How to combat hyperpigmentation 101: How to really fade those spots (super long + detailed)
Also, whenever I stress about how „bad“ my skin looks, it just gets continually worse as the psychological impact can be quite strong. I accepted the fact that I have good skin weeks and worse ones but that’s totally okay because I have a routine that I can adjust accordingly.
To really help your skin fade the hyperpigmentation, two things are incredibly important and go hand in hand: lightening products such as AHAs and vitamin C and sunscreen (we’ll talk about that in step 3 and why AHAs can only do its work with efficient sun care.)
But back to the topic: AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) are the best weapon to even out your skintone and have been widely used for therapy of photodamaged skin. My personal favorite to this day is the Papa Recipe White Flower Clear Up 8% AHA Gel (click for review and see direct before&after) as it has been the only one gentle enough for my skin. I have tried the AHA gels from COSRX and Mizon (see picture above) but both left my skin more irritated than anything, however I did include them here as I know many readers have had really good experiences with either or both of them. They just didn’t work for me and the COSRX scent is honestly the worst, I couldn’t deal with it at all. The Papa Recipe doesn’t dry my skin out at all and feels really comfortable to „wear“. Plus, one bottle easily lasts you like a year! (the one I bought in the winter is still half full)
So I’ve been using the Papa Recipe AHA for over half a year now and in combination with my sunscreen, has had a tremendous positive effect on my skin. It helps to keep the acne at bay but is not enough to combat the acne on its own, so I usually use the Papa Recipe AHA for 3-4 days in a week, a BHA for 1-2 days a week, sometimes the duac gel when I feel a break-up sneaking up on me (usually right before that time of the month….) and give my skin a break every few days/once a week to do it’s own thing. So my usual routine is mostly 2 days AHA, 1 day BHA, 2 days AHA, 1 day just hydration and then BHA….or something like that. I just go along with how my skin feels and adjust this routine accordingly. Sometimes I use the AHA 4 days in a row when my skin feels particularly rough or none at all for a few days or just BHA, there really is no golden rule here except observe and listen to your skin. 🙂
Also, I used to use vitamin C very religiously every night until….I didn’t anymore. I just never ordered a new one when I ran out and I don’t have that much time most mornigs/evenings so I kinda stopped. I did use it for a long time though and even though the results were not as good as the ones I got from religious use of AHAs and sunscreen, I really liked to use it and will likely order a new one in the future. I have to admit though: Even though it did not do any big lightening wonders for my skin it did give me a certain glow that I am missing now. If I had to chose though or if you want to spend money on just one item, I would vote in strong favor of any AHA over vitamin C for my personal experience. If you have the money though, it’s a nice little extra kick for your skin to be the best it can.
AHAs and BHAs are wonderful warriors, however, they can only do half the fight alone. There is no use of exfoliating your skin but not protecting the skin underneath. AHAs especially make you more susceptible to burning and the long term damage that comes from burning (hyperpigmentation) so in order to avoid that you will want to up your sunscreen game. Truth is, if you already have hyperpigmentation daily sunscreen use is probably the most important thing you can do to really fade the marks,
What happens when you’re out in the sun without protection is that the UV radiation can be too much for your skin to handle, so the skin reacts in a build up of darker cells that act as a protector in that specific over-exposed area (= melanin). As a result, marks that you already have cannot fade or are even getting worse as the melanin inside your skin tries to protect it by building itself up. Sunscreen use is problematic for many people as 1) they don’t really see drastic results in a short span of time 2) think they don’t need it as it’s „really not that sunny today anyways“ 3) they break them out or leave a greasy white cast. However, the trouble of finding a working sunscreen is really worth the trouble – not only for your skin’s appearance, but also in terms of preventing skin cancer and signs of aging. (I’d like to tell myself that I still get carded for booze because of my youthful looking skin and not because of my moon-like baby face and crazy hair colors..)
Anyways! In order to protect all the hard work you put into your skincare, establishing a good suncare regimen is essenital to fading hyperpigmentation and preventing the building of new one. After much trial and error for around 1 1/2 years I found that chemical sunscreens alone don’t help me much when it comes to fading acne marks. I’ve been using the Biosolis Extreme Fluid SPF50+ for around a year now on and off – it’s a pure (Western) physical sunscreen and while it’s not as cosmetically elegant as (Asian) chemical sunscreens, it did a way better job at helping those nasties fade.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect: I use the Biosolis physical sunscreen in order to protect my skin and it does an impeccable job, however, it is a lot more thick than my beloved Asian sunscreens, leaves quite a white cast (not that that would be a problem for little white ghost me but I would really not advise it for anyone darker than NC20-25 :/ ) and feels more greasy. It is manageable under make-up if you wait long enough for it to sink in but let’s be honest – who has that much time? What I usually do is use my favorite Asian sunscreens from either Biore or Hada Labo (see picture above) daily, let that absorb while I make coffee and then put the physical sunscreen on top only where my hyperpigmentation is the worst (my cheeks). This way I get the protection where it’s most important without sacrifying too much time most mornings. Please note that mixing sunscreens on top of each other can be problematic depending on the ingredients, but the combination with Hada Labo and Biosolis has worked well for me but I try to wait as long as possible between the application.
And that’s really all that is to it. Here is my full before and after with approximately 1 – 1 1/2 years in between from cystic acne to mostly healed and faded skin:
Also see here and here for a bigger resolution of in-between steps. I am definitely happy that I took all those painful to look at pictures because it is so much more easy to track my own progress and to figure out what works for me. If you’re unsure if you’re making progress, take pictures and compare them! Don’t do it too often though as it can be very discouraging – I took pictures only once a month and tried to be consistent with the light source as it can make your skin look vastly different/worse than it really is. Also, don’t be too discouraged if you don’t see any progress sometimes. It happens.
Also, if anyone is still reading (is there..?) a very concise update about why I haven’t been blogging for the longest time: Broke up with my long term boyfriend, had to move in with my cousin for a while, started my first real adult job while working 50+ hours, moved into my first own apartment but didn’t have internet for the longest time – have my own 2-room apartment since July and a really cute girlfriend, so all is well now. Thank you everyone who emailed me about being okay I REALLY appreciated it. It was just a really crazy time for me and I’m doing better now and look forward to blog more regularly like I used to, I missed it a lot!
If I missed anything important in this post, feel free to ask away in the comments! Thank you for being patient and I hope this will be helpful to someone 🙂
Lots of love,