So the summer is most definitely over (collective sigh), the rain has appeared and everyone is back at work/school/college. That holiday glow is growing dimmer, while you reach for the layers and Cocoa Brown. And just to make this week even worse, what is that on your forehead, a breakout? Nope. Even worse, a splotchy, brown area that is not fading with the rest of your tan?! Hello hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is darkening of an area of skin caused by the overproduction of a pigment in the skin known as melanin. It is relatively common and usually harmless, but can be (very!) irritating for those affected. In addition, research has shown that uneven skin tone can be more ageing than wrinkles. Acne, skin damage or inflammation, sun exposure, and hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and oral contraceptives all make these darker patches much more likely.
So as the tan fades and winter closes in, what can you do to redress the balance (and not have another reason to be depressed now that summer is over for another year)?
Prevention, prevention, prevention
And by prevention I mean preventing it getting worse – which I assure you it can! Step in factor 50. Yes, I know I could wax lyrical about the importance of daily spf (and apologies to those of you who have actually heard me) but it is your best ally in this daily battle. Melanocytes are the skin cells responsible for a tan – these troublesome patchy areas are darker due to either too many melanocytes or melanocytes that are overactive. And as the sun is instrumental in setting off this oh-so-annoying behaviour of said melanocytes, proper sun protection is a must. If the afflicted area is on your forehead I would also advise wearing a peaked hat as much as possible – it is the most exposed area when walking, cycling or running and I have found it hard to deal with myself any other way, despite vigilant sunscreen application. La Roche-Posay do a range of products to suit almost any skin type – and even have anti-shine and tinted formulations.
Gentle, regular exfoliation
Gentle is key here. Many facial scrubs are full of large, rough exfoliating beads that can damage and scratch your skin – not to mention the environmental impact they have. Daily Microfoliant from Dermalogica is ideal if you really need that “scrubbed” feeling, but gentle enough to use every day if you have fairly normal skin, and does not contain microbeads. The more sensitive skinned among you may not be able to – and unfortunately you’re probably used to figuring that one out on your own already. Liquid exfoliants are the beauty world’s equivalent to a superfood – glycolic acid is your friend here. I love these daily cleansing pads from Nip+Fab, but please note they are not actually cleansing pads and do not use them to remove your makeup!! They should be used on clean skin and followed up with sun protection in the morning.
Different skin types will dictate how often “regularly” is for you. I can use the Daily Microfoliant as it is intended most of the time without any major issues – when my skin is acting up in the middle of winter sometimes I have to switch it to every second day, but I simply adjust as necessary. The same goes for the liquid exfoliants – some skin types will simply not be able for daily use, so any attention to your skin and how it reacts, and when in doubt, ease off.
Skin brighteners range from gentle, over the counter products containing ingredients like vitamin C, acerola fruit and rice bran extract to the more heavy duty hydroquinone that sometimes requires a prescription. As with all changes to your skincare routine, start slowly with gentle products and adjust as you go along – do not throw everything but the kitchen sink at it out of sheer frustration – no matter how tempting that may be, you could make things worse!
I have found my forehead is the most affected by this, and it seems to be the case for most people. Try the above for 6 weeks before deciding if it is working or not, and by then I will have another post for you with more heavy-duty treatments for any stubborn patches. Have any of you ever had issues with hyperpigmentation, and what did you do about it?