Skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation) is a common but challenging skin problem. While it is not a life-threatening problem, it can destroy a person's self-confidence. There are various causes, but the good news is that there are several treatment options available that can help. Many over-the-counter serums may help improve the appearance of your skin if they contain the right ingredients. Read on to learn which ingredients can help fade your dark spots the best.
Serums are oil-based or water-based liquids that are applied topically and contain high concentrations of potent active ingredients to deliver superior results quickly with consistent use.
Skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation) is a common skin problem caused by the production of excess pigment (melanin).
There are numerous ingredients available on the market that, over time, can help fade dark spots effectively, such as retinoids, vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids, and niacinamide.
Many ingredients in these skin discoloration serums can cause side effects and may be contraindicated in some patients with certain medical conditions.
If these over-the-counter skin discoloration serums do not help or you do not see any improvement, discuss professional creams and treatments with your trusted dermatologist.
What is a serum?
Serums are oil or water-based liquids that contain a high concentration of active ingredients. They are light and absorb easily into the skin. Serums can target a multitude of skin issues, like hydration and anti-aging. They work best when applied after washing your face but before moisturizing to maximize penetration.
What is skin discoloration?
Skin discoloration, also known as hyperpigmentation, occurs when the body produces excess pigment (melanin). This excess melanin can change the skin to different shades of brown. Discoloration can appear due to various causes, such as sun exposure, scarring, acne, rashes, burns, surgery, infection, and medical conditions (melasma).
Ingredients that fade skin discoloration
Many ingredients on the market can fade skin discoloration. However, they can take several months of consistent use to see their full effects. Some work faster than others, and some work best together with other hyperpigmentation-fading ingredients. It is also critical to use proper sun protection and sunscreen with your skin discoloration serums to prevent worsening your hyperpigmentation.
These ingredients include:
- Vitamin C
- Alpha-hydroxy acids
- Koji acid
- Tranexamic acid
Benefits of skin discoloration serum
In addition to fading skin discoloration, many of these ingredients offer other benefits. For example, vitamin C will lighten dark spots but also stimulate collagen production to fight wrinkles. Niacinamide will lighten the skin and soothe irritation, which makes it ideal for patients with sensitive skin. That is why reading the ingredients list on the back of products is so important. The right product with the correct combination of ingredients will give you more bang for your buck.
How to use skin discoloration serum
You can apply skin discoloration serums every day to your skin as tolerated. If you have sensitive skin, you may have to slowly build up to using it once daily by starting out every other day. Some ingredients, such as retinoids and alpha-hydroxy acids, can be irritating if you do not start slowly. However, others, like niacinamide, are gentle, and you can start using them every day.
Also, you can only use retinoids and hydroquinone once daily, while the other ingredients are twice daily. Using them more frequently will only irritate your skin. Hydroquinone should only be used for a short period of time because extended use, in certain skin types, can cause hyperpigmentation.
It is best to apply skin discoloration serums after you wash and tone your face, but before moisturizing. This will give the serum the ability to penetrate deeply so you get the best results. If you apply them after your moisturizer, the serum will not penetrate as well.
How long does it take for skin discoloration serum to work?
Even though serums contain high concentrations of active ingredients, it still takes time to see the full effects of skin discoloration serums. Patience and consistency are the keys to success with skin care. Often times it can take 4–12 weeks of consistent use for the benefits to be visible. You must incorporate good sunscreen and sun protection habits into your routine. This will help accelerate the process of fading the dark spots and keep them away. Exposure to the sun will darken the spots.
Risks of skin discoloration serum
As with any product, there is the risk of side effects. One of the risks that patients rarely consider is over-lightening the skin. This is especially important for patients with darker skin types. Overuse of the products will remove too much of your pigment, so instead of dark spots, you will have white spots. It is best to discuss lightening your dark spots with your dermatologist first before starting any new products.
Other side effects include:
- Burning sensation
Who should not use skin discoloration serums?
Many of the ingredients in skin discoloration serums may not be suitable for all patients. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should avoid using any products that your doctor did not authorize. Patients who are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant soon, or breastfeeding should not use retinoids.
If you have sensitive skin, some of these ingredients may be too irritating, such as retinoids. If you are concerned, try a test spot first to see if your skin will tolerate it. Also, you should discuss them with your dermatologist first. They may be able to recommend better ingredients or products for you. For example, niacinamide may be a better choice to lighten your dark spots if you have sensitive skin.
Other options to treat skin discoloration
If you have consistently used skin discoloration serums for several months and have not seen any improvement, do not despair. There are other options available. You may need something stronger or professional treatment. It is best to have a consultation with your dermatologist and discuss your options.
Other options for skin discoloration are:
- Prescription-strength creams
- Laser treatments
- Micro needling with or without platelet-rich plasma or platelet-rich fibrin
- Chemical peels
Skin discoloration affects many people and can take time to fade. Numerous skin discoloration serums on the market can help improve hyperpigmentation, but it takes time, patience, and sun protection. You should discuss your condition with your dermatologist first before trying any products. They can guide you towards the best ones for your skin, so you can get the fastest, best results.
- Planta Medica. Plants and Natural Products for the Treatment of Skin Hyperpigmentation - A Review.
- American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. Effects of Topical Retinoids on Acne and Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation in Patients with Skin of Color: A Clinical Review and Implications for Practice.
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Understanding Melasma-How Can Pharmacology and Cosmetology Procedures and Prevention Help to Achieve Optimal Treatment Results? A Narrative Review.