2 Types of Skin Discoloration and How to Treat Them
Skin discoloration. It’s a natural part of life unless you have crazy #blessed genetics. If skin-colored camouflage was a thing, my face would practically be the poster child. Subtle brown spots that refuse to blend in with the rest of my skin color? Check. Uneven skin texture causing weird shadows on my face? Another check.
When it comes to skin discoloration, there’s no one size fits all approach to reducing it. In this article, I will be discussing two types of skin discoloration. One relates more to pigmentation while the other focuses on discoloration resulting from indentation, aka uneven skin texture.
Case One: Hyperpigmentation
This is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when I say skin discoloration. Hyperpigmentation or Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) is any sort of dark spot that occurs on your face. These spots can be white, pink, red, brown, black, or even purple in color depending on your skin tone (1).
Hyperpigmentation is usually caused by factors such as acne, hormones flipping out, and sun damage. I typically notice a dark spot after my pimple has healed. With some wound, irritation, or inflammation of the skin, we produce too much of the protein melanin, which is responsible for the discoloration. Picking at your zit and not applying sunscreen will worsen the dark spot.
It’s important to note that this type of skin discoloration is not considered to be an acne scar because the skin texture remains the same in spite of the color change.
How Do We Treat Hyperpigmentation?
If you’re anything like my parents, they would tell me to leave it alone and it’ll fade over time. Yes, this is true to an extent, but we all know that my patience isn’t the same when it comes to skincare. These dark spots can take months to years to fade away. Some don’t fade away naturally, which is a cruel reality. Luckily, there are certain treatments you can apply to help fade the discoloration.
Does anyone else feel like 2020 is the year of niacinamide? Just me? Well, Hyram and I can agree that niacinamide is such a badass skincare ingredient.
- Tackle sun damage and hyperpigmentation
- Reduce redness and irritation
- Boost Collagen Production
Niacinimide is a rejuvenating ingredient. Disclaimer: niacinamide is often said to brighten the skin, but that does not mean it bleaches your skin. This “brightening effect” is used to describe how niacinamide works against the melanin-fueled discoloration process.
- Tranexamic Acid
Tranexamic acid is a big up-and-coming contender to skincare. This ingredient is a powerhouse in fighting hyperpigmentation. While powerful on its own, tranexamic acid also pairs well with other brightening ingredients such as Vitamin C and kojic acid (2). Avoid mixing with other acids because the combination could be too harsh and drying. It also may be irritating for those with sensitive skin, so be sure to do a patch test first.
- Kojic Acid
Another underrated ingredient! Like niacinamide, kojic acid inhibits the melanin production process, protects against sun damage, and has anti-inflammatory properties (3). Kojic acid combines well with other brightening ingredients and is suited for daily use. Again, be sure to do a patch test to see if it may irritate your skin.
Bye-bye dark spots.
Case Two: Indentation or Acne Scarring
This type of skin discoloration results from acne scarring. Pockmarks, pick marks, acne scars...whatever you want to call those little concave dents in the skin (6). The indentations occur when the deeper level of the skin becomes damaged. The extra collagen produced in the healing process forms scar tissue, which is often mismatching in color with the rest of the skin. While pockmarks can appear even if you let your acne heal naturally, this scarring is especially common when we pop or pick at our pimples.
The bad news is that pockmarks are real stubborn and are unlikely to fade on their own. To this day, I still regret popping that pimple on my nose last year. It’s still there. However, pockmarks aren’t untreatable. There are many methods that we’ve found to reduce the appearance of pockmarks.
Microneedling is when you use a special tool to create tiny punctures to your skin, triggering your body’s natural healing abilities. Although these derma rollers may look scary, the benefits are great. Microneedling can improve the appearance of acne scars by breaking down scar tissue and stimulating new, healthy skin growth.
Microneedling can also:
- Firm up the skin
- Improve skin texture
- Treat hyperpigmentation
There are two routes you can go: ablative laser resurfacing and non-ablative laser resurfacing. Ablative laser resurfacing is more invasive and requires a week or two of downtime. Ablative laser resurfacing removes thin layers of your skin (5), therefore removing the pockmarks with it. Non-ablative laser resurfacing is non-invasive and has no downtime. It works by stimulating collagen production. Both laser treatments have their share of side effects, which include: possible hyperpigmentation, redness, and scarring (ironic right).
Nope, not lip fillers. These facial fillers plump your pockmarks so that your skin will be even. Unlike the above treatments, fillers are more like a temporary solution. Results last several months to several years (5).
- Acne scar subcision
In my sometimes misleading BUT easily understandable paraphrasing: acne scar subcision is when a doctor injects a needle in your skin, wiggles it around to break the scar tissue, and bam the indentations will elevate to join the rest of your skin.
Essentially, subcision works beneath the skin’s surface and cuts away the scar tissue that is holding your pockmarks down. Specialists work on your scars one-by-one, so you may need multiple sessions if you have a lot of pockmarks. The puncture also stimulates collagen production to further improve the appearance of acne scars (4). And unlike with fillers, the results are permanent. After treatment, you will see results immediately, but it’s common to experience temporary swelling and bruising in the following days.
Skin discoloration should not all be treated equally. It’s important to identify the root cause behind your skin discoloration before emptying your wallets. And for the love of God, don’t pick your pimples...unless you pop it properly...we are playing with fire here people.
Written by Jessica Lu