Every now & then I like to republish this article for my many followers who deal with hyperpigmentation & inquire about my skin care routine. The blog post is currently about seven years old — but my core principles are timeless….
Grab a cup of tea, a big bowl of (ThisThatBeauty’s fav) popcorn, glass of vino, yummy cocktail, or what ever it is you reach for when you settle in for a good read. This article promises to be the longest post in ThisThatBeauty history.
I am often approached regarding my exact skin care routine. I must confess. This is an extremely difficult question to answer for a number of reasons:
1) Everyone’s skin is different and the results I achieve may or may not be similar for your sweet little face.
2) My skin care routine changes from season to season…and when I say “season to season” I am not referring to weather. I am referring to my different “skin seasons”. For example, there’s the “acne season”, where my primary focus is managing my annoying adult acne. There’s the “dry season” where I incorporate products that help remedy excessive dryness. Currently my skin is in “hyperpigmentation season” so my routine is very heavily and aggressively focused on remedying the dastardly dark spots that have taken up residence on my otherwise pristine (I kid) mug.
3) I regularly (and cheerfully) review/test/and flip flop from product to product….and allow me to clarify what I mean by “flip flop”. I only flip flop from product to product after I’ve used for the recommended time frame (usually 4-8 weeks). If there’s no adverse reaction, I generally stick with a product until its used up. I then write a review and decide to re-purchase or move on to the next one. However, I should note that even though I regularly review and switch products, there are certain skin care principles that are constant (more on that later).
4) My overall skin care routine is somewhat extensive. Just ask @KatAragon. We recently roomed together in LA and she lovingly poked fun at my diligent day and evening skin care rituals…but she also all but licked my face and marveled at how smooth and even my complexion is. (I kid about the licking, but I could tell she wanted to-LOL).
So for reasons 1 through 4, it is hard for me to give an exact run down of what my skin care routine is….No two faces are the same, my skin issues and products change often, and my overall routine is quite intense…I’ve actually seen eyes glaze over when I’ve tried to explain it all.
The main focus of this article is my current “skin season” – HYPERPIGMENTATION, which is in bold and spelled out in caps to signify that I am yelling the word at the top of my lungs. Hyperpigmentation is no joke! It makes me feel angry, sad, insecure…and basically unpretty. So for this article I will share with you, the intimate details of my struggle with hyperpigmentation and the products I am currently using. Once I am through this particular “skin season” some of the products will likely change.
Before getting into the actual products, I have to take a small step back and talk a bit more about my overall skin care routine. As I’ve already said, my routines are “skin season” specific and change often. HOWEVER HOWEVER, there are CORE PRINCIPLES that are constant….cleanse, tone, eye cream, treat issues, anti oxidant serum, sunscreen, special treatment masks, regular facials and regular dermatologist visits.
I generally tend to favor gentle cleansers. I am usually on some sort of topical medication for acne management (currently using Evoclin foam) so I steer clear of harsh cleaners that will possibly conflict. However, the cleanser must clean deep enough to control my excessive sebum and oil production. A few of my fav cleansers include:
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser – It is super gentle and does no harm.
KISS MY FACE Exfoliating Face Wash – Don’t let the word “exfoliating” scare you. The formula is gel-like with no bits or particles. The cleanser gently uses the power of natural fruit acids to exfoliate the skin. Lemon Grass Oil is incorporated as an anti-inflammatory and astringent. Antioxidant Green Tea repairs damaged skin.
Lancome Creme Radiance – This clarifying cream to foam cleanser contains antioxidant White Lotus and soothing Rose de France to penetrate deeply without drying out the skin. I always feel brighter after using.
GRN Blue Chamomile Cleanser – Certified Organic Extracts of Chamomile, Rosemary and Green Tea. This gentle cleanser provides deep cleansing without harsh chemicals. It does not dry or irritate my skin.
So you see, I mainly use cleansers that are gentle and free of harsh irritants. My cleansers do rotate from time to time, but GENTLE is key for any cleanser I use. In addition, my Clarisonic Skin Care Brush is a staple. This brush is working miracles in my skin….*cue the parting of the sea and the conversion of water into wine*
This brush saves lives! I bought my first Clarisonic a few years back when Lady O (not Michelle, Oprah) touted the brush as one of her fav things. The brush flew off the shelves like Free Pancake Day at IHOP, but I was lucky enough track one down (and was later rather unlucky because I left it at a hotel and was forced to buy a replacement). For some odd reason I abandoned using the brush…bad move. During a skin care convo with my sister from another mister – Adri, she encouraged me to get back on my Clarisonic grind. I charged up the super sonic brush and have not looked back. My skin is, at this very moment, the best it has been in a long time. Regardless of the different cleaners I rotate, my Clarisonic skin care brush is a staple.
