Discoloration, acne scars, dark sports, age spots, hyperpigmentation and Melasma all denote the same thing; a tan or dark pigment on the skin surface. Although pigmentation can have different causes and different depths, the same treatments can be applied to all.
The deeper the spot within the skin, the longer it will take to get rid of it. Newer (surface) spots disappear the fastest, like acne scarring and newly formed sun spots; while Melasma can take the longest to treat since it permeates the deeper skin layers.
Common causes of skin discoloration span from acne scarring to sun exposure, hormones, genetic predisposition and skin reactions to exfoliating agents such as AHA's, BHA's and Hydroquinone.
The most commonly prescribed treatment by dermatologists is Hydroquinone. It is the quickest fix, but the most controversial and harmful to the skin. Hydroquinone is a known carcinogen. It's been banned in Australia, Japan and Europe. Not only that, it can cause Ochronosis, a condition characterized by bluish-black pigment. I am sure you guessed it by now, I am NOT a fan of this molecule. There are far safer alternatives that work fast and without known side effects.
The best ingredients for dark spots and pigmentation, that work the fastest:
- Kojic Acid
- Glycolic Acid
- Tranexamic Acid
- Mandelic Acid (best for sensitive skin)
- Fruit enzymes
Antioxidants that support the above in reducing pigmentation and blocking its formation:
- Vitamin C
- Ellagic Acid
Other ingredients used in skincare that brighten and decrease discoloration:
- Rose Extract
- Pearl powder
- Rice Powder
None of the above will work effectively when exposed to the sun. In fact, all of the ingredients in the first list will react with the sun and may cause further discoloration. It is crucial that you protect your skin with broad spectrum mineral sunscreen, and reapply often.
To avoid issues with sun interactions, it is recommended that you pursue an anti-discoloration regimen in the winter months or during weeks where you mostly stay indoors. In other words, your summer vacation is hardly the time to use acids or enzymes.
I highly recommend supplementing with Vitamin C and Vitamin B3 ( Niacinamide) when trying to improve discoloration. Vitamin C blocks pigment production, while B3 blocks the transfer of pigment to the skin cells.
Here is my simple & clean powerhouse anti-dark spot routine, in order of use - suitable for all skin types:
AM + PM Blü Fern Hydrating Milk Cleanser - rich in Vitamin C and copper.
AM + PM Agent Nateur Holi(water) Pearl and Rose Hyaluronic Essence - Has rose, pearl and pitaya. All are amazing at targeting skin brightening.
AM: Arcana Veil of Rest Vitamin Recovery Face Serum - rich in vitamin c, bioflavonoids, and antioxidants such as ellagic acid. The latter prevents collagen degradation during sun exposure, protecting UV-B exposed fibroblasts.
AM, 2nd serum option: Earth Harbor Samphire Sea-Retinol Digital Serum. Samphire acts like a Retinol without irritation. Also rich in sea plant Vitamin C which helps resolve pigmentation, and brighten without irritation.
PM: Earth Harbor LUNA RAIN Phyto-Resurfacing Night Serum with Vitamin C and 15% AHA / BHA blend, all work overnight to resurface the surface layer removing discolored skin cells.
AM: Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer, Broad Spectrum SPF 30 - more than a sunscreen, it keeps the skin hydrated and supple with Hyaluronic Acid. Hydrated skin is less susceptible to damage and discoloration. It also has Astaxanthin, a super antioxidant that defends the skin against environmental aggressors. I love the tinted version, but it's available without a tint as well.
PM: Odacité Crème de la Nuit Vitamin C + Ashwagandha with Vitamin c and CoQ10 boosting skin regeneration overnight, while repairing damaged collagen fibers.
Once or twice a week: Earth Harbor Glow Juice Refining Enzyme Mask - combines a good amount of fruit enzymes, neem, and turmeric; giving the skin that extra boost of exfoliation to lift discolored layers.
This routine is very powerful and effective. If you are sensitive, proceed with caution, with regard to Luna Rain resurfacing Night Serum. You could start with a once per week application, and work your way up while keeping an eye on your sensitivity level.
Be safe. Be well. Be beautiful! And remember to glow from the inside (hint- take your vitamins)!