When we talk about our skincare concerns, acne flare-ups, period pimples and wrinkles often steal the spotlight. In fact, we sometimes become so engrossed in beating blemishes and fine lines that we overlook hyperpigmentation and dark spots which can be equally frustrating when it comes to achieving that flawless Insta-ready complexion. Unlike most types of skin trauma, pigmentation on dark skin pops up quite literally overnight and is triggered by a multitude of factors. Dark skin is also more prone to pigmentation because of the increased levels of melanin — which makes it beyond difficult to treat.
For the most part, women of colour, like myself, dream of a more even skin tone rather than a brighter and lighter one. Irregular dark and light patches on your skin can make shopping for make-up more effort than it's worth, and I know it's knocked my confidence more than once.
The good news is that the beauty industry now has more solutions for discolouration on the market than ever before. But before we get to treating the issue, we need to protect our skin from making it worse by finding out what causes pigmentation in the first place.
Common causes of pigmentation on dark skin
It's no secret that our skin can shape shift throughout different seasons, but we shouldn't underestimate the impact that genetic and hormonal changes can have on our complexions.
"The female hormones oestrogen and progesterone are at play here and sometimes can overstimulate melanin — especially when sat unprotected in the sun and during pregnancy — resulting in pigmentation problems known as melisma or choalsma", says founder of the Black Skin Directory, Dija Ayodele.
A key point to note is that darker skin tones are just as prone to sun damage as their lighter counterparts. That's why wearing a strong SPF (Sun Protection Factor) daily – to protect the skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays — is paramount for fighting pigmentation.
"Inadequate sun protection causes melanin cells to go into overdrive producing more dark pigment to protect the skin," Dija explains. "Sometimes this is not a linear process and can leave skin with lentigines and a mottled appearance over time."
And then there's that really fun skin condition known as Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation which is the acute effect of skin conditions _ such as acne, eczema and psoriasis — that leave dark scars on the skin stimulated by trauma. "Usually by looking at the primary skin condition and controlling factors within that, it is easier to tackle PIH", says Dija. "For instance, if discolouration is because of repeated breakouts, addressing clogged pores and excess oil on the skin will reduce incidences of breakouts, thus impacting on the propensity to hyper-pigment."
The Science Bit…
If we look at the Fitzpatrick scale — a numerical classification chart that measures how human skin shades react to chemicals and UV light — women of colour fall between type 4 to 7.
Now, this may sound complex, but it's actually a fairly simple concept that can make shopping for products to combat pigmentation a breeze, once digested. "When you're looking at warmer skin-tones on the Fitzpatrick scale, it quickly becomes evident that they don't seem to tolerate very low pH's or very powerful Ha's (Hyaluronic Acid), so instead of responding with redness, dark pigments are released as a defence mechanism," explains David Delport, Education Director at REN Skincare.
"There is an extremely different physiological response to the stimulus between darker skin-tones and lighter skin-tones — which is why we prioritise inclusivity and work within the safe PH levels of 3.5 to 4."
David recommends… REN Ready Steady Glow AHA Tonic, Rs 2,226
Can pigmentation be treated with vitamin injections?
Vitamin injections and IV drips have been a popular solution for flawless skin amongst celebrities for years.
Bianca Estelle, Medical Aesthetician and founder of Vitamin Injections London, is confident that pigmentation on darker skin-tones can be aesthetically healed with a course of 12 vitamin injections, with visibly radiant results after just one jab.
"By delivering the active solutions directly into the bloodstream, the body can process the solution immediately and ensure that all of it is reaching the area it needs to target," Bianca explains. "By addressing pigmentation from the inside out, vitamin injections act an internal tyrosine suppressant — an amino acid that helps produce melanin."
Top skin pigmentation treatments:
From: ELLE UK