Hey everyone! My name is Subu. I am the founder of Skin Science Africa, a skincare company in Africa based primarily in Nigeria! Besides Girl Bossing at Skin Science Africa, I am passionate about helping people develop a better relationship with their skin and like I always say, it starts from understanding it!
Straight to hyperpigmentation, this is what you would describe as dark spots or any areas of your skin that appear darker than normal. They say “black don’t crack”, which is not entirely false however, one thing black skin does is (over) pigment which is a lot of people of colors’ worst skin nightmare. Almost anything that causes trauma or inflammation of the skin like sunburns, acne and so on can result in hyperpigmentation.
Before we get into my three step formula on how to effectively treat hyperpigmentation, one thing that we all have to understand is that hyperpigmentation is normal. We all have to deal with it. This does not mean it is not treatable or manageable, it just means it should be approached with love and grace!
Subu’s Holy Hyperpigmentation Cycle
The biggest lie anyone will ever tell you relating to skincare is that hyperpigmentation can be effectively treated with one product or ingredient. I believed this lie for years till I had my zen moment and had to figure it out on my own. The hyperpigmentation cycle is a three step routine, they are not physical steps as such but they are three things you need to be doing regardless of where and how they sit in your routine.
Step 1. Exfoliate
The first step and rule of thumb for me when treating hyperpigmentation is exfoliation. Exfoliating products are not always labelled or branded as hyperpigmentation treatments because they serve so many other purposes besides helping to treat hyperpigmentation.
If you are concerned with hyperpigmentation, you would want to look for Alpha Hydroxy Acids otherwise known as AHA exfoliants or physical powder-like exfoliants (with rice powder or enzymes). AHA exfoliants help you shed all the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, making your hyperpigmentation appear darker. Exfoliating your skin regularly also lets all other products in your skincare routine penetrate deeper into your skin. It’s a win win!
It is important to note however, you do not need to chemically or physically exfoliate your skin more than three nights a week. Over-exfoliation is not cute. The three main AHA exfoliants you will find are Mandelic Acid, Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid and they go up in penetrative ability in that order.
I would recommend Mandelic Acid for sensitive/acne prone skin, Lactic Acid for most people, as sensitive skin can tolerate a low percentage in some cases but there is no harm in trying if you patch test first, and Glycolic Acid for people who can tolerate a bit more penetration.
Step 2. Treat
The next step is for the real fighters. It is essential to have products in your skincare routine that actively fight the overproduction of melanin in “trauma” areas like pimples, sunburn and so on, in order to effectively treat hyperpigmentation. My favorite common ingredients for this are Kojic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Azelaic Acid, Tranexamic Acid and Vitamin C.
If you are looking for a boost, you might want to add retinoids like retinol to your routine. These work to speed up your skin cycle making the treatment of hyperpigmentation faster. Retinoids are not always easy to get your head around, my advice would be to try these three steps without retinoids first until you get used to it. You’ll still have amazing results!
Another important thing to note is to never use retinoids and exfoliants alongside each other, you and your skin will regret it.
Step 3. Protect
The last step is to protect your skin. Sunscreen is an extremely important step in your skincare routine because over exposure to the sun can be very damaging to your skin. If your skin is not adequately protected from the sun with a good SPF, your dark spots will continue to get darker and it will worsen your hyperpigmentation.
Also, most of the ingredients used to treat hyperpigmentation including exfoliants make your skin more photosensitive to the sun and therefore more susceptible to sunburn. Treating Hyperpigmentation without sun protection is a long and nearly impossible game.