The aging process presents a reality check to one’s sense of self. One day, your reflection is familiar. Another, a total stranger is peering back, and not only do they have wrinkles, they have hyperpigmentation. The presence of dark spots or patches on the skin can appear at any age, but hyperpigmentation is often due to hormonal changes.
Women often experience new or worsening discoloration as hormones fluctuate with pregnancy, but it can also set in toward menopause. No matter the trigger for your skin pigmentation, or the severity, there are ways of navigating these changes over time. Read on for tips, techniques, and treatments that will have your skin looking and feeling its best.
Table of Contents
1. Explore Treatments Proven to Reduce Hyperpigmentation
Treating skin discoloration requires a multifaceted approach to achieve results. While there is no one-size-fits-all fix, there are prescription-grade treatments that address the primary cause of discoloration: excess pigmentation.
Hydroquinone cream is a prescription treatment that limits the amount of melanin your body produces. Melanin, the source of your skin’s coloring, is generally produced consistently. However, when hyperpigmentation occurs, it’s because excess amounts of the substance are released. Because this treatment is so effective, it’s typically prescribed for short-term use and then later re-prescribed in a cycle.
Azelaic acid gel can also be used to reduce discoloration and dark spots. This treatment is safe to use with hydroquinone or after a prescription cycle expires. It’s effective on all skin types and tones, a bonus as discoloration on melanin-rich skin can be tricky to treat.
Tretinoin, a prescription that may already be on your radar for its anti-aging benefits, has a place in treating hyperpigmentation too. Available in various concentrations, this treatment reduces pigmentation, improves texture, and boosts cell turnover, bringing even tones to the surface.
2. Cultivate an At-Home Skincare Routine for Maturing Skin
The way your skin matures will be unique to your skin type, health factors, and lifetime of choices. If you spent a lot of time in the sun in your youth, dark spots and wrinkles may appear sooner. Where you live and your genetics will also influence your rate of aging and the skin changes you experience. No matter what your unique mature skin formula is, there are several at-home skincare routine best practices you can use.
Exfoliation is key to a bright, youthful glow, but it’s especially important when you’re managing hyperpigmentation. Glycolic acid is one of the safest chemical exfoliants to use by those with melasma. Plus, it’s gentle enough to use with hydroquinone and tretinoin, meaning your treatment plan doesn’t take a back seat. Sensitive skin may respond best with a gentle, daily-use chemical exfoliant like alpha hydroxy acid.
Aging skin can often appear dry, thanks to the loss of facial fat and the slowing of oil production in sebaceous glands. While less oil may also mean less acne, it does require skincare pivots. Thankfully, lactic acid, a gentle AHA, gently exfoliates, brightens, and evens dry or sensitive skin without irritation.
3. Make Lifestyle Changes that Support Your Skincare Goals
The lifestyle choices you make show up on your skin, and when poor habits persist, conditions like melasma can worsen. Stress sparks an increased production of the hormone cortisol, which is a normal response to periods of heightened challenges. However, if stress is not managed, too much cortisol can cause major health issues and trigger melasma.
Assess your current lifestyle to determine if stress may be a factor for melasma or other issues you’re facing. If it is, explore how you could reduce stress factors, even just a little. You may not be able to eliminate work-related stress, but restructuring your schedule could help. Establish routines that keep things predictable so your stressful moments are reduced. Practice breathing exercises and meditation too.
Another important lifestyle change involves daily use of sunscreen. Protect your skin from irreversible damage and a melasma trigger by incorporating easy, sun-safe practices. Use a daily moisturizer with SPF, keep sunglasses near your keys, and wear blue light-blocking glasses while using devices. Blue light from your phone or computer also releases damaging rays, making extra exposure tricky. Aim to protect your skin and eyes from excess UV light, which triggers the body to produce excess pigment.
Upgrade your sleep habits too, as a sleep deficiency can result in chronic health risks and worsen existing issues like melasma. Aim to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, prioritizing both a consistent routine and sleep quality. Adopt a wind-down routine. This will help your body adjust or develop a circadian rhythm, making sleeping and waking naturally easy. Use your skincare practice as a pre-sleep milepost to both nurture your skin and settle in for the night. Your body will be well rested, your skin can heal, and you’ll avoid melasma-triggering excess cortisol.
Hyperpigmentation Doesn’t Stand a Chance
Your aging journey doesn’t have to include hyperpigmentation. Explore, sample, and experiment with time-tested treatments and practices to improve your skin despite aging. When you do, your reflection will convey the very best of what experience you’ve earned, without the distraction of discoloration.