The next step of my skincare routine involves the use of a “gentle” toner. There’s that word again, “gentle”. My current favs are all awesome with a capital “A” because they are non-drying, contain no alcohol, and help to restore my skin’s balance after cleansing:
Chella Refining Tonic – Contains zinc and pomegranate. Is gentle and refreshing. The yummy pom scent is a bonus!
Renee Rouleau – Moisture Infusion Toner, Revitalizing Ginseng Toner, and Balancing Skin Tonic are my favs.KISS MY FACE Balancing Act Facial Toner – (Description from KISS MY FACE) Tone and nourish skin with organic ingredients. Revitalize tired skin with this blend of certified organic grapefruit, orange, ginger and lemon balm essential oils and extracts. Seaweed extract provides trace minerals while antioxidants Ester C® and Vitamin E help fight the signs of aging.
Again, the trend is “gentle” yet effective!
The last few steps in my general routine include acne medication, serum, eye cream, SPF, special treatment masks, regular check-ins with my derm, and somewhat regular facials.
And now, getting back to the main focus of this article, the next few products in my routine are formulated specifically to address my current “hyperpigmentation season”.
Are you surprised that I stated there will be a “few products” required to address hyperpigmentation? Well don’t be. Often times we expect one miracle product to solve our issues. I wish! The reality is that good skin takes a concerted and continued effort.
While this post is intended to share with you the products I am using to win my personal battle against hyperpigmentation, I also want to express my opinion that a lot of folks out there are slackin’ on their skincare pimpin’ and expect one miracle product to improve your skin. Girlfriends, I am here to tell you that if you are not properly addressing your skin from all angles, don’t expect the two or three hyperpigmentation remedies I’m about to recommend to work for you.
For example –
- If you’re sleeping in your makeup….your skin is filthy and not properly repairing itself so don’t expect these products to work for you.
- If you are not using sunscreen daily (preferably SPF30)…. don’t expect these products to dramatically diminish your hyperpigmentation.
- If you do not properly exfoliate…do not expect these product to magically transform your roughness.
Am I making myself clear:) Good skin care is a multi-pronged approached. Whipping your skin into shape is serious business, kids. I highly suggest that you evaluate all aspects of your regime and not just place a band-aid. I am taking the time to highlight my core principles of skin care because I want you to understand that it takes a certain level of sustained commitment to achieve your desired results.
So having said ALLLLLLLL that (Whew, momma’s tired), I now want to share with you the products that I am currently using to address my hyperpigmentation. But remember, overall good skin care habits in conjunction with these products is the route that ThisThatBeauty wholeheartedly recommends.
I did not always have post acne hyperpigmentation. When I was in my early twenties and first started breaking out (Hello Adult Acne), my pimples usually healed without leaving a trace of its existence. This is no longer the case. I went through a terrible breakout phase last summer. The pimples were often cystic and extremely painful. After months of a couple pimples here and a couple pimples there, my face transformed from relatively blemish free to a face full of dark spots.
To occasional breakouts like these (NSFW):
Which eventually led to lots of dark spots like these (DOUBLE NSFW):
I even ended up in my derm’s chair for cortisone shots:
With the help of great concealers by Cinema Secrets, Make Up For Ever, CoverFX, and BECCA, I was able to conceal the dark spots with minimal effort. But that was a band-aid, not the solution. The products I am recommending in this post are tried and true skincare solutions!
First and foremost, not to beat a dead horse because I already mentioned my Clarisonic in this post but ….hats off to my Clarisonic skin care brush. Its sonic technology gently and effectively cleanses my skin, clears pores, and really helps to improve my tone and texture. Everything about my skin improved once I started back using my Clarisonic skin care brush. Without proper cleansing, environmental stressors like pollutantion, oil and bacteria accumulate on the skin, clogging pores which causes blackheads, blemishes and dullness. Clarisonic’s gentle cleansing and massage help to prep my skin to better absorb my skin care products. In a study Clarisonic reported that after cleansing with their brush, skin showed a 61% improvement in the absorption of Vitamin C. They claim that skin becomes clean, clear and smooth—allowing skin to experience the full benefits of serums and moisturizers. I co-sign. The proof is in my gorgeous glowing skin….and did I mention I bought two Clarisonic brushes? Yea, its that serious!
For daytime I use Kiehl’s Highly Effective Skin Tone Corrector (KHESTC). This has been a staple in my anti-hyperpigmentation arsenal. I’ve been using for over four weeks and already see significant improvement.
