In the beauty world, ‘what product goes on first, your serum or moisturizer?’, is about as mysterious to us as the whole chicken or the egg question. But while the jury is still out on that age-old debate, the order in which you apply your skincare products is completely agreed upon by the experts — even if it is little known among the rest of us. To help set us all straight and make the most of our treasured face treatments and creams, we checked in with the experts, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi and celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas to find out exactly how we should be applying each product.
First things first, Dr. Tanzi and Vargas both agree that you really only need three products for your daily routine. “If you are using great products, you don’t need a lot of steps,” Vargas tells us of sticking with a cleanser, serum, and moisturizer — the Holy Trinity of your skincare routine. But since we like to treat ourselves (and inevitably complicate things) by trying out new products, we’re breaking down every possible skincare option and step for your morning and nighttime routine, below. Still, when in doubt, Dr. Tanzi says a simple rule of thumb is to “apply products with the thinnest formulations first to [allow them] to be absorbed.” Need further clarification? Here are the exact steps:
No matter what your nighttime routine, Vargas says, “taking off makeup is the first step.” This ensures that every product you use after, from your face wash to your moisturizer, will be absorbed into the skin better, and that you’re not just piling products on to dirty skin.
Morning or night, Dr. Tanzi and Vargas both agree that you should start things off by washing your face with a cleanser that gets out dirt and oil but is still gentle on your skin. While Vargas’s Vitamin C Face Wash clears out pores to prevent breakouts without drying the skin, Dr. Tanzi also recommends the La Roche Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser for those who particularly struggle with acne or Cetaphil Skin Cleanser for an inexpensive option that’s gentle on skin.
If you prefer a more solid cleanser that melts into dry skin and can double as a makeup remover, make this your first step. The Eve Lom Cleanser gets our luxe pick for leaving skin clean and as soft as if you’ve just moisturized, while Boots No7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm is a more budget-friendly option.
This is another first step alternative that dissolves makeup and washes away the gross oils (think the ones that cause acne), while leaving skin clean and soft using good-for-you oils like coconut and argan. Try Burt’s Bee Facial Cleansing Oil.
If you went in on the French beauty trend, you’ll be happy to know you can use a micellar water like Garnier’s as your first step to remove your makeup and cleanse your skin.
While it’s certainly not a necessary step, Vargas says you can use a toner “to rebalance the skin after cleansing,” if you need an extra boost.
Dr. Tanzi says you only need to do a mask once each week, and it should always be applied to skin that’s already been removed of any makeup and cleansed.
If your face needs a little bit of extra hydration or you’re trying to calm down any irritation, you can spray one of these over your face after cleansing (or use it throughout the day over your makeup for a refreshing pick-me-up).
If you suffer from breakouts, Dr. Tanzi says to follow up cleansing with an acne treatment like the La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treament and skip the traditional serums that can leave acne-prone skin feeling greasy. If your skin type is on the drier side, Dr. Tanzi says, “use a hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid both morning and night.” We’re partial to Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S Thirst Quenching Serum.
Dr. Tanzi says that since you wouldn’t be using an oil and a serum, those with drier skin can opt for an oil if they like, while combination and acne-prone skin types should always go for the serum.
Since essences and serums provide the same hydrating skin benefit, if you’ve found an essence you really like, you can skip the serum and use that instead.
Everyone knows at least one woman with seemingly perfect skin. Every time you see her glowing face, you think, Seriously, how does she do it? What kind of magical procedures is she getting? Which expensive creams is she using? Here’s the thing: Her secret is simple — she has flawless skin because she’s nailed the best daily routine. Another secret? So can you.
1. She uses the correct cleanser for her skin type.
“For oily or acne prone skin, a salycylic gel or benzoyl peroxide wash works great,” says Dr. Ava Shamban, a dermatologist in Santa Monica. “For dry mature skin, use either a moisturizing glycolic or milky cleanser. For skin with brown spots or melasma, use a brightening wash, such as an alpha hydroxy acid cleanser.”
