A few months ago, I was a verifiable skin junkie – I had a top shelf to rival a celebrity make-up artist, and my skin more often than not glowed, in an appealingly prominent way that invited compliments. I unequivocally credited this to my loving and complicated routine, and happily doled out recommendations to my friends as if I myself was a practising dermatologist.
Then, early last year came a massive roadblock – acne. Much to my horror and embarrassment, none of my pain-stakingly acquired knowledge seemed to clear the angry spots that would cycle through my face two at a time like happy lovebirds on a tandem bike ride. After a year of deep-diving into every single potential aggravating factor and slowly clearing up my acne, I’ve been left with a good ol’ bucket of hyperpigmentation that try as I may, I cannot pass off as cute freckles. Hyperpigmentation is that stain on your favourite shirt that you just can’t tackle. It can come from birth control hormones, pregnancy or is the result of trauma to the skin which leaves a scar – often after pimples.
While there is no Oxyaction + for your face, there are no shortage of treatments and magic potions out that that claim to restore you to the youthful goddess you were before you picked that spot on your chin. Figuring out which brands were genuine and which were just paying lip service to consumers became my latest skincare obsession, and I whittled down the competitors to a Best/Runner Up in three important categories: Best Acid Treatment, Best Toner and Best Vitamin C serums ahead for a gentle and long term approach to dealing with hyperpigmentation.
NOTE : If you have severe hyperpigmentation than you might need to consider a visit to a dermatologist and look into Cosmelan treatment. But if you are still in the early days of pigmentation than read on. You’ve come to the right place.
The Best Daily Treatment: Sunday Riley Good Genes
It’s a cult classic for a reason! It tingles on contact, and it’s key ingredient is purified Lactic Acid (an AHA) which exfoliates dead skin. It’s one of the least irritating AHA treatments I’ve tried, and Lactic Acid is typically less drying than it’s sibling Glycolic Acid. Most people notice an immediate difference, but this product is in it for the long haul.
Runner up: Mizon 8% Peeling Serum
Another acid treatment that makes a verifiable difference to hyperpigmentation. It works in a similar way to Good Genes, but uses a higher concentration of Glycolic Acid to exfoliate. A mild disadvantage is that it is more drying and needs a good layer of post-treatment moisturiser. Major plus is that it’s a fraction of the price! No rationing required.
Best Exfoliating Toner: Pixi Glow Tonic
Already cemented in the skin care hall of fame, there is a reason this glycolic acid toner is a staple. It is far less irritating to sensitive skin than most treatments, and an easy slip in to any skin care routine. Let me tell you: this stuff works. Like works. After a graze on my nose left me with a nice, stubborn scar, I turned to Pixi with a prayer in my heart and boy did she deliver. Less than two months on and the scar was a barely noticeable shadow, and Pixi became one of my few re-purchases.
Runner Up: Some by Me – AHA BHA PHA Miracle Toner
This one is also great if you are still trying to zap away niggly spots. It has tea tree and witch hazel which have anti-bacterial and oil-absorbing properties, but is somehow still moisturizing. It glides on so smooth with a cotton pad, that it’s almost ritualistic. Depending on your current skin type- this might be a safer bet than Pixi – If you have open or broken skin, or even just acne that gets irritated or inflamed, this one wont sting!
Best Vitamin C Treatment – Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Vitamin C works, and this serum is one of the best formulations I have tried for normal-dry skin. Topical vitamin C also helps interfere with further pigment production. My pigmentation looked much lighter after a month. There are a few things you need to check when buying Vitamin C’s – and DE have done their due diligence. Appropriate packaging means the serum won’t be compromised by sunlight. Don’t be fooled because it is a day-serum, it still needs an SPF protectant.
Runner up: Aesop Lucent concentrate
Lucent is a great serum for layering, it’s light and absorbs quickly, I’m a sucker for a silky smooth application, and Lucent delivers. While I often shrug Aesop off for having great packaging but products that are consistently shown up by others on the market, Lucent is a good quality vitamin C. Anecdotal evidence (me and my friends gabbing about our skin care obsessions) suggest that it does have a positive effect over time!
* While there are no retinoids on this list, they can also be very effective and the skincare market is positively saturated with them. From The Victorian Cosmetic Institute, “Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and they work in a number of ways to help reduce pigmentation. The actual mechanism of action is not clear, but it is thought that their depigmenting properties arise from inhibition of the enzymes causing pigmentation, dispersion of pigment granules in the top layer of skin, and also by accelerating skin turnover to help pigmented skin cells shed more quickly.”A good guide for beginners in Caroline Hirons YouTube series – but note: when using a retinoids – don’t mix it with acids because you risk of overstimulating and irritating your skin.
banner image | Jamie photographed by clara pafundi for sauce
WORDS | RACHAEL MACHADO