Brighten up

Defeat discoloration and score fantastic skin

30 Dec 2021

The quest for a radiant complexion at any age doesn’t have to be daunting. We’ve gathered viable ways to defeat discoloration and score fantastic skin


defeat discoloration and score fantastic skin

No matter your complexion, there’s one goal that seems to be universal: glowing skin. Maybe you’re satisfied with the state of your skin but want a little radiance. Maybe you’re trying to knock out a few stubborn dark marks for a more even tone. Maybe it’s a bit of both. Fun fact: it’s been proven that even skin colour distribution is a major influence on perceived skin health*. But there are many reasons discoloration occurs, requiring different treatment. Your skin tone also needs to be taken into account, given its impact on how many conditions manifest. Here, derms explain how to tackle the causes of hyperpigmentation for healthy, balanced skin.

IF YOU HAVE Sun-induced changes

• When your skin is exposed to the sun and isn’t protected with sunscreen, melanocytes – the skin cells that are responsible for producing melanin or pigment – go into overdrive. ‘It’s a protective response. Your skin is producing extra melanin to shield the internal structure of the skin cells and their DNA,’ says Dr Claire Chang, a dermatologist at UnionDerm. That extra pigment then shows up as brown spots.

The skin tone factor

Broadly speaking, people with lighter skin are more susceptible to experiencing visible sun-induced discoloration, says Dr Jordan Carqueville, founder and medical director of the Derm Institute of Chicago. Darker skin types have more melanin and different types of it, which means they have slightly more natural sun protection compared to people with lighter skin, says Dr Chang. However, experts are quick to underscore the fact that this does not – we repeat, does not – mean those with darker skin tones get a free pass. Not to mention, just because you may not see as many spots on darker skin doesn’t mean other signs of sun damage (think collagen and elastin breakdown) aren’t happening.

Treatment plan

Daily sunscreen is non-negotiable, but alongside that, vitamin C is one of the best ingredients to look for. It’s an antioxidant that neutralises damaging free radicals caused by sun exposure and brightens the skin by inhibiting the action of tyrosinase, an enzyme necessary for pigment production, says Dr Chang. (It can also help fade existing dark spots.) Use it in the AM before sunscreen and reach for a retinoid at night.

If you’re ready to up the ante with a clinic treatment, lighter skin types can consider intense pulsed light (IPL). This is ‘a magic eraser for sun damage’, says dermatologist Dr Corey L Hartman. If you have darker skin, opt for microneedling. Three sessions spaced at six- to eight-week intervals should do it.


• Melasma is unique in the way it shows up in widespread patches on the cheeks or forehead, or above the upper lip. You may have heard it called ‘the mask of pregnancy’ because hormonal fluctuations (any kind, not just those associated with pregnancy) play a key role here, says Dr Hartman. While the exact cause is unknown, any combo of hormones, sun exposure and heat can trigger the onset.

The skin tone factor

‘I see melasma equally across patients of all skin types,’ says Dr Chang, who adds that it’s a genetic factor and/or familial link, rather than your skin colour, that makes you more predisposed to this particular condition.

Treatment plan

Melasma is one of the most challenging types of discoloration to treat because the pigment can exist in both the superficial epidermal layer of the skin and the deeper dermal ones, says Dr Carqueville. Targeting it in both layers will yield the best results, but that’s tricky to do. For surface discoloration, dermatologists generally recommend in-clinic peels. You’ll need two to four visits to see results. If clinic peels don’t help, the pigment is likely deeper in the skin. There are laser treatments that can help, but proceed with caution as some can exacerbate melasma. Dr Chang says the Clear + Brilliant laser (from £ for a single treatment) is a good, safe option for all skin types.


Pick your treatment player from this scale of accessible options (listed from mild to major) to help you achieve your goals


This do-it-all ingredient calms redness and scarring, and plays nicely with sensitive types. Versed Out Of Sight Dark Spot Gel (


A tyrosinase inhibitor can help fade pigmentation and prevent spots.

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

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Paula's Choice BOOST 10% Azelaic Acid Booster Cream Gel, Licorice Extract &...

& Free shipping
Last update was on: 2021-12-30 6:28 am

SLOW AND STEADY: Ease into retinol: use it only every third day until skin adjusts


Among its talents, vitamin C helps even skin tone and offers antioxidant protection.

Medik8 C-Tetra Serum

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Medik8 C E-Tetra Pro Collagen Vitamin C Serum, 1 Fl Oz

& Free shipping
Last update was on: 2021-12-30 6:28 am


Slough off skin cells and boost collagen production to stave off wrinkles, too.

StriVectin Advanced Retinol Nightly Renewal Moisturizer


This mask works overtime to treat uneven patches and brighten skin.

The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment


Quick yet effective, these have come a long way since Samantha tried one on SATC.


A good melasma-fighting in-clinic treatment that’s safe for all skin and won’t leave you wanting to hide for days.


Microchannels in the skin allow topical ingredients to better penetrate – and be more effective – says Dr Carqueville.


Ideal for lighter skin, as it targets both brown and red discoloration (bye, broken blood vessels!).

FYI: IPL requires three treatments with two(ish) days of redness and flaking after each

LASER LIMITS: Some can exacerbate melasma pigment due to the heat they deliver; go to a trusted derm


Best for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), this laser is able to target pigment deep within the skin and works on all tones.

defeat discoloration and score fantastic skin

IF YOU HAVE Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Also known as PIH, this discoloration occurs as a response to inflammation in the skin that can be caused by anything from eczema, acne or bug bites, to burns and surgical incisions. ‘When there’s inflammation, the skin cells are disrupted and melanin spills out,’ says Dr Carqueville. It’s for this reason that Dr Hartman refers to PIH as ‘a stain of inflammation’.

The skin tone factor

PIH shows up differently based on your skin tone. In darker skin, where there’s more melanin that can ‘spill out’, it manifests as dark spots. In lighter skin tones, PIH manifests as red spots – a result of increased red blood cells brought to the area to heal the inflammation, says Dr Carqueville.

Treatment plan

The best way to treat PIH depends on your skin colour. (Though one common denominator is avoiding inciting fire in the first place – eg, not popping spots, picking scabs etc.) Topically, anti-inflammatory niacinamide is a safe bet that may be used for pigmentation in general, says Dr Chang. One to try: Versed Out Of Sight Dark Spot Gel (, which combines niacinamide with several other brightening ingredients, such as liquorice root extract and kojic acid. Another ingredient experts recommend to treat hyperpigmentation is tranexamic acid given that it’s suitable for all skin types and skin tones, and safe to use during pregnancy.

Keep in mind that the pigment associated with PIH is found far down in the skin, meaning lasers (which can work on those deep layers) will give the best results. That said, not all lasers are created equal; some can burn and scar darker skin. A safer bet for all skin types dealing with this situation? A Picosure laser treatment, recommends Dr Hartman.

Up your (sun)screen time

Sun exposure makes every type of skin discoloration worse and will thwart pretty much any of your treatment attempts. That’s why daily use of a broad-spectrum formula with at least SPF30 is imperative.

Dr Dennis Gross Skincare All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF30 ( Sheer and light, it blends into skin so seamlessly you’ll forget you’re wearing it.

This oil-free mineral pick is ideal for acne- prone skin

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Bình Phan Đức

Bình Phan Đức

Hello, I'm the founder of this blog and a part time blogger. Find more information about me at here. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

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