The Best Products For Skin Pigmentation and Acne Scars

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  • In the wild, animals with spotted markings blend into their surroundings. But on us humans, brown splotches on the upper lip, forehead and cheekbones draw attention to an underlying issue: skin pigmentation.

    While not dangerous, pigmentation is stubborn to treat. Precisely why, at one time, the word was only whispered behind clinic doors.  Effective remedies came with a prescription and hefty price tag.

    That’s all changed now. Thanks to advances in science, we’re seeing more over-the-counter brands giving the professionals a run for their money.

    What causes skin pigmentation?

    Experts think skin pigmentation is the result of melanocytes (the colour-making cells in your skin) going into overdrive.

    ‘Your body produces melanin to protect you from the sun – an over production shows up as brown spots and hyperpigmentation,’ says dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross.

    The melanocytes then dump the dark pigment known as melanin into the deeper layers of skin, a bit like tattoo ink.

    Melasma vs hyperpigmentation – what’s the difference?

    Hyperpigmentation is an umbrella term that refers to any discolouration on the skin. ‘It’s a catchall term that covers a number of different complaints. But the top three that I see in clinic are melasma, post-acne marks and sun damage,’ explains skin expert Dr Sam Bunting.

    Acne scarring is a form of post-inflammatory pigmentation. It occurs as a result of trauma to the skin. Darker skin tones are more prone to this type of pigmentation because of increased levels of melanin in the skin. Any injury like a picked spot makes those melanocytes jump into action.

    Best Product For Hyperpigmentation From Acne

    Dermalogica AGE Bright Spot Fader, £40.50, Lookfantastic

    skin pigmentation

    Acne can darken skin where a pimple once existed. This two-in-one treatment clears breakouts with salicylic acid and fades discolouration with niacinamide.

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    Best Skin Pigmentation Serum

    IS Clinical White Lightening Serum, £108, Skincity.co.uk

    skin pigmentation

    I found that this gives one of the best returns on quick post-holiday results. Don’t be fooled by the chic little bottle – there’s exfoliating glycolic acid and two potent disruptors of melanin production inside.

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    Aside from causing freckles to blow up into large sun spots, unprotected sun exposure can exacerbate other skin conditions, too.

    ‘Any inflammatory process in the skin leads to pigmentation. It could be acne, it could be eczema or even psoriasis,  and all will tend to worsen when exposed to the sun,’ adds Bunting.

    Melasma is another type of hyperpigmentation. Often referred to as ‘the mask of pregnancy,’ it frequently appears as symmetric darkened patches on the face during pregnancy.

    A spike in hormonal changes is thought to be the cause, which is why melasma can also be triggered by oral contraceptives. Again sun exposure can make it look more pronounced.

    All the more reason why your best sun cream and best SPF moisturisers are so essential, all year round.

    skin pigmentation

    Pollution is also a factor 

    ‘Once inside the skin, pollution can cause chronic inflammation,’ says Dr Tom Mammone, Vice President of Skin Physiology and Pharmacology at Clinique. ‘This stimulates melanocytes, giving you unwanted pigmentation.’

    The power of antioxidant vitamin C to protect against damaging free radicals caused by pollution is backed by science. Other things to remember are: keep your skin’s moisture barrier in tact with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. ‘We’ve been able to prove that pollution tears tiny holes in the skin’s barrier, causing moisture loss, so this is a good ingredient to have in your arsenal,’ says Dr Mammone.

    Ingredients that form a film over the skin’s surface will also help with that. ‘Alteromonas ferment, from marine bacteria, is brilliant at preventing pollution particles from adhering to the skin,’ says dermatologist Dr Barbara Sturm, who has made it a hero ingredient in her Pollution Drops.

    How to treat skin pigmentation

    ‘Suncreen and antioxidants are your best bet for preventing future hyperpigmentation,’ says Dr Bunting. ‘In addition to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C is also known to inhibit the production of melanin in your skin. Bakuchiol is another key antioxidant. It also suppresses the activity of the melanocytes so is a useful new ingredient to have in your skin pigmentation toolkit.’

    Other good brightening agents include kojic acid and azelaic acid, a yeast that deactivates the enzyme tyrosinase, which helps to produce melanin.

    Just be patient – all pigmentation-reducing treatments take at least two months of diligent use for the real fading to begin.

    If you have melasma due to pregnancy or taking birth control pills, it may go away once you’re no longer pregnant or using that kind of hormonal contraception.

    But it’s worth saying that the deeper the pigment, the tougher it is to treat. So if a section of skin has consistently been left unprotected in the sun, you may have to look at in-clinic treatments to help to brighten it.

    ‘Professional chemical peels, like my in-office Alpha Beta Peel,  are commonly used to treat hyperpigmentation,’ Dr Gross tells us.

    IPL (intense pulsed light) is another option for sunspots, he continues.  ‘It involves light-based energy pulsed onto the skin while simultaneously targeting blood vessels. The light seeks out the discoloration in the skin to lift it up and out.’

    More of the best products to prevent and treat skin pigmentation…

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