Skincare professionals know that a lot can happen to clients’ skin over the summer. Perhaps you’ve got a client who is hesitant to sunscreen, or a regular whose skin gets super dry in the warmer weather. One skin issue that tends to rear its head each summer is hyperpigmentation, a common and usually harmless condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. The darkening occurs when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces skin color, forms deposits within the skin.
According to New York-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, people who are prone to hyperpigmentation tend to continue to be prone to hyperpigmentation, so it’s not just something to think about during the summer. But before beginning to take care of hyperpigmentation, it’s important to identify your client’s dark marks correctly. Here are three causes of dark marks that could be causing your client’s hyperpigmentation.
- Lentigos: Commonly known as sun spots, lentigos differentiate from freckles because freckles lighten up in the winter while lentigos stay the same shade all year round. These are primarily caused by sun exposure over the years, but they can also be caused by pollution, infrared heat (hot yoga, food warmers, space heaters, some blow dryers) and visible light rays (iPad, computer screen).
- PIH: Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation is essentially a stain left over after inflammation dies down, for example when a mark is seen on the skin which is left after a pimple heals.
- Melasma: Melasma looks like someone took tan or brown paint and splattered it on their skin. It is primarily seen on the forehead, cheeks, and upper lip as a result of estrogen or hormones, plus sunlight and heat.
Once you’ve determined what you think might be the cause of your client’s dark marks, you will be able to recommend the appropriate course of action for correcting them. Bowe suggests developing a year-round routine that incorporates antioxidants into both the diet and skincare routine to help clients achieve radiant and hyperpigmentation-free skin.
“It’s really a lifelong commitment to keep it under control,” says Bowe. “Sunscreen is key, but it only protects against 50 percent of free radical damage and we now know that free radicals from pollution, IR heat, and visible light (as well as UV rays), can lead to hyperpigmentation. It’s essential to get antioxidants in your diet and your skincare. One key ingredient to look for is Vitamin C, but not all Vitamin C formulas are created equal in terms of stability and bioavailability—meaning the ability of the active ingredients in a particular product to be absorbed by the skin so that they can have their optimal impact.” Bowe recommends looking for products that use multiple stable forms of Vitamin C, like the BioLumin-C Serum from Dermalogica.
Remember, if something on your client’s skin looks suspicious or unusual, it is best to recommend them to a dermatologist for a doctor’s diagnosis.