Professional Advice for Addressing Hyperpigmentation

Experts divulge how to diminish dark spots and discoloration in the spa and at home.

hyperpigmentation-dark-spots[Image: wabeno/ISTOCK]

Gül Zone, CEO and founder, DermAware: “Hyperpigmentation is very complex and treatment depends on where it’s located, the cause, and the individual’s skin type and tolerance. Many people will say they use sunscreen, and although UV or environmental hyperpigmentation is common, it can also be caused by sensitivity, inflammation and minor trauma from breakouts. The most effective treatments are those that reduce pigment and inflammation while taking downtime into consideration. Chemical peels are still the best way to lift and remove existing hyperpigmentation. I suggest alternating peels with a range of resurfacing ingredient concentrations over a series of treatments, which allows the skin to bounce back and not be inundated with the same peeling agent. For deep pigmentation issues, lasers are also an option. Most importantly, new pigment must be suppressed at home with the use of natural quinones, anti-inflammatory serums, time-release hydrators and UV protection. Some commonly used ingredients include kojic, mandelic and ascorbic acids. Advise guests to stay out of the sun and to take care of hyperpigmentation early. (I started my red-haired daughter on her preventive routine in kindergarten, as most skin damage starts years before we see it!)”


  • DermAware-dark-spot-peel
    DermAware Go Spot Go Peel


Brian Goodwin, international trainer and education development lead, Éminence: “Hyperpigmentation is a universal condition that can be caused by UV rays, pollution, stress, hormones, diet and inflammation. It affects people of all ethnicities, genders and skin types, and treating it can be tricky because guests differ in terms of skin sensitivity, severity of the pigmentation, and response to certain ingredients. That said, several naturally derived options are effective because of their skin-lightening, antioxidant, melanocyte-inhibiting and/or anti-inflammatory properties. These include bearberry, licorice, tara tree, African potato and Gigawhite. Peels with botanically sourced acids can also reduce the appearance of dark spots through deep yet gentle exfoliation. After the peel, regenerated skin can show reduced signs of hyperpigmentation due to the removal of melanin-containing corneocytes. Acids found in peels are also useful for treating hyperpigmentation in other ways. For example, lactic acid has been shown to inhibit the formation of tyrosinase, in turn reducing the appearance of pigmentation; and malic, mandelic and pyruvic acids are also safe and effective. It’s a challenging condition to treat, but can certainly be done the natural way!”

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Karen Asquith, director of education, G.M. Collin: “To ensure a treatment series is effective, it’s important to first identify the type of hyperpigmentation. Melanin is the brown pigment responsible for skin color and is activated by sun exposure, whereas lipofuscins are insoluble, pale yellowish/brown pigmented complexes formed by oxidized proteins and lipids caused by exposure to UV rays. Dark spots are often characterized by a localized overproduction of both. A series of professional exfoliating peels containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like azelaic and glycolic acids can help lighten the skin and age spots. Melanocytes are stimulated in the skin by the enzyme tyrosinase, so you want to look for ingredients that act on the tyrosinase to slow down melanin production. These include tetrahydrocurcumin, glabridine, achromaxyl and oligopeptide-34. To assist with lipofuscins, sulforawhite is an ingredient that activates proteasomes to degrade and diminish pigment. The most important thing is to prevent hyperpigmentation with the use of a daily SPF, even when driving back and forth to work—if sun protection isn’t consistently applied, the hyperpigmentation will reappear quite quickly.”

Katherine Tomasso, national director of education, Yon-Ka Paris: “Hydroquinone was once regarded as the gold standard for treating hyperpigmentation, but savvy consumers are now aware of the potential side effects associated with this ingredient. Yon-Ka’s Essential White Professional Treatment is entirely free of hydroquinone and can help reduce the appearance of acne scars, lighten age spots and sun spots, and improve the complexion. Key ingredients include time-defying vitamin C, which works to repair the effects of oxidation by controlling the primary actions of the pigmentation process; and red algae, which corrects existing discoloration and prevents future dark spots by inhibiting tyrosinase enzyme activity, degrading melanosome development and limiting melanin production. Our homecare products are also essential for improving and maintaining results. Some research has suggested that certain foods containing nutrients and other bioactive compounds may help fend off age-related damage like fine lines, dark spots and acne inflammation, so it’s good to recommend a diet full of nuts, vegetables and fruit as well.”

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Kimberly Yohn, LE, business development advisor, Pevonia: “First, you must determine how deep within the skin the problem is. This is best done with a thorough analysis, ideally with a Wood’s lamp or skin scanner. If dark spots fade under the lamp, then pigment is generally present at a dermal level and may need to be addressed by a dermatologist. But if the pigmentation intensifies under the lamp, it’s likely at the epidermal level and can be treated by an esthetician. In that case, I recommend combining a professional peel series with home care that continues targeting melanin accumulation. Ideally, the series should follow a two-week at-home protocol with a gentle nightly exfoliant and a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen. In some cases, a lightening product should be added to the mix to help speed results. For professional treatments, I often like to start with the Pevonia YouthRenew Hydra-Glow Peel, which has a pH of 2.8 and a 30 percent lactic acid concentration that the body naturally recognizes. This can be done weekly for up to six weeks. Guests should also keep skin well hydrated and minimize irritation by avoiding harsh cosmetic products and excessive exfoliation.”

—Alexa Joy Sherman

This story first appeared in the December issue of DAYSPA Magazine. To receive the magazine, subscribe here.

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