KHESTC is formulated with a blend of antioxidants and acids that help to lessen the appearance of dark spots, sun spots, and uneven skin tone. KHESTC does not contain Hydroquinone. Instead it is made of a unique blend of Glycolic Acid, Emblica Fruit extract, and HEPES which KHESTC claims is as effective as 2% Hydroquinone and a safer, gentler combination of ingredients to achieve almost similar results.
Emblica Fruit extract contains a large amount of Vitamin C which serves to protect the skin from sun damage, promote collagen production, reduce inflammation, and help repair damaged skin. It is a natural antioxidant, which means it eliminates free radical damage to the skin. Emblica extract also works as a skin lightener. HEPES is an organic chemical buffer and acts as a hydrating agent to the skin. HEPES helps to eliminate roughness. It is as powerful as Glycolic Acid.
Glycolici Acid, a long time friend of mine, is essential because it works to dissolve the outer skin layer, breakdown hyperpigmentation, and reveal fresher looking skin. Glycolic Acid also helps to even out skin tone and improve texture/scarring.
I like that KHESTC is a corrector and antioxidant in one. That’s very important because it cuts down on the need for a separate antioxidant serum. The product comes in a gel like formula which is quickly absorbed into the skin. My one complaint about the product is the packaging. The metal tube oozes product long after you squeeze and dispense. This leads to the wasting of product. Here’s how I worked around this annoyance…I squeeze less than I need and allow the tub to ooze out additional product. Does this make sense? [UPDATE: KHESTC has been discontinued but try Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution instead]
After applying KHESTC, I follow up with a healthy slathering of Clinique Even Better Skin Tone Correcting Moisturizer SPF20. I am eternally grateful to my beauty blogger bud who was kind enough to give me her press sample of Clinique Even Better Skin Tone Correcting Moisturizer SPF20. I had heard buzz from several friends in the industry that the moisturizer is effective in correcting hyperpigmentation. I used the product every morning for about 6-8 weeks and noticed that my dark spots were beginning to fade. Over time they became less and less obvious. After going through one full sized container, I rushed out and purchased another. I continue to use it today.
In the evenings, for the last 2-3 weeks, after cleansing, toning, eye cream, and Evoclin, I have been applying Murad Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Gel. Once again, I have my sister from another mister, Adri, to thank for turning me on to this product. I was complaining that I need another product in my anti-hyperpigmentation arsenal and she suggested stepping up my game with Murad Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Gel. NOTE: Your Hyperpigmentation might not require a treatment for day and a treatment for night….but you saw my pictures. I did not have time to play games. I should disclose that Murad contains 2% Hydroquinone. Momma’s not hear to judge, but merely inform. My dark spots, in my opinion, require a product like Keihl’s that’s safe for daytime use…AND a product like Murad’s that’s highly effective for evening use. Once my spots fade a bit more, I will transition off of the Murad because I don’t want to use a product with hydroquinone for an extended period of time. You definitely need to think long and hard about the severity of your hyperpigmentation and then choose a product accordingly. Consult your dermatologist…which is actually a very important step that I won’t spend too much time on today. But see your derm…I do, regularly. Over the counter products can be expected to do but so much. I usually get regular facials and Silk Peels (but I haven’t made time for either since starting this new regime…bad girl!).
After applying Murad, in lieu of a night cream I rotate between one of two Vitamin C serums. In the evenings I alternate between Mario Badescu Vitamim C Serum and MD Skincare Hydra Pure Vitamin C Serum. Both contain potent doses of Vitamin C and have proved effective in diminishing my dark spots. Sometimes I skip the serum and go straight for Creme de La Mer.
I am incredibly pleased with the improvement I am seeing in my skin. If my skin remains on its current course, I hope to slay the hyperpigmentation beast and be blemish free by summer.
Hyperpigmentation is no joke! In my day to day as a makeup artist and beauty writer, I often come across women who struggle to remedy their hyperpigmentation. Often times in our insecure moments of weakness we purchase some random snake oil in hopes that we’ll wake up looking like new money. This is almost never the case, love bunnies. You must commit to improving the overall health of your skin. And that has everything to do with how you care for your skin from sun up to sun down and from “skin season” to “skin season”. Make the investment!
This is an extremely personal post for me. I went back and forth in my head debating whether or not to leak my “un-pretty” photos. In the end I decided to share my photos/experience and pour hours into writing this post because I want to help other women in the hyperpigmentation struggle. I want to arm you with the information and resources to improve your skin. Be empowered! I also want you all to know that you’re not alone…ThisThatBeauty’s been there too!
Please share this post with your girlfriends, aunties, roommates, etc. I hope this extremely long article is in some way helpful!
Please share your thoughts! Have I helped…or run-on for way too long? Leave a comment:)