Simply put—Black is beautiful. Every different hue, from cinnamon to sienna, golden caramel to deep cocoa, is radiant and unique. We have learned over time to love and embrace our complexions, and care for our skin and its unique needs—from the nostalgic scents of cocoa butter as a kid, to sun-kissed bronzed cheeks into adulthood. But for me, there was always a pesky little culprit that threatened to steal my skin’s shine. It’s name? Hyperpigmentation.
As is common during adolescence, I began to experience acne as a preteen. Sure, the bumps here and there were annoying and unwanted, but they typically went away after a week or so max. Nothing a little toothpaste and patience couldn’t remedy. But the remnants of the acne was far more difficult to cure and cope with, for scarring was almost always a result and lasted for months and months after the teeny pimple had been zapped away. And as if it weren’t bad enough that these bothersome dark brown spots were leaving their mark on my face, they were elsewhere too! My back and shoulders are no strangers to the evil discolorations. Imagine being a teenager and trying to do simple things like go to the pool, or wear a fun tank top in the summer when the only thing you can think about is your skin. Yea, not so fun.
For a while, I thought I was alone in this battle against my spotted skin. But after finally visiting a dermatologist as a young adult, I was able to gain a full understanding of this extremely common skin condition. During that session, I learned many of the causes, effects, and treatments associated with hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is a condition that is caused by an increase in the skin’s melanin production. As you may already know, melanin is the pigment that gives color to skin and hair. Unfortunately, due to the high levels of melanin in our skin, individuals of color are highly susceptible to this common plight; the darker the skin, the more prone to discoloration an individual will be.
There are many factors that will trigger or intensify the appearance of dark spots and scarring. For me, Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) has been a direct result of acne. PIH is a discoloration that occurs following an inflammatory wound to the skin; this can include pimples, cuts, burns, picking, etc. When such a trauma takes place, skin cells are automatically triggered to regenerate and produce melanin in order to heal the wound. But the result is typically excessive levels of pigment that surpass the intensity and lifespan of the original spot. Aside from acne, certain drugs and antibiotics can also cause hyperpigmentation, as well as cosmetic procedures like laser hair removal and microdermabrasion. It’s important to note that dark spots are triggered, and extremely intensified, by direct exposure to sunlight, as well. Thus, lack of sunscreen use will only make matters ten times worst.
Luckily for us, hyperpigmentation is not permanent, and has several treatments—both natural and chemical. Without remedy, these flat darkened spots will naturally fade away over time. But this can be a very lengthy process. Natural solutions such as glycolic acid, cocoa and shea butters, and Vitamins A/C/E are great for targeting marks because they heal damaged cells. The results of such products are especially effective when used after gentle exfoliation of the skin.
Another popular option is a chemical lightening agent called Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is available in varying potencies, typically 1-2% (over-the counter) or 3-4% (by prescription only). It works by blocking the enzymes responsible for melanin production. Thus, it should only be applied directly to the dark spots (otherwise, you will be lightening your regular skin as well). It is strongly advised that products with hydroquinone be used at night, as they can have reverse effects when exposed to sunlight; spots will actually become darker! Even once the creams have soaked into the skin overnight, sunscreen is an absolute must. Contrary to popular belief, we, too, need to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Here are some products you can try to treat hyperpigmentation and help achieve flawless, even skin!
1. DDF Fade Gel 4, $56, Sephora.com
2. Black Opal Dual Complex Fade Gel, $11.09, amazon.com
3. Coco + Creme Favorite: Palmer’s Scar Serum, Vitamin E, $10.99, drugstore.com
4. Ambi Even & Clear Targeted Mark Minimizer, $10.49, ambiflawlessskin.com
5. Alpha Hydrox Spot Light Targeted Skin Lightener, $9.99, drugstore.com
6. Ambi Skin Discoloration Fade Cream, for Normal Skin, $5.99, ambiflawlessskin.com
7. Skin Success Eventone Fade Cream, $5.79, drugstore.com