Skin discoloration is a common concern, and it can occur at virtually any age. Several factors can come into play including genetics, history of sun exposure, hormonal fluctuations, and more—and skin discoloration can appear as overall uneven skin tone, isolated dark spots, or stubborn dark patches. However, all skin discoloration has one thing in common: Excess melanin, the skin pigment responsible for each of our unique skin tone’s color.1
Improving the appearance of skin discoloration and dark spots requires a daily skincare routine that includes a vitamin C antioxidant serum, corrective treatments, and broad-spectrum sunscreen (that is reapplied as necessary).
There are several factors that lead to skin discoloration, and how to get rid of dark spots can depend on the root cause. Sun exposure and inflammation are two of the main contributors to unwanted pigment production and the development of dark spots. Being mindful of these triggers can go a long way when exploring how to treat skin discoloration.
TYPES OF SKIN DISCOLORATION
Before delving in to how to fix skin discoloration, it’s important to understand the different types of discoloration.
Uneven skin tone
Simply put, uneven skin tone means your skin is darker in some spots and lighter in others. Uneven skin tone can actually be the result of several different types of skin discoloration, including age-related pigment changes, sun damage, stubborn brown patches, post-acne discoloration, and post-inflammatory inflammation (which we talk more specifically about below).
Aging and sun damage
Time inevitably takes a toll on the skin, and it can take decades for damage caused by unprotected sun exposure to become visible. This type of skin discoloration generally appears as blotchiness along with wrinkles and rough texture. 2
Stubborn dark patches
Hormonal fluctuations can be an underlying cause of stubborn dark patches, which often appear on the cheeks, upper lip, and forehead, and possibly the nose and chin. Often experienced during pregnancy and by those using oral contraceptives or post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy3, these persistent dark patches can worsen with sun exposure.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
More common in those with darker skin tones, post-inflammatory pigmentation (PIH) leads to spots of excess pigment that linger after a blemish or injury heals—but this type of skin discoloration is different than a scar. Post-inflammatory pigmentation can be caused by acne, as well as the heat associated with laser treatments or other in-office procedures. 4
HOW TO TREAT SKIN DISCOLORATION
If you’re wondering how to get rid of dark spots, it’s essential to keep in mind that effective treatment requires a comprehensive approach that can involve several skincare steps. But with the proper skincare regimen, you can improve the appearance of skin discoloration, brighten dull skin, and enhance overall radiance.
Prevent skin discoloration with antioxidants
Environmental aggressors such as free radicals generated by UV rays and pollution are linked to the development of skin discoloration, which is why antioxidant protection is a core pillar in the SkinCeuticals approach to optimizing the health look of skin. Using a SkinCeuticals daily vitamin C serum has been proven to provide effective antioxidant protection that helps neutralize the damaging environmental free radicals that trigger the development of skin discoloration. This extra shield against environmental aggressors can help prevent further pigment changes and help enhance the improvement achieved with discoloration-fighting skincare products.
Correct skin discoloration with exfoliation and targeted treatments
To treat skin discoloration and dark spots, incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine is an ideal first step. Products such as exfoliating cleansers and serums that contain physical or chemical exfoliating ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids help sweep away dead, pigmented cells and keep fresh, healthy cells on the skin’s surface. In addition, a corrective serum formulated with targeted ingredients to help treat discoloration can effectively help reduce the appearance of dark spots.
Protect against skin discoloration with sunscreen
Sun exposure is a main cause of skin discoloration, and all of your other skincare efforts are essentially for naught if a broad-spectrum sunscreen isn’t part of your daily morning skincare routine. This one simple step, together with other sun protective measures, can help prevent further damage that may lead to the development of additional skin discoloration and dark spots while boosting the results achieved with a comprehensive anti-discoloration skincare regimen.
HOW TO TREAT SKIN DISCOLORATION WITH SKINCEUTICALS
Thanks to our commitment to research and skincare science, SkinCeuticals knows how to help correct skin discoloration. However, it’s important to keep in mind that improving the appearance of dark spots generally requires a comprehensive, multi-product approach. Here are the proven SkinCeuticals products for those who want to know how to get rid of dark spots.
Phloretin CF: With a synergistic blend of 2% phloretin, 10% L-ascorbic acid (the purest form of vitamin C), and 0.5% ferulic acid, this antioxidant serum has been shown to provide advanced environmental protection that helps protect against unwanted discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.
Discoloration Defense: Formulated with a potent blend of anti-discoloration ingredients including 3% tranexamic acid, 1% kojic acid, 5% niacinamide, and 5% HEPES (a gentle acid that promotes exfoliation), this skin-brightening corrective serum has been clinically proven to improve the appearance of all the main types of skin discoloration.
Retinol: Using retinol in the evening can help enhance the results achieved with any anti-discoloration skincare regimen. One of the most extensively studied and proven skincare ingredients known to improve the appearance of skin discoloration and other visible signs of aging, this vitamin A derivative helps stimulate cellular turnover to keep fresh, healthy looking cells on the skin’s surface. SkinCeuticals offers three retinol strengths, including Retinol 0.3 for first-time users, Retinol 0.5 for conditioned skin, and Retinol 1.0 for experienced users. All of these concentrated creams are formulated with advanced stabilization and encapsulated delivery technologies along with soothing bisabolol to help minimize potential side effects like peeling, redness, and irritation.
Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 30: In addition to oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free chemical-based broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection, this innovative formula also features a potent blend of 1% tranexamic acid, 2% niacinamide, and 0.3% phenylethyl resorcinol that has been proven to reduce visible discoloration by 24%. This lightweight and residue-free daily sunscreen also provides instant and all-day hydration with 7% glycerin, plus an instant boost in skin brightness and radiance.
HOW TO TREAT HYPERPIGMENTATION: THE TAKEAWAYS
Improving the appearance of skin discoloration and dark spots requires a daily skincare routine that includes a vitamin C antioxidant serum, corrective treatments, and broad-spectrum sunscreen (that is reapplied as necessary). It’s also imperative to practice sun-safe behavior, which means avoiding direct sun exposure during mid-day hours and covering up as much as possible with long sleeves, long pants, a hat, and sunglasses. By committing to an advanced skincare routine and keeping the skin’s UV exposure to a minimum, you can significantly improve skin discoloration and prevent its recurrence.
To learn more about how to get rid of skin discoloration, use our online Regimen Finder, visit one of our SkinCeuticals SkinLab locations, or schedule an appointment with a SkinCeuticals Skincare Professional for a one-on-one consultation.
4 Davis EC, Callender VD. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Jul;3(7):20-31. PMID: 20725554; PMCID: PMC2921758.