Sunspots, pimple marks, melasma patches: In its every iteration, hyperpigmentation can be as inescapable as the forces that fuel it — namely, the sun, heat, and your own hormones. That's why so many of us choose to just embrace dark spots, or simply slap on a tinted cream and call it a day. Fist bumps all around, we say. But if spots and speckling truly bug you, we're here to help.
Hyperpigmentation has to be one of the most challenging issues to resolve on your own. Sure, there's the familiar litany of botanical brighteners like licorice root, arbutin, and soy; the more hardcore gold-standard chemicals like retinoids (which not everyone tolerates well); our beloved cast of antioxidants, with vitamin C and green tea being the big stars; the gently exfoliating fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids; and, of course, the almighty sunscreen, without which all other actives are essentially futile.
But do you want to know the absolute right-hand-on-the-beauty-bible truth? If you're bothered by spots of any kind, the very best thing you can do is see a dermatologist.
Yes, serums, peels, and creams can help tremendously — but especially after dermatologists make a dent in the problem by lifting and lightening the unwanted hyperpigmentation with professional-strength chemical peels and carefully calibrated lasers. And the approach is different for every patient; the exact protocol your doctor chooses to follow will ultimately depend on your skin's tone and degree of sensitivity, the particular kind of pigment you're battling, and your cash flow (as lasers carry heftier price tags than peels).
Now that we've let you in on that little secret — sparing you, we hope, from future frustrations and failed products — here are a few more fascinating truths to guide you to enlightenment.
Pigment actually serves a special purpose
While spots and muddy patches may not be doing your selfie-esteem any favors — they absorb light and are actually born of good intentions. Your skin's melanocyte cells pump out brown pigment when riled up by inflammation-breeding instigators, like the sun, irritation, estrogen, heat, or free radicals from any source, because beyond serving as a UV absorber, melanin (the brown stuff) possesses innate antioxidant properties. That pigment then migrates out into surrounding skin cells in an attempt to protect DNA from damage!
Dullness magnifies discoloration
Old, dead, irregularly heaped-up cells cause the complexion to absorb and scatter light randomly, rather than reflecting it back evenly to create a glow. That's why exfoliating alone can sometimes make sunspots or other dyspigmentation look better temporarily.
Pigment can hide out below the skin
When aiming to improve melasma and sun-induced discoloration, go for full-face products rather than spot treatments. Even stains that appear to be individual, isolated spots are often more widespread below the skin's surface — the full scope of their pigment not yet visible to the naked eye — so it's wise to treat the entire face