Everyone’s skin is susceptible to developing uneven tone and dark spots. Most will, to some extent, with age (don’t worry—more on that below). Everyone has probably experienced a degree of discoloration, perhaps after a particularly troubling pimple? However, Latinx skin is more prone to developing hyperpigmentation.
Keep reading to find out why and what you can do about it, according to the experts.
Meet the Expert
Why Is Hyperpigmentation More Common?
According to Engelman, Latinx Americans and Hispanics are prone to an increased incidence of melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. “Brown skin is more prone to pigmentation because it tends to produce more pigment in response to injury, whether it’s sun damage or picking at a pimple,” Engelman says.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
“When exposed to UV light, the body produces melanin as a measure of self-protection. The immune system remedies some of the damage, but eventually, unfixable buildup starts to accumulate in the form of hyperpigmentation (aka dark spots),” says Kraffert.
Engelman adds that hyperpigmentation can result from several different injuries to the skin. “Dark spots are different from large splotchy areas (those bigger patches around your lips, cheeks, and forehead are called melasma) and they are particularly apparent in people who have faced teenage acne, but a host of culprits—hormonal changes, pimples, rashes, cuts, scars, or anything else that causes inflammation—and sun exposure leads to uneven skin tone.”
How Do You Prevent It?
In a word, the prevention plan is sunscreen. “There is a misconception that just because you have darker skin, sunscreen becomes optional. The truth is that regardless of how much melanin one has, nobody is immune to the sun’s rays,” says Engelman. The derms agree that sunscreen and antioxidants are the most important tools in preventing dark spots. “Antioxidants, whether ingested or applied via topical skin care products, are proven to protect against free-radical damage, including harsh UV rays,” says Kraffert, who also added that in addition to your face, you can’t forget those frequently exposed areas like your neck, upper chest, and hands when applying your skincare products.
To boost skin’s natural defense and keep hyperpigmentation at bay, Engelman recommends Elizabeth Arden’s SUPERSTART Booster + Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum set ($135) and (the editor favorite) SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Acid ($166).
How Do You Treat Existing Spots?
If you already have hyperpigmentation, don’t worry—it’s possible to lighten your dark spots. “Brown spots can be treated with topical creams including melanin production inhibitors like hydroquinone and arbutin to brighten the skin,” says Kraffert. He recommends Amarte’s Aqua Lotion ($55) because it contains arbutin and other skin-brightening botanical extracts.
"I recommend lasers like PicoSure, which targets hyperpigmentation with picosecond and pressure-wave technology (imagine how it shatters tattoo ink into sand size so your body is able to absorb the pigment),” Engelman says. “Also, Environ's Revival Masque [available at dermatologist offices] contains lactic acid (which increases the look of hydration in the skin and is known to lighten the appearance of irregular pigmentation or uneven skin tone) and mandelic acid (which assists in rejuvenating the appearance of uneven, pigmented areas).”
The bottom line? Make sure your routine includes sunscreen, antioxidants, and skin-brightening acids.
Perez M, Luke J, Rossi A. Melasma in latin americans. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011;10(5):517-523.
Fatima S, Braunberger T, Mohammad TF, Kohli I, Hamzavi IH. The role of sunscreen in melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Indian J Dermatol. 2020;65(1):5-10.