2. She drinks the right liquids.
Though it’s tempting to grab a coffee the minute you wake up, Joanna Vargas, a skincare facialist in NYC, says choosing the right beverages can be a game changer. “Drink a shot of chlorophyll every morning to brighten, oxygenate, and hydrate your skin. Drinking chlorophyll also helps drain puffiness by stimulating the lymphatic system, so it’s also good for cellulite.”
If you’re not keen on downing a shot of the stuff, chlorophyll supplements can be found at many drugstores and health food stores. She also advised drinking green juices with lots of veggies in them: “It will transform your skin in a matter of days — and it helps oxygenate the skin and stimulates lymphatic drainage, so it’s de-puffing, too.”
3. She maintains a healthy diet.
“Your skin has a natural barrier to retain moisture, and essential to that is omega-3 fatty acid,” Joanna Vargas advises. “Flax seeds on your salad or even walnuts will be an instant boost to your omega-3, thus increasing your skin’s ability to hold onto moisture.” And be sure to eat a diet low in foods with a high glycemic index (simple and complex carbohydrates).
4. She moisturizes every day and night.
“The best times to moisturize are right after you get out of the shower and right before you go to bed,” explained Dr. Janet Prystowsky MD, an NYC-based dermatologist. Avoid lotions with heavy fragrances and be make sure you find a moisturizer gentle enough for every day use with zero irritation.
5. Her fingers never touch her face.
Dr. Julia Tzu, an NYC-based dermatologist, says this is very important. It doesn’t just spread bacteria and cause breakouts — it can lead to scarring, an increase in wrinkles, and even the flu.
Sure, a new pair of shoes or an It bag is nice, but many of us are more wiling to shell out a chunk of our paychecks for quality skin care, all in the name of #iwokeuplikethis status. That said, there are a myriad of things in the way of finding a complexion potion that’ll actually lead you on a path to improving your biggest skin-care issues. Namely, lots of confusing marketing jargon, and campaigns that promise flawless complexions, but don’t always deliver.
The pattern seems to go like this: The more effective a product claims to be, the more dollar signs are involved. Serums are some of the most spendy, since time and time again they prove to be the most important part of your routine, as they oft pack the most active ingredient and go on first, allowing them to soak in and do the most good.
Naturally, it takes a lot of sussing out to figure out which serums are worth the splurge. To cut through the BS, we consulted top dermatologists for direct recommendations. These serums get the clinical green light, and while their campaigns and packaging might be less sexy than your pretty vials or countless bottles of fancy face oil, we have to ask: What’s fancier than a flawless face? That’s kind of the whole point, anyway.
Ahead, the serums that top dermatologists call the most effective — and recommend to their own patients — all organized by skin-care concern.
Skin Concern: Dryness
Chronically dry skin needs more than just the shellac of a thick moisturizer to actually solve the problem — and not just treat the symptoms. One of the top ingredients to do that is hyaluronic acid.
“What’s great about [hyaluronic acid] is that it doesn’t feel like a heavy moisturizer, but it does the work of one,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman,director of dermatologic surgery and laser medicine at Metropolitan Hospital.
“Hyaluronic acid helps your skin retain moisture by binding water molecules, holding 1,000 times its weight.” Dr. Engelman recommends this serum from Derm Institute for its hydrating abilities, as well as for its ability to repair and protect, thanks to a ceramide complex, vitamins, and antioxidants, which plump fine lines and combat free radicals from environmental damage.
Derm Institute Antioxidant Hydration Serum, $100, available Derm Institute.
Another formula that serves up hyaluronic acid is this HylaSilk Serum from Priyana MD. Dr. Barry Resnik, MD, Founder of Resnik Skin Institue in Miami, recommends it not only for the HA, but also the formula’s niacinamide, a brightening ingredient that helps address uneven pigmentation. Bonus: Peptides in the formula give this serum a boost in both hydrating and anti-aging efforts, like promoting collagen and elasticity.
