Every week I get at least one email asking me what to do about hyperpigmentation.
I’ve been there myself (my story below).
With hyperpigmentation, you need to work at getting rid of it while preventing it at the same time.
Skin care and lifestyle tips to fade hyperpigmentation naturally
Protect your skin from the sun
If you’re prone to hyperpigmentation, you need to protect your skin from the sun (it will only make hyperpigmentation worse).
- Avoiding strong sun between 10am – 3pm (in hot tropical environments, I would avoid the sun from 8am – 4pm)
- Wear hats and protective clothing
- Walk on the shady side of the street
- Wear a mineral sunscreen (I really like Suntegrity sun protection products, I recommend their 5 in 1 Tinted Sunscreen for the face. You can check out my review here.).
Only exfoliate your face at night, never in the morning
If you are doing any type of facial exfoliation, only exfoliate at night, never in the morning or during the day (and that includes using facial scrubs, peels, acid toners, and facial masks). If you go for facials, always schedule them for the end of the day or evening, never in the morning).
The reason why you don’t want to do any deep cleansing or exfoliation during the day is because the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin could very well be an extra protective barrier, protecting your skin from sun damaged and hyperpigmentation. The last thing you want to do is expose newly exfoliated skin to the sun, that’s just inviting inflammation, dark patches, and discolouration.
And the same with waxing facial hair – always do it at night, or book your appointment for the very end of the day. Waxing too exfoliates skin, and you don’t want to expose that fresh new skin to harmful sun rays.
Stay away from medications & skin care products that cause photosensitivity
Ingredients in your skin care products and medications can make your skin extremely sensitive to the sun (photosensitive), which can make you prone to hyperpigmentation.
Make sure to check with your pharmacist/chemist to make sure any medications you’re taking (including birth control pills and antibiotics) aren’t causing photosensitivity.
Ingredients in skin care products can cause photosensitivity, leading to hyperpigmentation:
- Retinoic Acid, Retinol, Retinoids
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids / AHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, etc.)
- Benzoyl Peroxide
- Perfume and fragrance
- Vitamin C (products containing high amounts of L-Absorbic Acid, 20% or higher)
As you can see, many of these ingredients in skin care products are used to exfoliate your skin and fade hyperpigmentation, but unfortunately they can make you prone to hyperpigmentation as well!
If you want to get rid of hyperpigmentation, and prevent it from coming back – I recommend staying away from these ingredients completely, or, use them at time of year when the sun isn’t strong.
If you must use skin care products with these ingredients, and you have hyperpigmentation; only use them at night (never during the day). And, make sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin during the day. Re-applying sunscreen is also important because sun protection wears off after a few hours.
Alternatively, you can also cycle these products and only use them in the cold fall and winter months when the sun isn’t strong, and take a break from them during the summer. Using skincare products with strong active ingredients in hot climates or when the sun is strong, can damage your skin. Not only can these ingredients cause hyperpigmentation, but sun damage, wrinkles, and premature aging too.
Decreasing fructose in your diet
Hyperpigmentation is caused by a combination of hormones, inflammation, and sun damage.
When it comes down to your diet, I find fructose to be most detrimental for hyperpigmentation.
The reason why is because it not only affects your hormones and spikes your blood sugar, but fructose is particularly damaging to your liver, which is also connected to your skin’s health.
It’s one of those things worth trying to decrease to see if it can help your skin.
To get started:
- Start by eliminating all foods and drinks containing high fructose corn syrup (colas, sodas, energy drinks, packaged juices, chocolate bars, candy, chips/crisps, bottled salad dressings, pre-made pasta sauces, fast food, ketchup, condiments, etc).
- Along with cutting high fructose corn syrup out of your diet, I also recommend you take agave nectar and honey out of your diet too.
- If you’re already eating a super healthy diet without high fructose corn syrup or added sweeteners and you have hyperpigmentation, I recommend cutting down on fruit. Yes, fruit is healthy, but for those of you with hyperpigmentation, the fruit in your diet could be making it worse. Do an experiment – cut down on the amount of fruit you’re eating for a month and see if that helps your skin (you might be pleasantly surprised!). You can continue eating berries and pomegranate, but the rest I recommend taking a break from.
For more information on diet and hyperpigmentation, check out this blog post Diet For Melasma.
My story of hyperpigmentation
I had hyperpigmentation a few years ago when I was on a raw food diet. At the time I was doing a high fruit raw vegan diet for a few months, and once the summer rolled around, patches of my skin on my upper lip and forehead started darkening.
As the days and weeks went by it was only getting worse and worse – the dark patches were getting bigger and bigger, darker and darker, and seemed to even be slightly raised.
Intuitively I knew it was the combination of eating A LOT of fruit and the sun.
So, I cut back on the amount of fruit I was eating . I didn’t completely cut the fruit out, I just decreased the amounts, and stuck with eating lower glycemic fruits like berries, and a little apple in my green juices. And within a few weeks the dark patches started to fade.
It took me a good 6 months to completely get rid of it (and for it to never to return).
Since that experience, I still eat fruit every day, but I’m mindful of how much I am eating. Once in a while I can do a raw food cleanse with a lot of fruit for a week or two and have no hyperpigmentation issues, but I’m sure if I went back to eating a high fruit diet for a few months straight those dark patches would definitely come right back.
I have to say, that experience scared me (a lot!). I use to love spending time in the sun, but since that one experience of hyperpigmentation and how long it took to get rid of it – I am now especially diligent with protecting my skin from the sun, and watching what I eat.