understanding your skin

Need to Know: Treating Pigmentation in Darker Skin Tones

Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition that occurs when your skin overproduces it’s pigment, melanin, which leads to darker patches of skin and an uneven, patchy skin tone. 

Whilst we all experience pigmentation, darker skin tones are more prone to it. This is because the melanocytes in darker skin types produce more melanin than lighter skin types.

When treating pigmentation in darker skin types, a careful approach is best as you don’t want to do anything to the skin that could trigger further hyperpigmentation. Below are our favourite treatments, products and lifestyle tweaks you can do to help prevent, treat, and manage hyperpigmentation safely and effectively. 

But first, what causes hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is the result of an overproduction of melanin in the skin which results in darker areas, patches or marks on the skin. Hyperpigmentation can be the result of:

Sun damage - contrary to popular belief, darker skin tones are just as susceptible to sun damage. Sun damage can present itself as patchy, uneven skin tone or sunspots - more concentrated darker areas. 

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation - this is a type of pigmentation that forms after the skin has experienced a form of trauma, such as a breakout, irritation, or injury. As the skin goes through its healing process, it produces melanin which can lead to a long term discolouration of the skin.

Melasma - this pigmentation is caused by hormonal changes such as pregnancy, change in contraception or sometimes ovulation. It presents as a butterfly pattern across the centre of the face. 

Eye Contour Cream
Esse Skincare
Eye Contour Cream
£99.00
enLighten
Synergie Skin
enLighten
£88.00
Glow 27
Cosmetics 27
Glow 27
£90.00
Pa+G Hyperpigmentation
Odacité
Pa+G Hyperpigmentation
£38.00
Cream Mask
Esse Skincare
Cream Mask
£51.00
reVeal
Synergie Skin
reVeal
£73.00
Universal Cleansing Gel
Brad Biophotonic Skincare
Universal Cleansing Gel
£62.00

What should your skincare regimen look like?

You need to introduce preventative products into your routine to stop the pigmentation before it has a chance! If your pigmentation is the result of UV exposure, then it’s time to get religious with SPF application. It’s the only way to protect your skin from further sun damage. This really is a non-negotiable as not only will UV rays create pigmentation but it will also darken existing pigmentation on the skin.  

If you experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after breakouts or because of sensitivity, then it’s important to address this before treating the pigmentation as it’s likely to return with the next flare-up. To treat congested, acne-prone skin, we love products containing salicylic acid which reduces inflammation, controls oil production and scoops out debris from the pores. Synergie Skin ReVeal contains both salicylic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids which are fantastic at breaking up pigmentation (more on that later). Make sure you're not squeezing or picking the skin as this will lead to more inflammation.

If your skin is sensitive or prone to rosacea and irritation, look for barrier repairing ingredients like Vitamin B which not only stimulates ceramide production (essential for a healthy skin barrier) but also reduces the pigmentation process - win-win!

Once you’re managing any causes of pigmentation, you can start introducing pigmentation targeting ingredients into your routine. The pigmentation products we have at the clinic interrupt the process of hyperpigmentation, stopping the overproduction of melanin so, over time, the appearance of hyperpigmentation fades. Our favourite ingredients are:

Vitamin A - vitamin A or retinoids help to stimulate cell turnover and reduce the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone. 

Vitamin B5 - Also known as niacinamide, it’s a real all-rounder ingredient that helps to suppress the process of hyperpigmentation, promoting a more even skin tone.

Vitamin C - Vitamin C is one of the most well known active ingredients in treating pigmentation. It stops the pigmentation process before it can overproduce melanin as well as being a potent antioxidant, which can work with your SPF in protecting your skin from UV damage. 

Tyrosinase inhibitors - tyrosinase inhibitors work by stopping tyrosinase, an enzyme that is important in the synthesis of melanin from triggering the process. Common tyrosinase inhibitors are liquorice extract, vitamin c and kojic acid. 

A tailored exfoliator - this will help to slough off old pigmented skin cells, as well as enhancing product penetration, meaning your other products will be able to perform much better. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids such as glycolic and lactic are great for gentle resurfacing. If you’re more sensitive then reach for enzymatic exfoliators. DON’T go for scrubs as this irritation could lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. 

How can you treat it in the clinic?

At Pfeffer Sal, we can approach pigmentation with many different technologies and ingredients. If you are looking to treat pigmentation, any heat and laser-based treatments are off the table as these can trigger post-inflammatory pigmentation. As with any skin condition, a course of treatments performed regularly is the way to get the best results. 

We recommend:

Glow and Go- we use medical-grade resurfacers in this treatment to help target skin tone, texture and overall behaviour. At the clinic, we have a pigmentation targeting resurfacer - speak to your therapist about if this is the best avenue for you

Ultra Synergy - this is our needling treatment that works in 2 ways to help reduce the appearance of pigmentation. The process of needling creates microchannels in the skin, to aid a deep penetration of bespoke cocktails of actives that target pigmentation. Needling the skin also triggers the skin’s healing response, so it produces fresh, non-pigmented cells at a faster rate. As these cells rise to the surface, the skin will appear more even. 

ClearLift Laser- unlike traditional lasers that work on heating the skin, this is a photoacoustic wavelength which shatters the pigmentation.

Go Under the Light - this is our LED Light Therapy treatment which is clinically proven to target and reduce the appearance of pigmentation.