Protect Your Melanin: The 5 Best Ingredients to Treat Dark Spots and Hyperpigmentation

Here are the five best ingredients that women of color need to include in their skincare routine according to science.

skincare tips
Photo Credit: Seun Oderlind

Our beautifully pigmented skin can sometimes be hit with unwanted dark spots like melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and solar lentigos (that’s a big word for darkened skin caused by UV radiation exposure). These annoying and unfortunately common conditions in dark skin are often difficult to treat.  

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Luckily, skincare science has come a long way and there are certain ingredients that can help fade unwanted hyperpigmentation on the skin when used consistently. Here are the five best ingredients that women of color need to include in their skincare routine according to science. 

Sunscreen: Shield Against Dark Spots

Sunscreen is key in managing dark spots because it can protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Sunscreens help by creating a barrier that blocks UV rays, preventing further darkening of existing spots and reducing the formation of new ones. 

Studies have shown that products with broad protection against UVB, UVA, and visible light are necessary to provide clinical benefits against skin aging signs, such as wrinkles and dark spots. Also, sunscreen-containing pigments (usually iron oxide) are the best option for melasma prevention as they block visible light that can induce melanin production. 

However, if you don’t find the perfect shade for you, it’s better to opt for a colorless option and then add some foundation or concealer on top because these products also contain iron oxide.

Melanin Inhibitors: Dark Spot Lightening Ingredients

These are skincare ingredients that have been proven in clinical studies that can reduce pigmentation irregularities, such as dark spots and uneven skin tone because they work by inhibiting the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin coloration. 

Some of the most common and efficient melanin inhibiting ingredients are thiamidol, kojic acid, azelaic acid, alpha arbutin, licorice root extract, etc. Try including one of them or products formulated with a combination of them in your skincare routine and be consistent for at least two to three months to see results.

Retinol: The Skin Renewer

Retinol is commonly known as an anti-aging molecule but it also helps fade unwanted pigmentation. Retinol works by penetrating the skin and getting into the cells located at the upper layers of the skin. Once inside cells, retinol undergoes some structural changes to bind to specific receptors as a way to initiate cellular processes. These processes include an acceleration of cell turnover which results in a lighter, more even skin tone with less texture. 

Don’t forget to use retinol every two or three days a week until your skin gets used to it. After a few months, increase the frequency of use to four or seven nights a week. Also, retinol must be used at night only because it degrades rapidly when in contact with light.

Exfoliants: The Radiance Enhancer

The skin is constantly shedding old skin cells from the protective outer layer of your skin. This is a process called skin cell turnover or desquamation and takes around two to three weeks to complete. However, if you have dark spots and hyperpigmentation you may want to accelerate this process to help shed old pigmented skin cells more quickly. 

Skincare products with chemical exfoliators such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, or mandelic acid are the perfect ingredients for this job. The frequency of use very much depends on your skin type and product concentration. If you have a high-concentration product use it once weekly, but if you have a lower-concentration product it’s okay to use it regularly during the week.

Antioxidants: The Sunscreen Booster

The ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun produces oxidative molecules, called free radicals, that can induce melanin production in your skin cells. The best way to neutralize these oxidative molecules is by using antioxidants such as Vitamin C, niacinamide, resveratrol, ferulic acid, CoQ10, etc. 

These ingredients have been shown to help prevent oxidative damage to your cells and prevent the formation of dark spots. Although they can be used twice a day, it is preferable to pair them with sunscreen to boost their action against UV radiation.

There you have it. The five ingredients you should include in your skincare routine to achieve glowing, even skin tone, but remember that consistency is key to getting significant results!