Meet the Expert
- Dendy Engelman, MD, is a board-certified and nationally acclaimed dermatologic surgeon.
- Craig Kraffert, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the president of Amarte.
Why Is Hyperpigmentation More Common?
According to Engelman, Latinx Americans and Hispanics are prone to an increased incidence of melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. â€œBrown skin is more prone to pigmentation because it tends to produce more pigment in response to injury, whether itâ€™s sun damage or picking at a pimple,â€ Engelman says.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
â€œWhen exposed to UV light, the body produces melanin as a measure of self- protection. The immune system remedies some of the damage, but eventually, unfixable buildup starts to accumulate in the form of hyperpigmentation (aka dark spots),â€ says Kraffert.
Engelman adds that hyperpigmentation can result from several different injuries to the skin. â€œDark spots are different from large splotchy areas (those bigger patches around your lips, cheeks, and forehead are called melasma) and they are particularly apparent in people who have faced teenage acne, but a host of culpritsâ€”hormonal changes, pimples, rashes, cuts, scars, or anything else that causes inflammationâ€”and sun exposure leads to uneven skin tone.â€
How Do You Prevent It?
In a word, the prevention plan is sunscreen. â€œThere is a misconception that just because you have darker skin, sunscreen becomes optional. The truth is that regardless of how much melanin one has, nobody is immune to the sunâ€™s rays,â€ says Engelman. The derms agree that sunscreen and antioxidants are the most important tools in preventing dark spots. â€œAntioxidants, whether ingested or applied via topical skin care products, are proven to protect against free- radical damage, including harsh UV rays,â€ says Kraffert, who also added that in addition to your face, you canâ€™t forget those frequently exposed areas like your neck, upper chest, and hands when applying your skincare products.
How Do You Treat Existing Spots?
If you already have hyperpigmentation, donâ€™t worryâ€”itâ€™s possible to lighten your dark spots. â€œBrown spots can be treated with topical creams including melanin production inhibitors like hydroquinone and arbutin to brighten the skin,â€ says Kraffert. He recommends Amarteâ€™s Aqua Lotion ($55) because it contains arbutin and other skin-brightening botanical extracts.
"I recommend lasers like PicoSure, which targets hyperpigmentation with picosecond and pressure-wave technology (imagine how it shatters tattoo ink into sand size so your body is able to absorb the pigment),â€ Engelman says. â€œAlso, Environ's Revival Masque [available at dermatologist offices] contains lactic acid (which increases the look of hydration in the skin and is known to lighten the appearance of irregular pigmentation or uneven skin tone) and mandelic acid (which assists in rejuvenating the appearance of uneven, pigmented areas).â€
The bottom line? Make sure your routine includes sunscreen, antioxidants, and skin-brightening acids.
Perez M, Luke J, Rossi A. Melasma in latin americans. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011;10(5): 517-523.
Fatima S, Braunberger T, Mohammad TF, Kohli I, Hamzavi IH. The role of sunscreen in melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Indian J Dermatol. 2020;65(1): 5-10.