Where is your dress from?” This is the question I get asked the most via social media. The second – via social media and IRL – is “what do you recommend for dark spots and uneven skin tone?” The number-one skin concern for women of colour is not ageing or wrinkles. It is hyperpigmentation.
This is essentially the overproduction of melanin on the skin. It manifests itself in dark spots and patchy, uneven skin and is caused mainly by over-exposure to UV rays. There’s also the skin trauma caused by acne or a wound – post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – where the skin overcompensates during the healing process by producing so much melanin it leaves scars.
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I can relate. This has been the bane of my life for as long as I can remember. My caucasian friends get spots that eventually disappear. My spots, like a dog that pees to mark its territory, would always leave a scar. It’s one thing for this to happen once or twice but when the result begins to resemble a cross between dried chickenpox and a game of Connect The Dots it becomes debilitating – and that’s the case whether you are 14 or 40.
I also have a theory that the fight against hyperpigmentation is one of the reasons the use of skin lightening creams gained a foothold. I mean, yes, we still have colourism issues – but for the most part, many women began using these creams not because they set out to be lighter-skinned and a fit for the Western ideal of beauty but simply as a way to deal with their pigmentation issues.
The problem with so many of these terribly formulated and incredibly dubious products is that they would, amongst other things, simply bleach the skin around the dark areas. I mean what’s the point of that? Yes, you can cover up the disfigurement with foundation – and I love a good foundation – but, like all women, I don’t want to hide. We want to be happy with and in our skin. And so I’ve been meaning to write this column for a little while but in all honesty, I have also been dreading it because I know everyone expects me to recommend this “miracle” product. And here’s where I disappoint; there is no such thing.
Instead, I always recommend a number of steps, which for most people will require overhauling their entire regime. (I know, I know, it’s a pain but you’ll thank me later). Hyperpigmentation is a beast. You have to treat it like the 10-headed dragon it is and attack it from all sides with a layered approach.
Fumni Fetto’s Personal Recommendation To Fight Hyperpigmentation
If your case is really extreme, or you are incredibly concerned, then, by all means, consult a dermatologist. Dr Stefanie Williams at Eudelo is incredible at treating every skin type. In the meantime, incorporating brightening (no bleaching!) skin-refining products, ingredients and treatments into all aspects of your beauty repertoire – from cleansers to masks to serums – will make a seismic difference.
Start With A Facial
A good place to start, however, is with a great facial – my love of which I have written about here in detail. I liken this to the opening bar of a killer track, it sets the tone. It will lift dead skin cells, refine your skin texture, balance and brighten while also purging the debris from your pores; dull congested skin makes hyperpigmentation look a million times worse. In an ideal world, you should have one every six to eight weeks.
Nevertheless, there are products you can use to keep up the good work at home. Get a cleanser that has AHAs or BHA in it; glycolic, salicylic and lactic acids are all great for resurfacing, de-clogging and brightening the skin.
Peter Thomas Roth’s Anti Ageing Cleansing Gel is a goodie; ignore the name, the point is it’s chock full of acids that are breakout-busting while also resurfacing and radiance-boosting. It’s perfect for me because my skin is hardier than a yarrow plant but for more sensitive types, I’d recommend Murad’s Essential C cleanser. It is pumped full of antioxidants and vitamin C (great for brightening) and really does make a difference to the skin. As does a mask. If you are anything like me, the idea of masking can feel really tedious, however, choose the right one and it will be time well spent.
Recently I’ve been extolling the virtues of Herbivore’s Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask to anyone who cares to listen. It is exfoliating, which helps to fade dark marks and smooth out your complexion. And, get this, it is gentle enough to use every day. Its watery consistency is a bit messy but it’s a small price to pay for this miracle worker.
Treating Hyperpigmentation – Use An Exfoliator
Next up, you need a liquid exfoliator. I mentioned some of my favourites in a previous column but Biologique Recherche P50 PIGM 400 is one of my recent much-loved discoveries. It smells like a depressing hospital ward but I’m happy to forgive that because of its clever two-pronged approach; the liquid regulates melanin production while also treating the dark spots and hyperpigmentation that already exist. Post cleansing, simply swipe it over your skin using cotton pads – no need to wash it off.
After that, you need an effective brightening serum. I’ve tried a lot of these – most are incompetent but there are some good ones. Zelens’s Brightening Serum definitely falls into the “I’d drink it if I could” category. Its phenomenal cocktail of active ingredients has been clinically proven to reduce dark spots (I can attest to this and my skin also looks more luminous to boot).
The effect of this serum is so addictive you’ll be tempted to use a lot in one sitting but you actually don’t need much before you start seeing a difference. Also at £140 for 30ml, it’s best to use sparingly. For a less expensive alternative try Caudalie’s Vinoperfect Radiance Serum. Not new, but hands down, still one if the best. It is wonderfully light, quickly improves skin texture, and leaves you looking glowy. If you prefer a thicker (but not heavy) cream-like consistency, Sunday Riley’s Rapid Flash Brightening Serum is incredible. I can honestly say I saw an improvement a day later.
Next up, a moisturiser. I can hear the resounding “ughs” from where I write. Yes I know a lot of the women who suffer from pigmentation issues are very oily-skinned and therefore have to deal with breakouts, but this doesn’t mean you should skip a moisturiser. Oily skin can still be dehydrated skin and when you are using acids in your regime, it becomes even more imperative to keep the skin hydrated.
The trick is to pick one that isn’t too heavy but goes in deep and really plumps up the skin. Anything watery in texture and choc-full of hyaluronic acid is perfect. Vichy’s Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Booster, Niod Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Complex, Indeed Labs Hydration Booster and Murad’s Nutrient Charged Water Gel are all brilliant and will give your skin a new lease of life. It’s the difference between a scrunched-up blow up bed and one that has been pumped full of air – nice and bouncy.
Final Recommendation To Fight Hyperpigmentation – Sunscreen
The final step is sunscreen. Boring, yes, but if you put in all the aforementioned work without using sunscreen then you are just wasting your time; those dark spots will just come back much worse. An overproduction of melanin can be down to genetics, hormones and age but the biggest culprit is still sun exposure – yes even in autumn – which is why I wax lyrical about SPF. Contrary to popular belief, there are many on the market that don’t make us look like Casper the Ghost.