I started to develop hyperpigmentation on my face in my late twenties. After each summer I had noticeably darker patches on my face across my forehead, temples, upper lip and sides of my cheeks. Despite being meticulous with applying suncream to my face, it appears all the same, often having me question whether it is hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage or melasma- which are not the same thing.
Hyperpigmentation can be caused by multiple factors. It can be sun damage, hormones, skin injuries (think acne scarring) orage. Melasma is one form of hyperpigmentation and is a condition thought to be brought on by hormone fluctuation, hence why it often referred to as the pregnancy mask- although you don’t have to be pregnant to experience it. From reading this article and doing a bit more research I’m inclined to say I have melasma. Without going into too much detail, I have been controlling my hormones since my early twenties and combined with a lot of sun exposure over the years and the areas where I see the most hyperpigmentation, this has created the perfect conditions for melasma to develop.
When I came back from Greece this summer, it was not messing around, particularly down the sides of my cheeks and I notice as I get older it doesn’t tend to disappear as quickly or at all. So I have spent the last month using products that are designed to focus on hyperpigmentation and brightening. This tends to be what I focus on in winter anyway, when I’m not in the sun as much so I’ve just anticipated the routine a little bit.
In the morning I alternate between a vitamin C or niacinamide. For vitamin C, I really like the Lumene Nordic C Glow Boost Essence and I recently bought The Inkey List Vitamin C. The Lumene is a clear serum which sinks in quickly leaving the skin feeling plump and moisturised. The Inkey List on the other hand is a white cream/paste that is more granular in texture. It absorbs quickly to the skin and feels like you’re applied a silicone primer. Less is more with this as too much and you’ll find it pilling. For niacinamide, I don’t stray far from The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% and Zinc 1%, which is the first product I tried from the brand and it remains my favourite. When using both I follow up with a moisturiser (currently The Inkey List Multibiotic) and SPF (Ultrasun usually)
In the evening, retinol is my best friend. During lockdown I treated myself to Shani Darden Retinol Reform, having first tried it 5 years ago. It’s by far the most expensive product in my skincare arsenal, but if you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash, do it on serums and ‘treatment’ products as they’re the ones that are going to penetrate deeper into the skin. It’s encapsulated retinol, lactic acid, and aloe, which is why it’s popular for those who are worried about irritation. (She also has a texture reform which is the gentle sister to retinol reform) I use this every other night and follow it up with a hydrating moisturiser- currently Simple Skincare 72hr Hydrating Gel (like I said, not where I spend the big bucks). On the nights when I’m not using retinol, I’ll use the Ordinary Niacinamide (especially if I used the vitamin C in the morning) or something like The Ordinary ‘Buffet’ which is a multi-peptide serum.
I posted the results on my Instagram (@skinshelfie) and it’s definitely made a dramatic difference combined with the fact that I’m not sitting in the sun anymore. There are some more stubborn patches but I think only a laser or professional chemical peel can treat those. Wearing suncream on a daily basis can keep melasma at bay but many also share that avoiding heat like saunas or steam rooms can help too.
Brighter, clearer skin for the win(ter)!