Your Guide to Pigmentation

Sometimes we need to see to believe. I remember understanding on an intellectual level, from a young age, that the sun is bad for my skin, but I didn't really get it on a visceral level until I saw this picture. It may seem that my skin is relatively clear, but there is a lot of hidden sun damage creeping underneath. Pigmentation problems in the skin take some time to surface: and these are often not immediately visible to the naked eye. 

First a definition (or a few): hyperpigmentation is caused when melanin (what gives our hair and skin color) is overproduced in certain spots on the skin, causing them to look darker than your natural skin tone. There are a couple of common causes—age spots on skin that is often exposed to the sun; melasma, often as a result from birth control hormones or pregnancy; and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which happens after a pimple, bug bite, or other trauma to the skin once it heals and leaves a mark behind.

When thinking about hyperpigmentation, it's best to break it down into three categories: prevention, topical treatments and clinical options.  While you can’t undo past skin follies or alter your genetics and hormonal status that have stained your complexion, there is plenty you can do to fight the ravages of sun and age and wipe years off your appearance. As always, knowledge is power.


It goes without saying, but I'll state it anyway:  Daily application of SPF will help shield skin from UV light to control melanin production on a cellular level. It can even help lessen the appearance of hyperpigmentation triggered by hormone fluctuations (such as melasma) or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (scarring). Religious sunscreen to keep the UV rays off is a good start – but it’s insufficient to keep the spots away. Adding in an antioxidant or vitamin C serum doesn't hurt either. Studies suggest adding antioxidants to your daily regime will complete your defense against skin-wrecking infrared radiation, pollution and free radicals, too. A perfect example of beauty and brains, Sloane Inc. BB powder has SPF50 reinforced with antioxidant fullerene (a product of advanced nanotechnology) to combat ageing environmental forces, acne and unwanted shine throughout the day. Not only does the Crystal Tomato oral whitening supplement shield every inch of skin from within with powerful natural antioxidants, it calms spot-triggering inflammation and reduces production of brown-black melanin to give you a fair, rosy glow from top to toe.

Fighting Melanin Synthesis 

The sooner you treat hyperpigmentation, the faster it will fade, so begin using skin-brightening products as soon as a wound has healed. Start at the drugstore. "Ingredients like Vitamin C, Licorice root, AHA, Arbutin and Kojic Acid help reduce hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme responsible for the formation of skin-darkening melanin. 

Tyrosinase Inhibtor: The Sloane Inc White Plasma uses novel synergistic brightening combinations without AHAs, hydroquinone or retinoids to target existing spots, reduce new pigment production and boost overall radiance of the skin. This formula is powerful yet gentle enough for pregnant women, post laser, eczema skin and other sensitive skin conditions.  This ultra-concentrated, quick-absorbing formula targets age, sun and dark spots with a dual-function approach: first, it immediately corrects discoloration and evens skin tone with vitamin C and tyrosinase inhibitors. Then it helps you retain your newfound radiance with skin illumination factors. 

Optimizing Cellular Turnover with AHAsSloane Inc. Lightening Complexion Corrector is a starter potion with AHA that gently casts off stained cells by optimizing skin renewal. It naturally and safely banishes hyperpigmentation with powerful holistic lighteners that synergistically work to fade discoloration caused by sun damage, blemishes & scarring.  

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)—primarily in the form of lactic acid and glycolic acid—are the most researched forms of AHAs because they have a molecular size that allows effective penetration into the top layers of skin. It is generally assumed that in and of themselves AHAs in concentrations of 4% to 15% are not effective for inhibiting melanin production and won't lighten skin discolorations in that manner. Rather, it is believed that their benefit is in helping cell turnover rates and removing unhealthy or abnormal layers of superficial skin cells (exfoliation) where hyperpigmented cells can accumulate. However, other research has shown that lactic and glycolic acids can indeed inhibit melanin production separate from their actions as an exfoliant on skin.

Either way, there is a good amount of evidence that in combination with other treatments—such as hydroquinone, tretinoin, and, of course, an effective sunscreen—AHAs can be very effective for improving the overall appearance of sun-damaged skin and possibly helping other ingredients penetrate skin better. 

Remove Uneven Pigmentation: This skin-lightening product takes a cocktail approach to treating brown spots and similar discolorations caused by sun damage. The lightweight, thin lotion texture contains an impressive amount of niacinamide along with stabilized vitamin C, two ingredients with good research supporting their ability to improve discolorations. Also on hand are retinol and licorice root, which also have research confirming their ability to lighten discolorations, among other benefits. 

To further target isolated tough spots, Sloane Inc. Instant Pigment Corrector combines a potent tyrosinase inhibitor with vitamin A, which increases penetration and sheds pigmented surface dead cells.

If you’re an ingredient-list reader and would like a stronger alternative, be on the lookout for hydroquinone. Often used as a prescription-strength brightener, it’s available over the counter in lower percentages. These are powerful formulas so you  have to be careful with it. That being said, in high concentrations hydroquinone can cause sun sensitivity and may bleach the skin, so you need to be sure your dermatologist is monitoring the treatment closely.

Clinical Assistance
For more serious cases, always consult a dermatologist for advice.  Certain in-office treatments can seriously accelerate and improve the erasing process. The benefits, prices and recovery process vary.

Chemical Peels or Microdermabrasion: In-office fruit acid peels and microdermabrasion (about S$200) are your least expensive options to lighten milder and more superficial pigmentation (freckles, sun spots, post-acne marks) by exfoliating the skin’s surface so that you shed darkened areas more quickly. Multiple 2 to 4-weekly sessions are required, but many find these treatments very helpful in improving their acne, oiliness and enlarged pores at the same time.

The newer and deeper-penetrating Cosmelan peel (up to S$1000) is a concentrated hydroquinone-chemical peel mask applied at a doctor’s office, left on for 6 to 8 hours and washed off at home. It includes a two-week skincare regime. This helps deeper pigmentation like melasma, or more severe sun damage with spots and lines. Expect mild redness and flakiness for a 3 to 4 days post-procedure, but generally results rival the faded pigmentation and smoother texture you’d find after 3 months on a dedicated retinoid regimen.

For deep stained-in splotches such as melasma, Brilliant Skin Program employs Fraxel laser to bring about deep dermal renewal that improves both resistant and hidden spots, along with collagen rejuvenation for the radiant clarity and supple smoothness even sun-kissed skin would covet. The Divine Whitening Program takes an alternative approach with Pigment Laser to neutralize excess pigment for a fair, flawless translucency many Asian ladies dream of.  It also combines the legendary Pigment Laser and Vitamin Therapy to gently yet effectively target pigmentation, brighten overall skin tone and boost collagen replenishment without imposing any downtime.


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The Skin Radar is an online avenue which documents my tumbling thoughts, ideas and musings from my daily life, mainly based on skincare and beauty. It is designed to take the clutter out of beauty journalism to provide trustworthy and objective insights, new finds and sneak peaks- all in a beautiful and clean platform.

I test all products & treatments with age and skin colour in mind, break down the latest health fads, and source for expert opinions from international skincare leaders. All in all, my goal is to make sure that I am on top of every beauty innovation and skincare trend the world has to offer.