Pigmentation can become more pronounced in the summer months due to the high UV index. Follow these simple steps to manage your pigmentation during the summer months.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation refers to spots or patches of darker pigmentation than your natural skin tone. This gives your skin an overall uneven tone. Most people reach for makeup for good coverage. Believe me, I was one of them! Why? Because a more even skin tone is seen as a sign of good health. But, why not invest in good habits to reduce the appearance instead of covering it up.

What happens on UV exposure?

The most powerful trigger for pigmentation is exposure to UV radiation. When you are exposed to UV radiation, hormones are released by the body to act on melanocytes within the skin. They stimulate these pigment-producing cells to release enzymes, tyrosinase, being a key enzyme. The enzymes promote melanin production. Melanin absorbs the UV radiation protecting the skin from its harmful effects. However, sometimes the UV exposure triggers an overproduction of melanin.

The melanocytes normally distribute the melanin they produce evenly into skin cells giving them pigment. Overproduction of melanin leads to an uneven distribution of melanin amongst the skin cells resulting in spots or patches of pigmentation.

Other factors that can stimulate this pathway are the release of stress hormones (cortisol), excess oestrogen, and inflammation within the skin.

Hyperpigmentation can be due to 3 main reasons:

  1. Sun Damage: Long-term exposure to UV radiation leads to the formation of freckles and sunspots which can later join up to form larger patches.
  2. Melasma: This is a skin condition presenting as patches of pigmentation found symmetrically on the face. The main trigger is UV exposure on a background of genetic predisposition and/or hormonal influence. The most common causes are pregnancy and the use of oral contraceptive pills.
  3. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: These are areas of darker pigmentation brought about by previous trauma to the skin. Although the commonest cause is acne, skin treatments can also trigger it. This condition is more common in darker skin tones.

    Sun Damage


    Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

    sun spots
    post-inflammatory pigmentation

    How to manage your pigmentation?

    When it comes to management, I recommend 4 steps to combat pigmentation:


    1. Protect the skin from UV radiation
    2. Exfoliate to increase cell turnover
    3. Reduce the level of inflammation
    4. Inhibit melanin production

    Protecting your skin from UV radiation

    This is the most critical step. Sunscreen should not be reserved for occasional use on beach days but used daily. UV radiation, responsible for ageing and pigmentation of the skin is present throughout daylight hours which is longer in the summer months. Don’t be fooled by a cloudy sky or rain. These harmful rays can easily penetrate rain, clouds as well as the windows in your car or house.

    Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen and reapply every 2-3 hours 365 days a year for your skin to begin healing. Some ingredients in chemical sunscreens may irritate your skin. So avoid them if you are prone to pigmentation.

    Remember that although your skin manufactures Vitamin D from UV exposure, this does not have to be your facial skin. An exposed arm or leg to direct sunlight for 30mins per day is sufficient. Alternatively, you can look at daily supplements. In fact, WHO recommends daily Vitamin D supplementation especially in skin of colour.

    Exfoliating your skin

    Exfoliating your skin helps to shed away pigmented skin cells at the surface and stimulate the skin to speed up healing. This can be done chemically or physically. However, as physical exfoliants can be harsh on the skin, I recommend chemical exfoliants. Examples are alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic and lactic acid and beta-hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid. These are often incorporated into cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturisers as well as home peels.

    Having in-clinic chemical peels is a very potent way to exfoliate your skin achieving faster results. Superficial peels can be safely performed in the summer months as long as you maintain your sun protection.

    Protecting your skin from inflammation

    Inflammation triggers pigmentation so reduce inflammation to manage pigmentation. Anti-inflammatories work in two ways in skincare. Firstly these ingredients reduce the production of inflammatory agents within the skin. Secondly, they provide a barrier mitigating any damage from UV radiation. Common anti-inflammatories are resveratrol, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.

    Inhibiting melanin production

    The reduction in melanin can be achieved in 2 ways. Firstly the production can be curbed. Secondly, the distribution can be restricted. Some ingredients primarily block the production while others stop the distribution. A few ingredients are capable of doing both. 

    The gold standard ingredient for reducing pigmentation is hydroquinone. As the most potent inhibitor of the tyrosinase enzyme, it is able to work alone or in combination with other ingredients to produce impressive results. It is however unsafe to use long-term without giving the skin a break every 3-4 months. Thus, it is only available as a prescription-only-medication to be used under a doctor’s guidance in the U.K.

    Other ingredients that inhibit melanin are arbutin, kojic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide (Vitamin B3), L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), licorice root extract, retinol or retinoic acid (Vitamin A), and cysteamine.

    All of these ingredients can be safely used in the summer months. In fact, it is crucial to use them when the skin is vulnerable during periods of high UV levels. They will help to nourish your skin and protect it from further damage. Using these before having deep chemical peels or device-based treatments such as lasers or microneedling will help prevent post-treatment hyperpigmentation.

    Considerations for pigmentation treatment

    Your skin is unique and what works for someone else may not work for you. It is best to have a consultation to find the right treatment for you, one that fits your budget and time commitments. Some treatments require downtime and this may not be suitable for everyone. Whatever you choose, be patient with your skin. The pigmentation takes years to appear on the surface and so the reduction will require time and commitment.

    If you are looking for an effective treatment for pigmentation concerns in Billericay, Essex, you can book a consultation via the link below.

    Dr Tash Kanagasabai

    📱07825 999 144 or 

    ☎️ 01277 549 006

    💌 drtash@skinenhanceclinic.com

    Website: Book an appointment

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