If you want to know how to lighten your skin, then we have got you covered.
As we explore everything you need to know about this complicated condition.
There are a variety of solutions to lighten skin, from brightening skincare products to peels and lasers.
But the real key to treating hyperpigmentation needs to be governed by the type of pigmentation you have, as not every treatment works on all forms of pigmentation.
Ideally, you need to have a 3-pronged approach:
- First, you need to exfoliate to clear any dead cells from the skin’s surface and any existing melanin build-up; this will also boost circulation to get the skin’s cellular turnover cranking.
- The second line of attack is to reduce melanin damage, by using ingredients that destroy pigment.
- The third is to inhibit the production of melanin in targeted areas. This is a fine line; you don’t want it to be too destructive, because remember that melanin is one of your skin’s protective mechanisms – you still need as much of it as possible to help protect you from the sun.
A look at some hero ingredients
Whether your skincare product is labeled lightening, brightening, or whitening, they can all lighten the appearance of your complexion.
These terms are often used interchangeably in marketing jargon, but they do actually serve a purpose on your skin and indicate a spectrum of intensity, in order to accurately define them, you need to look at the ingredient lists.
Brightening ingredients: Gentle exfoliators, like alpha hydroxy acids and enzymes, are brightening. These help with conditions like dullness, flat mature skin, uneven skin tone, and general dryness – they press fast forward on the way your skin naturally exfoliates dead cells. They won’t lighten your skin past its natural tone.
Lightening ingredients: This is the role of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, niacinamide, kojic, and azelaic acids, all of these ingredients interfere with melanin production, so technically, they’re lightening. All of these influence pigment production at a cellular level, so they can treat more of the stubborn conditions like melasma, age spots, and hyperpigmentation, but because they work gradually, the risk of altering your overall skin tone is minimal.
Whitener ingredients: These include ingredients like controversial hydroquinone, topical corticosteroids, and illegal mercury, which work faster and deeper in the dermis on a cellular level, but with more unwanted side effects and risks.
It is important to remember that when working with deep-seated, prominent hyperpigmentation it can take a long time to get the desired results. Because hyperpigmentation is such a persistent condition, it requires a lot of daily care to resolve.
We recommend to many of our clients to use the Glo antioxidant complex in conjunction with glycolic peels for a period of 3 months (provided the skin is not sensitive), which can have good results with deep-seated pigmentation.
This ingredient is one of the most widely-used ingredients for amping up your brightness levels. It also evens out skin tone.
It is a valuable antioxidant, helping to prevent pigmentation by strengthening your skin’s natural resistance to UV, and is also a tyrosinase inhibitor. You can find the more stable for vitamin C ‘ethyl ascorbic acid’ in our C+ complex.
Topical retinoids 0.05-0.1% are often used in the treatment of hyperpigmentation. Retinoids work by speeding up epidermal exfoliation; however, results don’t occur overnight and can take up to six months or more to achieve visible results.
There is also a school of thought that retinoids reduce melanin synthesis by turning off tyrosinase, for those who do not respond to tyrosinase inhibitors, we have found by doubling up on your routine and adding tretinoin into the mix, this really boosts lightening. I have found results do appear to be more effective.
Retinoic acid found in A+ retinoid complex is the most researched ingredient for cellular renewal and collagen replenishment, helping to create ageless, bright, and clear skin.
The most common hyperpigmentation ingredient is hydroquinone, a phenolic hypopigmented agent, that works by reducing the production of melanin in the skin by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase.
There is, however, a lot of controversy around this ingredient, which you can read in the article, “Hydroquinone: Is this Toxic Beauty at its Best?“.
Laser resurfacing may be an option
Skin resurfacing, whether with a laser or a chemical agent, may significantly reduce pigmented lesions.
How does it work?
These lasers remove pigmentation and freckles through the light in the green-yellow range, which actively absorbs the pigment in freckles or age spots without harming surrounding tissue.
What should I expect?
Often, light freckles and pigmentation can disappear during treatment – or in some cases, results may become more obvious after around 10-14 days.
Those with large areas of pigment will find a few sessions that will help to significantly reduce the marks.
How many treatments are required?
The number of treatments you require may vary, depending upon the number of freckles or pigment you have on your skin. It is common to see visible results after two to three treatments.
Is the treatment painful?
It is possible that you may feel a slight stinging, piercing sensation during your pigmentation removal. Redness will also be apparent but usually settles down after a couple of hours.
Cryotherapy, what’s that then?
This treatment is useful for treating small, localised, hyperpigmented lesions such as age spots. It freezes the lesion and in some cases can be as effective as laser treatment.
Lancome has been focusing on how to lighten skin for many years. On the back of this, they have created a range of bespoke skin correctors to cater to 3 different pigmentation profiles.
Their research has found that skin complexities change in terms of both shade and evenness, they discovered that melanocytes are not the only trigger, there is also the surrounding environment of those melanin-producing cells.
It appears that UV damage, hormonal changes, and inflammation not only stimulates the melanocytes to create more melanin, it also damages the surrounding environment – including fibroblasts, which are responsible for our skin’s structure. This leads to hyperpigmentation. In this case, damage not only occurs in the basal layer of our epidermis where melanocytes appear, but it seems that changes also occur in the dermis.
Decoding these processes, and demonstrating the major role that the dermis has in skin pigmentation, is really important – to the point where it actually revolutionizes pigment disorder treatments. An important scientific breakthrough, that means pigmentation is also altered and controlled by fibroblasts in the dermal cells.
The real key to knowing how to lighten skin, or removing and fading pigment, is to use a combination of products and treatments whilst also determining what works best for your skin type.
To recap superficial pigmentation is classed as sun-damaged skin such as freckles and spots and hormonal pigmentation sits deep within the dermal layers of the skin and is particularly stubborn.
Any damage to the skin in the form of scarring or picking breakouts can cause trauma to the epidermis, your outer layer of skin.
When this happens, the skin’s defense mechanism kicks in, bringing melanin to the site of the injury. So, apart from the obvious transfer of bacteria when picking your skin, it can also create pigmented marks.
There is a school of thought that peels and lasers can do more harm then good, causing inflammation in the skin. This is a theory I am leaning much more towards, especially as inflammation is the number one cause of premature ageing.
I do, however, feel that it is up to the individual to try out different methods of pigment removal, until they get the results they are looking for.