Hyperpigmentation is something that always shows up to the skincare party uninvited. You're going about your business and then BAM - you get a breakout that leaves its mark for months or you hit your 30s and all the years spent frolicking in the sun start to show on your face under the guise of little brown marks. In my case, both are happening at once. Here are the products that are helping matters.
Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Ascorbic Acid, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Polysilicone-11, Tocopherol, Hordeum Distichon (Barley) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Phellodendron Amurense Bark Extract, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Wood Extract, Bisabolol, Retinyl Palmitate.
This is a silicone-based vitamin C product that houses the most potent form of Vitamin C: ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is an incredibly beneficial ingredient if you're battling hyperpigmenation or if you're interested in slowing the signs of aging. It boosts collagen production and will help fade dark spots from sun damage, acne or other various scars over time. It's important to note that it's quite an aggressive ingredient that may not be for everyone. If you're sensitive and/or if you have active acne, this ingredient might not be suitable for you. There are more gentle derivatives available on the market. I like this video for explaining the alternative Vitamin C varieties.
Ascorbic acid is unstable in higher concentrations which is why it doesn't last long in water-based serums. Some common water-based serums that contain it include SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic and Drunk Elephant C-Firma. PCA Skin C & E Strength Max increases the stability of this volatile ingredient by removing water from the equation. Housing the vitamin C in a silicone-based formula keeps it from going bad as quickly. I shelled out the big bucks for a SkinCeuticals serum that went bad within 2 months, barely giving me the chance to go through half the bottle. I like the increased stability of this formula and knowing that I can happily use it up before it goes bad.
The texture of the product is a light yellow cream. It has a faint orange scent (due to the presence of orange oil), which doesn't linger onto the skin. It is best applied on clean skin in the morning. Using it directly on clean dry skin without rubbing it in too vigorously, I get the best results. If I try to layer this with another serum, due to the silicone content, it tends to ball up. It has a slight grittiness to it but it dissipates once it's on the skin for a couple of minutes. While this formula is a bit trickier to work with than a traditional water-based formula, I am willing to sacrifice cosmetic elegance for a longer product life.
The results, in terms of fading hyperpigmentation, have been great. Within the first two weeks I started to notice an improvement and I'm eager to keep using this in my routine.
It is also important to note to always follow up with sunscreen if you're trying to keep pigmentation at bay. Otherwise all your hard work trying to fade pigmentation will be undone as the sun will damage your skin again and result in new marks. I'm constantly searching for great non-irritating cosmetically elegant sunscreens so I'll be sharing those finds in a future post. Let's move on to pigmentation fighter #2!
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Niacinamide, Sodium Gluconate, Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Lactobacillus/Wasabia Japonica Root Ferment Extract, Magnesium Chloride, Mandelic Acid, Phytic Acid, Citric Acid, Gluconolactone, Magnesium Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Palmaria Palmata Extract, Levulinic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Salicylate, Spiraea Ulmaria Extract, Vinegar (Acetum), Sodium Levulinate, Phenoxyethanol, Alcohol Denat., Microcitrus Australasica Fruit Extract, Prunus Persica (Peach) Leaf Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ascorbic Acid, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract
This little liquid packs a punch! While it's the least dramatic results-wise out of the products in this post, it's the one that will suit the most skin types. Biologique Recherche's Lotion P50 PIGM 400 is loaded with ingredients that will help improve skin texture, diminish redness and help fade pigmentation. PIGM stands for pigmentation and the Biologique Recherche brand has several other products to support their anti pigmentation range. This is the only one I've tried so far, but hoping to change that in the near future!
It is a watery liquid, it smells like vinegar, and it can be used morning and/or night after cleansing. You apply it on a cotton pad and then press it onto the skin. I use this three times a week either in the morning or at night, depending on how my skin is feeling. My skin can be quite sensitive to acid exfoliation - and this potent liquid contains multiple kinds, including a small dose of Vitamin C and niacinamide, which is king for pore reduction and eliminating dullness. While this product alone won't bring dramatic results, if you're an acne sufferer or someone prone to redness and sun damage, you will benefit from adding this to your routine.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Alcohol Denat., Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Hydroquinone, Methyl Gluceth-10, Dextran, Hexapeptide-2, Rice Amino Acids, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Urea, Yeast Amino Acids, Trehalose, Inositol, Taurine, Betaine, Zinc Gluconate, Ascorbic Acid, Chitosan, Propyl Gallate, Nonoxynol-10, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Chitosan PCA, Allantoin, Polyquaternium-10, Sodium Metabisulfite, Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Hydroxide, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil. Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Limonene, Linalool, Fragrance (Parfum).
This powerhouse in a bottle uses hydroquinone, glycolic acid and ascorbic acid to quickly and effectively get rid of dark spots on the skin. It is in a clear gel formula and to me it has a slightly chemical scent. This is the strongest of the bunch and I use it in the evening, in small amounts on targeted areas only. On nights when I reach for this product, I make sure there are no other strong active ingredients in my routine - that means no other acids, no retinols, no harsh cleanser, no face masks.
This is my go-to product if I have a mark left behind from larger cystic blemishes. Scars from cystic acne normally take FOREVER to go away on my skin... I'm talking months. If I'm using Murad Rapid Age Spot Serum on the scar 3 nights in a row, it dramatically reduces pigmentation. I don't personally like to use it more than 3 nights in a row as it's so strong and it can make my skin sensitive over time. This product's main active ingredient is hydroquinone.
Hydroquinone is a controversial skin-lightening ingredient. Most prescription strength treatments contain it in a 4% concentration - this product only contains 2% as it's the maximum concentration allowed over the counter. While many dermatologists still regard it as the gold standard ingredient in terms of fading pigmentation, which more than 50 years of research supporting it, there is a small risk of developing a skin condition called "ochronosis" following prolonged exposure at high levels of this ingredient.
This article is a very helpful read if you're trying to decide if hydroquinone is right for you.
*Note: the packaging of this product has changed since I got mine.
I want to remind you that sunscreen is imperative every day, year round any time you're spending time outdoors and especially if you're using any skincare products that increase sun sensitivity (such as the ones in this post). If you have any products that you swear by for keeping your skin tone even, I'm all ears... and eyes. Let me know!