The Best Ingredients for Hyperpigmentation
- By Dr. Alan J. Parks
- March 2, 2020
Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skin concerns facing people of all different skin types, and especially those with a darker skin tone. It is one of the major concerns that I see both with my patients and our customers at DermWarehouse. What exactly is hyperpigmentation? It occurs when the cells that create brown pigment that produces normal skin colors, melanin, become damaged as a result of sun damage, acne, inflammation or other conditions and form deposits in the skin.
So what can you do to combat hyperpigmentation? Wearing sunscreen on a daily basis is most important (my go-to advice!). This is the only way to prevent discoloration from getting worse and prevent new damage.
When it comes to existing hyperpigmentation, there are a few key ingredients known to combat this:
Hydroquinone: Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent that works by interfering with melanin production by melanocytes. The use of hydroquinone in products such as the PCA Skin Pigment Gel in concurrence with a daily sunscreen can help in reducing hyperpigmentation on the skin. This product contains 2% hydroquinone, which is the maximum amount that is available over the counter. 4% hydroquinone will require a prescription from a dermatologist and can only be purchased in-office.
Arbutin: Arbutin is a natural ingredient found in plants such as cranberries, wheat and blueberries. Arbutin is broken down into glucose and hydroquinone by our bodies. For those with sensitive skin, arbutin found in products such as Obagi Clear Fx may be the best choice, as hydroquinone is produced slower.
Kojic Acid: Kojic acid can be found in various types of fungi during fermentation. It reduces the activity of tyrosinase, a key enzyme in the production of melanin, in the human skin thus inhibiting melanin formation. If you’re looking to incorporate Kojic Acid into your skincare routine to combat hyperpigmentation, check out Clinicians Complex 6% Skin Bleaching Cream, which contains Kojic Acid, Bearberry extract and Hydroquinone for skin lightening.
Phytic Acid: Phytic acid is a natural, plant-based antioxidant substance that helps combat hyperpigmentation by working as an exfoliator and inhibiting the creation of melanin in the skin. SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 uses Phytic Acid to help to minimize pores and discoloration of the skin, along with other ingredients such as Niacinamide, Marine Extract Blend and Tranexamic Acid.
Bearberry Extract: Bearberry Extract is derived from the bearberry shrub. It works to combat hyperpigmentation by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin. In addition, bearberry has UV sun protection for the skin. The Reviva Labs Dark Spot Brightening Serum utilizes Bearberry Extract to improve skin tone and diminish age & dark spots.
Niacinamide: Niacinamide, an ingredient found in Goldfaden MD Hands to Heart (which addresses dark spots specifically on the hands) and the Syndaghi Brightening & Exfoliating Body Wash (which brightens and helps with hyperpigmentation on the body), is a form of Vitamin B typically known to be non-irritating and good for sensitive skin. Niacinamide is known to ward off free radicals, fight acne and is comparable to hydroquinone, meaning it can fight hyperpigmentation by converting into two coenzymes that give skin cells energy to carry out different processes, such as skin repair.
When it comes to discoloration and hyperpigmentation, it’s important to remember that this is likely an issue that has developed over a lifetime of skin damage. I always want to set realistic expectations for my patients and customers. All of the ingredients mentioned will do a great deal to combat hyperpigmentation, however, because the damage has built up over such a long period of time, it can take some time to see real results. Expect to use products for at least 3 months (in combination with daily sunscreen use) to really begin seeing a difference.