Priyana MD HylaSilk, $55, available at Resnik Skin Institute.
Skin Concern: Uneven Pigmentation and/or Dullness
Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a cosmetic dermatologist, touts resveratrol and vitamin C as your best weapons against pigmentation issues, mainly uneven texture or dullness in skin.
“Resveratrol is the strongest natural antioxidant that reduces [uneven] pigmentation and protects the skin from further free radical damage,” Dr. Frank explains. He couples that with a disclaimer that, “there’s no magic ingredient to make [uneven pigmentation] disappear quickly, as the body continues to make the enzyme that stimulates the production of melanin.”
He recommended this night serum from Skinceuticals, since it not only keeps pigmentation in check, it also firms the skin and corrects fine lines. “[It’s] cosmetically elegant and absorbs very well, giving the skin a nice glow,” he says.
Skinceuticals Resveratrol B E, $152, available at Skinceuticals.
More times than I’m willing to admit, I catch myself staring at women with perfect complexions and wondering how in the world they do it. Is it their moisturizer? Their cleanser? Sick of guessing what it could be, we decided to reach out to some of the top skin care experts in the country to get to the bottom of perfect skin and how to get it. Here are their top 11 tips
1. They don’t use heavy moisturizers at night.
“I have always been a big believer in serums to be used twice daily under your moisturizer. In the evening, however, use only the serum instead of a heavy moisturizing cream,” explains celebrity facialist Mamie McDonald, adding that nighttime moisturizers stay on the surface of the skin and are not easily absorbed while sleeping (they just stain the pillow!). “Skin repairs itself while we sleep, so let it happen as naturally as possible, with just a little help from a serum.”
2. They hydrate both internally and externally.
“We naturally lose moisture while we sleep, which can result in puffy eyes, dark circles or a lackluster complexion,” says celebrity aesthetician Kate Somerville. “It’s really important to hydrate both internally by drinking plenty of water during the day and before bed, and externally by using products that contain hyaluronic acid, which carries 1000 times its weight in water.”
3. They believe in using masks before bed.
“I emphasize nighttime skincare,” says celebrity aesthetician Joanna Czech. “Your skin is about 60 percent more potent to absorb everything at relaxation time, and this is also the most regenerating time. Two or three times per week, I use a mask either in place of my moisturizer or right before my moisturizer.”
4. They eat their way to better skin.
“Eat a clean diet. What you put into your body shows on your skin,” says dermatologist Whitney Bowe. “Drink at least 8 ounces of water a day and eat a diet full of lean protein and fiber. It’s also important to eat foods that are anti-inflammatory and contain lots of antioxidants such as blueberries, and green leafy vegetables such as kale.”
5. They give themselves facial massages.
Celebrity aesthetician Natarsha Bimson says that a facial massage increases blood flow, soothes nerve endings, helps to relax muscles, tones, contours and reduces puffiness. “Using an oil, cleansing oil, cleansing balm or cold cream, apply to dry skin with dry hands, work it into your skin (including over the eye area), loosen up all of that gunk from the day, take a few deep breaths and give yourself a quick five-minute face massage. Finish your massage-cleanse by steaming off the oil/balm/cold cream with a hot wash cloth. Use a clean one every day—this will provide your skin with gentle manual exfoliation without being abrasive or causing microlacerations that are caused by many facial scrubs on the market today.”
It can be hard to find the right products to help you look your best. Depending on your skin type, simply taking care of your skin the way you want can become a full time job with its own stresses. Here are a few stress-free tips to get the most out of your skin
1) Organic is the way to go
There are plenty of natural or organic skincare products out there today. It is a matter of finding the one that will not harm your skin. Natural made products don’t use toxins or dyes that can harm your skin making them the best choice for even the most sensitive skin types.
