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Treating Hyperpigmentation

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common issues on pigmented skin. The reason for this is because we have an enzyme called tyrosinase which is responsible for the production of melanin. Hyperpigmentation is caused when this enzyme overproduces melanin in certain areas - leading to darker patches on areas of the skin. This is caused by regular and unprotected exposure (skipping sunscreen) to harmful rays of the sun and is more common in women of color. Post-inflammatory reaction, certain allergic reactions, and hormonal imbalances can also cause hyperpigmentation. Most important thing to note is that in people of colour: hyperpigmentation is more normal than not.

Hyperpigmentation is best treated by using tyrosinase inhibitors. These are products which aim at blocking melanin transfer and tyrosinase pathways. This (amongst constant sun protection) is the fastest way of treating hyperpigmentation.


  • Hydroquinone: This has often been referred to as the gold standard of tyrosinase inhibitors. It is a very controversial ingredient as it has been stated to have a lot of possibly damaging effects. Research however has shown that hydroquinone does in itself cause cancer (the test that claimed it did was done on rats so cannot be compared to human skin). However, due to its power, usage without proper care and adequate and consistent sun protection can be very debilitating to the skin. Due to its controversy, strength and possible side effects, we advice that this ingredient should be used when it's been prescribed by a specialist who can caution use to prevent even more damage to the skin

  • Kojic Acid: It penetrates deep within skin layers and inhibits tyrosinase activity to reduce melanin production. It aids in brightening and evening out the skin, it's one of the safer ingredients for skin brightening and we highly recommend utilising this as it brings about great benefits with barely no side effects (unless you have special skin sensitivities to the ingredient)

  • Alpha Arbutin: Many have called this ingredient the alternate to hydroquinone. However, we believe its effects are much slower and safer than HQ. Extracted through plant sources such as cranberries, bearberries, it’s considered to be a good anti-hyperpigmentation agent that helps to clear dark spots without irritating the skin.

  • Azelaic Acid: Azelaic acid is one of the naturally occurring ingredients that is produced by skin’s microbiome and can be obtained from barley, wheat and other grains. It belongs to the family of carboxylic acids. It is considered to be a wonderful ingredient for acne-prone skin because of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Also, it helps in exfoliating the skin as well. Azelaic acid can be used to treat hyperpigmentation and melasma. This acid is known to target the pigment-producing cells-hyperactive melanocytes. This makes it perfect for treating dark spots and hyperpigmentation, making the skin even-toned.

  • Tranexamic Acid: A lesser known tyrosinase inhibitor, this is a recently new topical acid for hyperpigmentation. Tranexamic acid is used in ointments and skin creams for its effect on decreasing the activity of tyrosinase and melanogenesis.


Asides from tyrosinase inhibitor, there are other exfoliating ingredients that can help remove dead skin cells that might also cause pigmentation build up. Exfoliation offers another alternative to helping to reduce pigment. Unlike tyrosinase inhibitors, these ingredients should be used less sparingly too avoid causing the skin to become very photo-sensitive.

  • Mandelic Acid: An alpha-hydroxy-acid or AHA, known for its benefits in helping to balance our skin tone. It's far gentler than its sister acids and so an option for more sensitive skin types.

  • Glycolic Acid: The lowest molecular AHA which means it penetrates more than the other acids. It helps internally remove sebum and dead skin which helps in reducing pigment.

  • Lactic Acid: The most hydrating AHA. Due to their nature, they are larger than glycolic acid so much milder in their abilities. By getting rid of the dead skin cells, it can help brighten a dull complexion and reduce discoloration in skin. Plus, it can help improve the skin's texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines

Protecting the skin against the sun rays as well as free radicals is also an important way of ensuring that pigmentation breaks down gradually (and its not further corrupted by the impurities in the air). Our favourite protection ingredients are:

  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): This is an anti-oxidant that also functions as a mini tyrosinase inhibitor

  • SPF 30+ : Again, this is vital for preventing sun-induced hyperpigmentation caused by the over production of melanin upon sun exposure. The filters help keep our skin protected from harmful UVA/B Rays, skin cancer and hyperpigmentation

  • Ferulic Acid: This is an antioxidant that binds directly to the tyrosinase enzyme, inhibiting its activity, and slowing down the production of melanin. It also smoothes out fine lines.

  • Vitamin E: A great antioxidant that fights against skin radicals. It is a superstar ingredient that helps support the immune system and skin health.

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