All About Hyperpigmentation with Helen Keegan

Professional Makeup Artist and Head of Dermablend Education, Helen Keegan, went live with Dermablend on Instagram to chat all about hyperpigmentation, a topic that she gets asked about frequently by her clients and followers. She answered many of the most popular questions about hyperpigmentation and shared her favorite products for preventing, treating, and covering hyperpigmentation. If you missed the live conversation, you can catch it on our IGTV, or you can read up on Helen's hyperpigmentation tips here.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Although it may sound like a complicated word, Helen explains that hyperpigmentation, “just means excess pigmentation,” or when an area of skin becomes darker than one’s natural complexion. She explained that all hyperpigmentation can generally be grouped into one of three categories: post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, a primary hyperpigmentation disorder like melasma, or sun damage. Helen notes that these 3 types of hyperpigmentation are treated similarly, but each have unique needs that need to be addressed.

The Importance of Sun Protection

When speaking about hyperpigmentation, dermatologists frequently stress the importance of sun protection, but why is that? Helen explains: “Hyperpigmented skin tans quicker than normal skin. So, sun exposure leads to increased contrast between normal skin and hyperpigmented skin, making the hyperpigmentation more noticeable. It also means it will take longer for that hyperpigmentation to fade now. The darker the pigmentation, the longer it will take to resolve. So, if you want to treat hyperpigmentation, the most important step is sun protection.”

Helen also notes that visible light protection is important in preventing worsening of hyperpigmentation. “There is new data that is looking at visible light, sometimes referred to as ‘blue light’, which is the light that comes from your phone screen, your TV, your computer, and overhead lighting,” she explains. “Most sunscreens are designed to protect against UVA and UVB rays, but don’t protect against visible light.” Helen mixes Dermablend Flawless Creator with your favorite skincare, because “Flawless Creator has published clinical data showing that it protects against visible light induced hyperpigmentation.” Flawless Creator is oil-free and water-free, so it mixes seamlessly with your favorite skincare and adds coverage for existing hyperpigmentation.

Treatments for Hyperpigmentation

For post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, it is important to focus on eliminating the root cause of inflammation. That’s why Helen says that “treating acne aggressively is step number one” for patients who are concerned with post-acne dark marks. Azelaic acid and retinoids are two ingredients that she commonly relies on to treat acne and hyperpigmentation. To minimize inflammation, she encourages patients to never pick their acne, and says, “if you have something really big or deep, you can visit a dermatologist for an injection of anti-inflammatory medication. This will minimize the resulting post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.” Once acne is treated, some of the treatments that can be used for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation include chemical peels and topical medication.

Hydroquinone is an ingredient that can be used to treat melasma.Helen notes that hydroquinone should be dotted on in small amounts and should quickly absorb into the skin, and says, “I usually apply it before bed because it does make skin more sensitive to the sun.” An area where melasma commonly appears is the upper lip, sometimes known as the “melasma mustache.” Cover Care Concealer is an easy way to quickly cover melasma on the upper lip area.

Another popular ingredient for treating melasma is tranexamic acid. While this was first used as an oral medication in dermatological studies, it is now formulated in some skincare products to target hyperpigmentation. SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense contains tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide, and is a product that Helen frequently recommends for hyperpigmentation.

While most hyperpigmentation can be treated, Helen says that it is important to be patient and understand that treatments take time to be effective. While treating hyperpigmentation and waiting for it to resolve, Dermablend offers solutions to cover hyperpigmentation that are non- comedogenic. Helen says that she recommends oil-free and non-comedogenic makeup to her patients because, “it won’t clog your pores and it won’t cause or worsen acne.”

Maskne & Hyperpigmentation

When wearing a face mask, Helen says that it is very important to wear non-comedogenic makeup and take other precautions to prevent “maskne”, or acne caused by a face mask. She recommends washing a face mask after each use and cleansing the skin immediately upon returning home. Helen explains that friction from wearing a face mask can potentially cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. “If your mask is too tight and causing redness and you are a person who tans easily, this could cause hyperpigmentation.” She recommends using a barrier cream or speaking to a dermatologist about topical anti-inflammatory medication to counteract the friction from daily mask wearing.

Tips for a Hyperpigmentation Routine

First, Helen recommends adding new ingredients into a skincare routine slowly to avoid causing irritation. She says that although many of the below ingredients can be used together, they should be added into a skincare routine one at a time over a few weeks. Here are some of her favorite recommendations for a hyperpigmentation skincare routine:

  • If you have acne, it is important to treat that with your dermatologist as the first step to preventing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
  • In the morning, use ingredients to protect your skin from environmental aggressors. To protect skin from UVA, UVB, and visible light, mix Flawless Creator with your favorite skincare product. Use a vitamin C serum like SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic.
  • Once your skin is tolerating your protective morning routine, you can slowly add in an azelaic acid product or SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense to help prevent hyperpigmentation.
  • In the evening, use a gentle cleanser, maybe one with glycolic acid if a bit of additional exfoliation is needed.
  • Then before bed, you can apply your prescription retinoid or over the counter topical retinol. Again, make sure you are patient and slowly add each of these products into your routine one at a time.