2) Don’t overdo it
Everything in moderation. Even when it comes to looking your best, sometimes less is more. Washing your face or applying too much makeup can harm your skin. Washing your face too often can dry out your skin and leave it dry, flaky, and red. These are signs of irritation. Too much makeup can cause the same issues. An all-natural makeup remover is your skin’s best friend.
3) Live Healthy
A good exercise routine and diet will help give you the glowing, healthy skin you want. Smoking, on the other hand, will damage your skin and can actually cause premature signs of aging such as wrinkles. Eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, and working out are a natural way to beautiful skin. Living a healthy lifestyle helps with many things other than your skin. It makes for happier life and in turn, a happier you…with happy skin too. Healthy lifestyles are part of the path to a peaceful and great life. Exercise is also a great way to channel and reduce stress in a positive way.
Your skin has tiny holes called pores that that can become blocked by oil, bacteria, and dirt. When this occurs, you may develop a pimple or “zit.” If your skin is repeatedly affected by this condition, you may have acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), acne is one of the most common skin problems in the United States. At any one time, between 40 and 50 million people have this condition. Although acne is not a life-threatening condition, it can be painful, particularly when it is severe. It can also cause emotional distress. Acne that appears on the face can impact self-esteem and, over time, may cause permanent scarring. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for this condition that reduce both the number of pimples you get and the chance for scarring to occur.
What Causes Acne?
Acne occurs when the pores on your skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Each pore on your skin is the opening to a follicle. The follicle is made up of a hair and a sebaceous (oil) gland. The oil gland releases sebum (oil), which travels up the hair, out of the pore, and onto your skin. The sebum keeps your skin lubricated and soft. If you develop acne, this may be because of one or more problems in this lubrication process. These possible causes include:
- too much oil or sebum is being produced by the follicle
- dead skin cells are accumulating in the pore
- bacteria has built up in the pore
An overabundance of oil, a pore clogged by dead skin cells, and bacteria all contribute to the development of pimples. A zit appears when the bacteria grows in the clogged pore and the oil is unable to escape.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Acne?
Myths about what contributes to acne are quite common. Many people believe that foods such as chocolate or French fries will contribute to the development of acne. While there is no scientific support for these claims, there are certain risk factors that may put you at risk for developing acne. These include:
- hormonal changes caused by puberty or pregnancy
- certain medications such as birth control pills or corticosteroids
- a diet high in refined sugars or carbohydrates such as bread and chips
Young people are most at risk for developing acne during puberty. During this time, the body undergoes drastic hormonal changes. These hormones can trigger oil production, leading to an increased risk of acne. Hormonal acne related to puberty usually subsides when a teenager reaches adulthood.
What Are the Symptoms of Acne?
Acne can be found anywhere on your body. It most commonly develops on the face, back, neck, chest, and shoulders. If you have acne, you will typically notice pimples that are white or black in appearance. Both blackheads and whiteheads are known ascomedones. Blackheads open at the surface of the skin giving them a black appearance. Whiteheads are closed just under the surface of the skin, giving them a white appearance. While whiteheads and blackheads are the most common types of acne, other lesions can occur. Inflammatory lesions are more likely to cause scarring of the skin and include the following:
- papules—small red, raised bumps caused by infected hair follicles
- pustules—small red pimples that have pus at their tips
- nodules—solid, painful lumps that are beneath the surface of the skin
- cysts—infections found beneath the skin that contain pus and are often painful
How Is Acne Diagnosed and Treated?
If you have symptoms of acne, your doctor will be able to confirm a diagnosis by examining your skin.
