Are You Being Haunted by Pigmentation? Try This



Pigmentation is one of those things that creeps up on our complexion unannounced. One minute you have a pretty even skin tone bar the odd blemish; the next thing you’ve got odd shaped patches that make your face look like a faded map of the Galapagos Islands. Hello, pigmentation—if only we were expecting you.

Mainly down to the overexposure of sunlight over a prolonged period of time, pigmentation is why you’d never catch a Victoria’s Secret model without a stash of SPF. The same goes for dermatologists and beauty editors. That’s because pigmentation, or hyperpigmentation, occurs when melanin is overproduced in certain areas—the melanocytes work on overdrive and release darker pigment in a bid to protect your DNA from UV damage.

Sun alone isn’t the only culprit. Medication, environmental stressors, ageing and hormones can all be triggers, even the HEV light from your laptop and mobile phone can cause skin to discolour. In fact melasma, also known as the “mask of pregnancy,” affects 90% of expectant women. Unlike sun or age spots, the dark areas of pigmentation are larger and have a tendency to appear all over the body, not just in areas like the face and hands. (Skin ailments or scarring can also leave a flat area of pigmentation behind, but these aren’t generally considered hyperpigmentation.)

Read on to discover what you can do about it.


“The gold standard for topical treatment of pigmentation is prescription-strength hydroquinone in combination with vitamin A derivative tretinoin and an anti-inflammatory steroid in a mixture known as ‘Kligman’s formulation,’” explains dermatologist, Stefanie Williams, MD. However you can get over-the-counter options that give results. Look for ingredients like kojic acid, a mushroom byproduct that lightens skin and inhibits the melanin-forming enzyme, tyronise and also arbutin and azelaic acid.

“Acids are good for reducing pigmentation as their first effect is to eliminate strongly pigmented cells in the stratum corneum (surface of the skin), and the brightening effect is instant,” says Colette Haydon, founder and formulator of LixirSkin.

Vitamin C can be a pigmentation deal breaker too, while other plant-based pigment fighters come in the form of liquorice, mulberry and bearberry extracts. Williams also flags up tranexamic acid: “It was traditionally used orally as a pharmaceutical compound to staunch bleeding but has been reported to show promising results for melasma, both orally and topically.”


If you’re still sticking your face in the sun, yes. Bergamot oil for example can cause a phototoxic reaction and could lead to post-inflammatory pigmentation. Anti-pigment ingredients should also always be used in conjunction with antioxidants (like vitamin C) and broad-spectrum SPF as even just one or two days without protection will scupper “project pigment-fade.”


Pigmentation treatments require patience and perseverance. While some of the new formulas report results of as little as four weeks, it could take up to six months, so don’t throw the towel in if your complexion isn’t flawless in a flash.

Keep scrolling to see the best pigmentation-fighting products on a shelf near you.