tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is an enzyme. We know that sounds very tricky, but think of this special molecule as an ingredient inside of your skin that tells your melanin to start cooking up some color. Inflammation can cause tyrosinase to signal too much melanin which inevitably leads to that uneven pigment on the skin.
In regards to the treatment of hyperpigmentation, we consider two things. We can either work on the melanocytes and the melanin, or we can try to stop the tyrosinase from being created in the first place. When there is less tyrosinase, the less work the melanocytes will put in. This is where the Ascorbic Acid 8% and Alpha Arbutin 2% comes in. Alpha arbutin is a tyrosinase inhibitor, and ascorbic acid is also a brightener.
The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% and Alpha Arbutin 2% - $11
Alpha arbutin is an amazing ingredient because of the way it works on tyrosinase. It’s an antioxidant that’s found naturally found in blueberry and some grains, but when it’s put into skincare, it can do some awesome stuff. Specifically, it can stop that tyrosinase enzyme from creating melanin. Moreover, there are two different types of alpha arbutin. There’s alpha arbutin and beta arbutin. Alpha arbutin is the most stable one. When it’s put on our skin, it goes through a transformation. Upon being applied to the skin, it’s converted into glucose, a kind of sugar, and hydroquinone.
There is also the option of hydroquinone which has been around for years. It’s very effective at helping pigmentation disorders. It is a very powerful ingredient that can help people deal with unevenness. The problem is that it can be very irritating. Furthermore, there has been fear in the past about hydroquinone being absorbed by the skin and processed by the liver. Cassandra has learned and grown over the past years, and she doesn’t think there’s a huge issue, especially given the controlled amounts available over the counter. Some people are still hesitant though.
At any rate, the great thing about alpha arbutin is that it’s not hydroquinone. Alpha arbutin is much more gentle on the skin, and it works with your skin. It breaks down into glucose and hydroquinone. More simply, once you put it on, the skin slowly processes it throughout the day. It’s slow and easy on your skin, it doesn’t cause a lot of irritation, and it doesn’t come with the same risks as using a prescription hydroquinone. At the same time too, you’re using tyrosinase inhibitor. So, it doesn’t kill the melanocytes; It simply holds up a stop sign and says, “Hey, go take a break” to the tyrosinase enzymes. What’s even better is that it’s coupled with a brightening vitamin C. You can use this during the day or night, and it can be used on different skin types. So, regardless of where you are on the Fitzpatrick scale, this antioxidant can help you.
Next, Cassandra loves her acids, and this specific lactic acid from the Ordinary is fantastic for pigmentation. For levels 4, 5, and 6 on the Fitzpatrick scale, we have to tread lightly because even doing a chemical peel that’s too deep could cause the very pigmentation, scarring, and blemishes that we’re trying to treat. The lactic acid and hyaluronic blend from The Ordinary is an alpha hydroxy acid which is a water-soluble hydroxy acid, and it works to exfoliate the skin.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA -$7
Remember how we talked about pigment being deposited in the top layers of the dermis? Regular exfoliation that’s done properly can move up the melanin stuck in the top layers of the skin. It can help to gently exfoliate these top layers over time and coax out irregular pigmentation. Lactic acid mildly exfoliates, and it can help with acne scars. While not all AHAs are safe for every skin type, the skin is pretty tolerant to the lactic acid molecule. If you’re a 4-6 on the Fitzpatrick scale, the good thing about lactic acid is that it’s relatively more gentle.
Lactic acid is normally derived from soured milk or bacterial fermentation. However, this one from The Ordinary is vegan. So, no animals were harmed. It comes from a bacterial and fermented source, and it is a beautiful acid that can exfoliate the skin, promote your skin to go through its renewal process a bit more quickly, and as mentioned, move deposited pigmented from the top layers of the skin.
Cassandra would only recommend using it at night. The Ordinary also recommends that you patch test. The other thing about this product is that it does contain 10% hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant meaning it grabs onto and continues holding onto water and rehydrates the skin. This is wonderful because sometimes even gentle acids can dehydrate the skin a little bit. So, having hyaluronic acid within the formula helps to rehydrate it. Hyaluronic acid is an amazing hydrator, especially for those with pigmentation issues, and it actually works really well within the formula because of the water within it. The hyaluronic acid binds to the water in the formula and locks it in.
This Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% from The Ordinary is one of Cassandra’s favorite forms of vitamin C. Vitamin C is known as a powerful brightener that can really help with the glow and luminosity of the skin. Whether it’s hyper or hypopigmentation, this is a great aid for those who are confronted with pigmentation issues. In general, Vitamin C is very powerful. There have even been some studies showing how it makes sunscreens a little more effective. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to get rid of free radicals. Additionally, there are even some studies that demonstrate how vitamin C can go deep into the skin and stimulate collagen. Collagen is what supports our skin. Along with elastin, it's that basket weave that keeps our skin flexible, looking young, and bouncy. So, if the vitamin C penetrates deeply enough, it might actually have the chance to stimulate collagen. Using it after lactic acid can help it penetrate too.
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% -$10.50
But even on its own, Vitamin C can minimally help pigmentation issues. Pigmentation goes pretty deep in the skin. So, you do want to use some of these other ingredients. Depending on your skin type, you may want to explore other vitamin C options. Whether you’re oily or dry, normal, or sensitive there are multiple forms of vitamin C. Cassandra just recommends this one because it’s her favorite.
As always, remember to apply your SPF and patch test these, beautiful butterflies!
Coverphoto cred: Healthline