Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skincare concerns which connects people of all races and all skin types. Whether you have sun spots, Melasma, patches of uneven skin tone or darkened acne scars – these are all forms of hyperpigmentation which differ in appearance, but can be treated with a number of the same ingredients.
We’re here to explain hyperpigmentation simply, and explore an array of fantastic K-Beauty products perfect for this skin concern – have fun discovering which is best for you.
WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Hyperpigmentation is often defined as a harmless skin condition which typically effects the skin of the face and other parts of the body which are exposed to sunlight daily (the face, neck, and hands). Patches of skin affected by hyperpigmentation will appear darker or more reddened in colour in compassion to surrounding skin due to an increase in melanin production.
Causes of hyperpigmentation:
- excessive sun exposure
- not wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen everyday
- hormonal changes in pregnancy
- hormonal changes due to the intake of medication which control certain hormones
- facial injuries or acne which didn’t heal correctly.
Freckles, sun spots and ageing spots are usually an abnormal yet common occurrence when melanin absorbs Ultra Violent light to protect skin, but results in sporadic patches of hyperpigmentation rather than an even tan. Such physical changes aren’t necessarily life threatening, although without wearing sunscreen everyday it is important to note that the skin barrier may become weakened and sensitive. And consistent exposure to UV rays can result in severe skin conditions which don’t just heighten the prominence of hyperpigmentation, but can result in medical conditions relating to abnormal skin cell behaviours. Therefore we strongly advise that you wear daily sun protection skincare, rather than solely concentrating on incorporating brightening skincare products into your skincare routines.
THE KOREAN SKINCARE APPROACH TO HYPERPIGMENTATION
Aside from Korea being one of the largest consumers of daily sunscreens to prevent skin pigmentation issues in the first instance, the Korean beauty industry use a wide range of both natural and chemical ingredients to overcome hyperpigmentation. Whether it be a serum, ampoule, essence, sheet masks, chemical peels, etc. you’re likely to find these ingredients in K-Beauty:
- Ascorbic or L-ascorbic acid – the most popular and effective
- Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate – a vitamin C derivative best for sensitive skin
- Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate – most hydrating and stable form of Vitamin C
- Calcium Ascorbate – often referred to as Ester C, and is effective at a neutral pH level
- Ascorbyl Palmitate – non-irritating and remains the most stable when exposed to oxygen and sunlight in comparison to other types Vitamin C
- Other forms Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate)
- Mandelic acid
- and Azelaic Acid
Korean skincare brands are currently opening up to using Retinoids in skincare for concerns relating to hyperpigmentation. It is even less typical to find the use of Hydroquinone in modern day Korean Skincare as it is a controlled prescription-only treatment listed as a skin-bleaching agent. Hydroquinone is banned in several countries and strongly discouraged by most Dermatologists and Aestheticians. There a plenty of safer alternatives to chose from in our product recommendations which we will address towards the end of this article.
A skincare routine for hyperpigmentation should also include a chemical exfoliant instead of a physical method of exfoliation. We suggest using the Iunik Lime Moisture Mild Peeling Gel to keep things simple and minimise the risk of putting additional stress on the skin barrier.
NIACINAMIDE: A STAR INGREDIENT
Niacinamide is a reoccurring inclusion in K-Beauty – even in products that aren’t necessarily aimed at mature skin types or advertised as a ‘brightening’ product. Most Korean skincare brands add at least 2% of Niacinamide into their skincare lines to act as a mild corrective for uneven skin tone which can benefit even sensitive and acne-prone skin types. 2% Niacinamide may seem like a small quantity. However, numerous experts have concluded that at least 2% worth of Niacinamide is sufficient enough to improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation when used twice daily for at least 8-12 weeks.
KEEPING THINGS GENTLE
When skin conditions like hyperpigmentation are noticeable, it can result in self-confidence issues which may make us more inclined to try a ‘quick fix’ home remedy as a solution. Where some home remedies are welcomed, others are not. Home remedies that require the use of Citric Acid consequently result in sensitizing the skin barrier and severe skin dehydration. So why don’t home remedies work for hyperpigmentation? - Simply to state, hyperpigmentation is something that has to be treated little-by-little over a course of time. Yes, a homemade honey and lemon face pack will make your skin look more radiant in the short-term, but that’s only because the citric acid and sugars will more or less break down the surface layer of dead skin cells which would otherwise make skin appear dull.
It’s fair to say that high concentrations of citric acid and ascorbic acid are not suitable for frequent use to tackle hyperpigmentation; much gentler ingredients are required and more sensible to use to prevent weakening the surface layer of skin. Depending on the severity of your hyperpigmentation, and the key ingredient you use, it will take on average 3-6 months to thoroughly treat hyperpigmentation. Although as mentioned earlier, Niacinamide can start to show results 8 weeks into use.
SPOTLIGHT PRODUCTS FOR HYPERPIGMENTATION
This serum is actually one of Klairs most sold products for 2 consecutive years, for it is particularly loved by sensitive acne-prone skin types which suffer from discoloured acne scars. It contains 5% Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) and antioxidants sourced from botanical extracts such as grapefruit, broccoli and oranges all to serve as a way to brighten your complexion. It’s popularity doesn’t just stem from it’s ability to ‘reset’ skin. It’s favourable because it has soothing and hydrating Centella Asiatica and Hyaluronic Acid – these are fantastic for preventing that ‘tingling’ sensation Vitamin C would cause for sensitive skin if not included in the formula. The viscosity is not too runny and has some substance to it, but remains lightweight. It absorbs into skin within a short frame of time thanking to the Hyaluronic Acid which can penetrate multiple layers of skin with minimal pressure from your hands.
We are excited to have this toner as one of the latest additions to Kōsame! It combines all the goodness of hydrating and re-plumping Hyaluronic Acid and skin brightening Sea Buckthorn Berry/Seaberry extract (5%). Seaberry has been selected for this toner because of it’s rich Vitamin C content. Hyaluronic Acid in itself doesn’t aid in providing a solution for hyperpigmentation, although it helps the vitamin C to more effectively seep into skin to concentrate on the stubborn points of hyperpigmentation. This toner is both packed with nutrients and a blend of skin protecting herbal extracts to warn off any stimuli within our environment which have the ability to speed up unwanted signs of aging. A small amount of this toner spreads far – revitalising and rebalancing along its way. Interestingly, this toner includes Niacinamide as an extra benefit for diminishing hyperpigmentation!
If your looking for a booster product to use in between your main skin revitalising products, then look no further than this mildly acidic sheet mask from Abib. This mask has a pH level which closely matches the natural pH level of healthy skin types. It contains Yuzu/Yuja peel oil and other extracts, plus Ascorbic acid to really deliver the skin brightening properties our hyperpigmentation craves. What truly encourages the impact of this mask is the material in which it’s made from. Abib use bamboo and albumin, so that the mask can hug the contours of your face, thus ensuring that the essence soaks into skin to the best of its ability.
We adore this ampoule’s combination of Niacinamide and 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid. It cannot be simply described as a brightening ampoule as it does much more than just that. Its hypoallergenic formula nourishes skin with propolis and royal jelly, whereas Panthenol locks-in moisture which is important for all types of hyperpigmentation to heal properly as new skin cells regenerate. Due to it’s nutrient-dense formula it only has to be used twice weekly as a specialist treatment.
Let’s keep the topic flowing! Feel free to leave your product recommendations for treating hyperpigmentation in the comment section beneath this article. We look forward to hearing about potential suitors for our future stocklist.
Words: Emma Moseley from SimplyEm's Blog
Photography: Ilona Panych