You can use a number of self-care activities at home to prevent pimples and to clear up your acne. Home remedies for acne may include:
- cleaning the skin daily with a mild soap to remove excess oil and dirt
- regularly shampooing your hair and keeping it out of your face
- not squeezing or picking pimples, as this spreads the bacteria and excess oil
- avoiding hats or tight headbands
- avoiding touching your face
- using makeup that is water-based or labeled as “noncomedogenic” (not pore-clogging)
If self-care activities do not help with your acne, there are a number of over-the- counter acne medications that may be helpful. Most of these medications contain ingredients that can help kill bacteria or dry the skin. These active ingredients include:
- benzoyl peroxide: present in many acne creams and gels, used for drying out existing pimples and preventing new ones
- sulfur: a natural ingredient with a distinctive smell that is found in lotions, cleansers, and masks
- resorcinol: a less common ingredient that is used to remove dead skin cells
- salicylic acid: often contained in soaps and acne washes
Sometimes, you may continue to experience symptoms. If this happens, you may want to seek medical advice. Your doctor can prescribe medications that may help reduce your symptoms and prevent scarring. Your doctor may give you oral or topicalantibiotics. These kill the bacteria that cause pimples. Typically, antibiotics are only used for a short amount of time so that your body doesn’t build up a resistance. Antibiotic resistance can make you prone to infections. Topical creams like retinoic acid or prescription strength benzoyl peroxide are often stronger formulas of over-the-counter treatments. These work to dry out the skin and reduce oil production. Women with hormonal acne may be treated with birth control pills or spironolactone. These medications seek to regulate the hormone-causing acne. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is a vitamin A-based medication that is used to treat certain cases of severe nodular acne. It has serious side effects, and is only used when all other treatments have failed.
Your doctor may recommend additional procedures to treat severe acne and prevent scarring. Many of these work by removing damaged skin.
- photodynamic therapy: also known as laser treatment, uses light pulses to remove the top layer of skin
- dermabrasion: removes the top layer of skin with a rotating brush
- chemical peel: an aesthetician applies a chemical to your face which essentially burns the top layer of skin. That skin later peels off to reveal less damaged skin underneath
Your doctor may suggest using cortisone injections if your acne consists of large cysts. Cortisone is a steroid naturally produced by the body. It can reduce inflammation and speed healing.
What Is the Outlook for Someone With Acne?
Treatment for acne is often successful. Most people can expect their acne to clear up within six to eight weeks. However, flare-ups of the condition are common and may require additional treatment. Scarring that occurs as a result of acne can cause emotional distress. Prompt treatment can help prevent scarring.
How Can Acne Be Prevented?
It’s difficult to prevent acne. However, you can take some steps at home to help prevent acne following treatment. These include:
- washing your face twice a day with an oil-free cleanser
- using an over-the-counter acne cream to remove excess oil
- avoiding makeup that contains oil
- cleaning the skin thoroughly before bed, including removing makeup
- showering after exercising
- avoiding tight-fitting clothing
Read about it here.
Starting the right anti-aging skin care regimen is about as confusing as figuring out how to set up your 401K.
With complex-sounding ingredients like ceramides or hyaluronic acid, the abundance of choices is enough to cause stress-induced frown lines. Throw in the question of when – and how – we are actually supposed to start using these products, and we’re totally lost.
To simplify things, the Powder Room surveyed three of New York’s top dermatologists about easy steps women should take to get a jump-start on Father Time.
Start sun care early
With ninety percent of wrinkles stemming from sun exposure, anti-aging skin care should begin at birth, according to Dr. Doris Day, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center.
Anti-aging “means different things at different ages,” Day said. “As a young child, it’s about proper sun care, rest and diet. And that continues throughout your years.”
Day said you should go beyond sunscreen when you’re in your teens. She recommended treating acne with retinoids, Vitamin A products that unclog pores and smooth skin.
Prevention in your early 20s is ‘key’
When you’re in your early 20s, washing your face is “critical,” said Dr. Dennis Gross, founder of 900 5th Dermatology and creator of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.
“Never go to sleep with your makeup on.” Gross added. “Doing so can block pores, leaving oil trapped inside. This leads to bacteria buildup and, yes, breakouts.”
