We have now explained the most common pigmentation conditions! Now it’s time to discuss the most appropriate skincare routine.
If you have pigmentation irregularities, and want to control them, the best ingredients to look at are Retinol, SPF, Vitamin C, Glycolic Acid, Azelaic Acid & Niacinamide. These ingredients target hyperpigmentation and help stimulate cellular regeneration so that new skin cells take the place of old ones. Activating this process, will help to fade skin discolouration as much as topical ingredients can.
Don’t go crazy with too many ingredients, as they can over-strip your skin and compromise its barrier function. It is really important to focus on one treatment, and use it religiously in order to see if it is benefitting your skin. Remember, that every skin is unique, and therefore something might work for someone else and not you.
Cleanser - The cleanser here should be chosen depending on the skin type. Something soothing and hydrating if your skin is dry or sensitive, gentle foaming if your skin is oily or combination.
Antioxidant - Antioxidants protect skin from free radicals, but also improve the signs of ageing like lines, wrinkles and pigmentation. In fact, Vitamin C is also considered to be a great treatment for pigmentation: “It interacts with copper ions at the tyrosinase-active site and inhibits action of the enzyme tyrosinase, thereby decreasing the melanin formation” (source). However, bare in mind that you choose an antioxidant that contains magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) rather than ascorbic acid. In fact, its acidity and short shelf life might be irritating for problematic skins. To make sure that it works properly for pigmentation issues, it has to be combined with liquorice for example.
Moisturiser - To make sure that the vitamin C is highlighted, search for a moisturiser that contains liquorice and/or niacinamide. They are great ingredients to fight brown spots. Niacinamide works by slowing down the transfer of the melanin granule to the keratinocyte meaning inhibiting melanogenesis while liquorice “ improves hyperpigmentation by dispersing the melanin, inhibition of melanin biosynthesis and inhibition of cyclooxygenase activity thereby decreasing free radical production”(source).
SPF - Often , pigmentation = sun exposure. Therefore, it is essential to protect skin at all times with a high SPF factor that fights UVA and UVB rays. In addition, skin that is more prone to pigmentation should have a top-up SPF like a mist to apply throughout the day. Remember that if the DNA has been damaged, then melanocyte will produce more melanosomes and pigment! (and wear a hat!)
Cleanser - The cleanser here should be chosen depending on the skin type. Something soothing and hydrating if your skin is dry or sensitive, foaming if your skin is oily or combination.
Exfoliant - When treating pigmentation is is better to avoid chemical exfoliants (or used only as advised by your dermatologist) as again, depending on the root of the problem, it can either enhance the condition or cause hypo-pigmentations.
Retinol or pigmentation treatment (3-4 times per week) - Most pigmentation treatments will contain retinol, as it is an amazing ingredients to manage this condition. Retinol helps to stimulate skin-cell turnover, so dead cells fall off and new skin will rise to the surface. They also help to disperse the melanin in the epidermis, making the pigment less visible over time. Long term, they decrease melanin and dramatically improve skin tone.
Another ingredient to look at for pigmentation treatment is azelaic acid. It reduces inflammation and also helps to reduce pigmentation. Azelaic acid is suitable for photo types 4-6, they slow down the formation of melanosomes without any side effects! However, bare in mind that azelaic acid will not help with pigmented skin that shows as freckles, moles etc., but only with post-inflammatory pigmentation especially on acne skin.
Hydrating Serum - When using several treatments to treat a certain skin condition, it is important to have a soothing step that will allow skin to rest. This is why including a Hyaluronic acid serum in pigmentation-prone skin is important as it will keep a healthy skin balance and make sure that the enzymatic activity is not impaired.
Moisturiser - The night moisturiser will depend on what you are using in the morning and if you included a retinol in your night routine. If your routine includes different active ingredients, it is better to have a simple moisturiser with peptides for examples that will focus on strengthening your barrier function and deliver the right nutrients to the skin. If your morning routine is very simple and you’re not using any retinol or pigmentation treatment, maybe you could include something with niacinamide or azelaic acid in this step!