The early 20s are also when you should start thinking about where wrinkles will appear.
“Your mother is a genetic blueprint of how you will age,” said Gross, who advised studying photos of both your mom and her mom. “If they both suffer from forehead wrinkles, you are more than likely to as well.”
Reach for the eye cream in your late 20s
It’s time to hit your local drug store for products that actively target the area around your eye in your late 20s, according to Dr. Debra Jaliman, dermatologist and author of “Skin Rules.”
“Sad as it may seem, the late 20s is when collagen starts to break down,” said Jaliman. “It’s really young.”
Jaliman said she’s a “big fan” of antioxidant ingredients, like pomegranate and green tea, which protect skin while fighting wrinkles, as well as products with retinols and peptides that stimulate collagen production.
Read more here.
Step aside pricey wrinkle creams, and make room for the latest anti-aging product: the SkinPen.
That’s right. One pen, and one hour. That’s all it takes to get new, rejuvenated skin, according to Texas-based Bellus Medical.
It’s called the SkinPen, by Bellus Medical, which bills itself as a “dynamic medical aesthetics company.”
Here’s how it works. First the skin is numbed. When the pen is placed on the face, 12 stainless steel needles create thousands of microscopic incisions. This allows for contraction and tightening, and helps products penetrate the skin.
“You are creating new, healthy collagen from that dermal layer,” clinical aesthetician Marilee St. Louis told ABC News affiliate WFFA-TV in Dallas. “This is so microscopic that you get this huge boost of collagen to heal the wound and thicken up the skin.”
St. Louis says the skin will initially be a little red and puffy, similar to a sunburn.
After three days, however, the skin is better than normal, she said.
“I did it on a Friday, and on Saturday I was back to charity work,” customer Julia Stocker told WFAA. “This has true results, and they are immediate”.
But it’s not just for wrinkles. The SkinPen can treat acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, sun damage and stretch marks, according to Bellus. And it can be used on more than just the face. Patients have received treatments on the neck, arms, hands, legs, abdomen and back.
As for other treatments, microdermabrasion scrapes off the top level of skin, allowing for greater cellular turnover, and a slower aging process. It costs about $150 with a recovery time of three to five days.
Peels entail a chemical solution applied to skin. Over time, top layers of skin peel off, allowing for new skin to grow in. It costs $200 to $300 with a recovery time of three to 14 days.
SkinPen needles create thousands of tiny incisions, creating new collagen. It costs $300 to $400 with a recovery time of one to three days.
“We consider this the next step in micro-therapy,” Bellus Medical CEO and President Joe Proctor told ABC News today. “It’s going to be a little more expensive, but not much.”
Perhaps the biggest difference is the recovery process. “You can get dynamic results with little or no downtime,” Proctor said, adding that SkinPen patients can easily return to work the same day as their treatment.
The number of treatments a patient needs depends on their specific issue. Patients can receive the treatments about a month apart.
On this blog, I write a lot about products and what you can do to make your skin look glowing and flawless. But are words like “glowing” and “flawless” even realistic? I firmly believe in accepting the way that you look in the present moment as beautiful. Maybe you don’t look the way you did when you were 24, but the chances are high that you didn’t like how you looked at 24 anyway. What will your future self fifteen years down the road think of how you look right now? Chances are, he/she thinks you look smoking, so enjoy it in the present instead of being wistful over the body type/skin you used to have.
When I used to do facials, I heard the same litany of skin woes all the time. There were plenty that were justified…I’m definitely not telling anyone they should embrace and love their acne. I’m just starting to see signs of losing elasticity in my neck, and you know what? That’s a great big pile of “nope!” for me. But there are some things that everyone has and maybe if we realized that we are not the only ones with these tiny flaws while the rest of the world frolics around with perfect, airbrushed skin, we’d feel better.
We all have them. Do you want to know who doesn’t have them? Kids. That’s it. The minute you hit puberty, your pores fill up, and then the rest of your life is spent fighting them. Teenagers have them. All ethnicities have them. Old people have them. Yes, you will still have blackheads even after your skin dries up and starts to wrinkle. Life isn’t fair, Princess. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Slap on a clay mask when they get out of hand, but I assure you that your blackheads are not worse than anyone else’s.
Smile Lines/Crows Feet:
I can remember reading in The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (or was it Slowness? Kundera fans, feel free to fact check me!) where one of the characters meets a woman who looks very young for her age, until she smiles, and then wrinkles etch over her skin. He wondered if she thought she looked young all the time because she would only see herself in the mirror and wouldn’t be smiling. Guess what, Kundera? Women are aware of what they look like when they smile. I remember clients complaining about their lines and I would tell them, “Those are from smiling! People who don’t have wrinkles are people who never smile.” This generally made the client feel better, because dammit, their lines were evidenced of a life well lived. Then I started getting them. Fuck. But unless you choose Botox (which, quite frankly, I think makes people look stiff and weird), you’re going to get those lines around your eyes and your mouth. You just are. The crepeiness (I think I just invented that word) that occurs from loss of collagen and elastin can be fought against, or at least pushed off until a future date, but smile lines are from muscle movement, and there’s not much you can do. This is something I have to keep in mind as I see those deep lines forming around my eyes when I smile. Life well lived, dammit!
Read the rest here.
We all want skin that’s evenly toned and uniform in color. But oftentimes, a variety of factors come into play that make our skin look red, splotchy, dark or discolored. Not all hyperpigmentation is equal, and there are many reasons for it to show up on the skin. In order to properly treat it, and get rid of it for good, you need to know what caused it in the first place.
When it’s acne related…
Why it happens: Acne, and the inflammation that comes along with it, can cause hyperpigmentation on the skin, even long after the blemish has healed. Although inflammation is part of the cycle of a breakout that can’t be completely eliminated, the more inflamed the follicle becomes, the more likely the blemish is to scar. Inflammation is a natural response mechanism ignited by the body that is necessary for a pimple to heal and fade. Known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), the physical texture of the skin isn’t affected, just the color of it. The deeper the inflammation, the darker the discoloration and the longer it will take to fade.
How to get rid of it: Topical products that work to lighten and brighten, like REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask($59), may reduce how dark a spot may be, especially if you are prone to post-acne discoloration. Hydroquinone, salicylic acid and retinol may also be recommended. Chemical peels can also clear up some acne scars and work best on dark spots. If your spots are flat and red, one to two sessions of a redness reducing laser like VBeam or IPL can help.
When it’s sun related…
Why it happens: UV rays produce excess melanin, which is deposited in the skin. These spots, which are usually light to dark brown, and occur on the face, chest and hands, can make the skin look much older than it really is.
How to get rid of it: The best way to treat sun-related discoloration is with a retinoid and IPL or a fractional laser resurfacing treatment. IPL works by sending a beam of light through skin that seeks out melanin. As the light is absorbed by the pigment, it breaks up the pigment so it’s less visible on the skin, and a series of treatments is needed to make a difference. Lasers deliver a beam of fractionated energy to the skin to incite a wound-healing response and correct hyperpigmentation.
When it’s hormonal…
Why it happens: Pregnancy, birth control and menopause can all cause a spike in melanin production. In fact, one reason why hyperpigmentation is one the rise is because more birth control is being prescribed than ever before. Many doctors correlate the surge in hyperpigmentation to things like birth control and hormone replacement therapy due to sudden shifts in hormone levels. The surge in hormones coupled with sun exposure causes the skin to darken in color from light to medium brown.
How to get rid of it: Often referred to as melasma, hydroquinone and Retin-A are often prescribed by doctors to treat the hyperpigmentation. Other treatments that are effective include salicylic, lactic or glycolic peels and IPL, as well as using vitamin C products, like Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster ($128), at home.
Read more here.