The agony of finding makeup to cover acne scars and blemishes for many of us is a nightmare. Not to mention the endless layers of concealer, BB creams, foundations, finishing powders, blushes and beyond that it takes just to give us the appearance of an even skin tone. But what happens when those of us facing hyperpigmentation wash away our "made up" even toned face?
We face our dark spots.
Miami-based dermatologist Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd is a renowned dermatologist and has treated hundreds of women (and men) for hyperpigmentation, discoloration and dark spots. Here she shares with EBONY.com readers how she treats her patients’ hyperpigmentation and offers her personal product recommendations that may just help you kiss uneven skin goodbye, for good.
EBONY: Dr. Woolery-Lloyd, why is dark spot scarring more prominent in people of color?
Dr. Woolery-Lloyd: People of color have more melanin, and it’s more reactive to sunlight. The inflammation causes more melanin to produce, which essentially causes hyper pigmentation.
EBONY: What is your advice on treating hyper pigmentation?
Dr. Lloyd: When people treat dark spots, they tend to get halos, which means the skin around the spot gets lighter. Treatment has to be more localized, so you have to get the active ingredient just on the spot. Certain spots are deeper, such as those from burns, so it’s hard for the active ingredient to get to the spot. Death of melanin is hard to treat as well. It’s much easier to treat spots that are made sooner opposed to a cut from four years ago. I try to give my patients realistic feedback, so I always tell them that it may get better, but since pigment is deeper, it is harder to treat.
EBONY: What are the most common products used to treat hyper pigmentation?
Dr. Lloyd: The most common treatment is two percent hydroquinone. It is highly effective, but has side effects. It can be irritating to the skin. It’s a quick fix and not long-term treatment. With prolong use; lets say years, you can get darker skin called ochronosis, which is a paradox darkening of the skin if there is a lack of sun protection. In studies, hydroquinone has been linked to lymphoma, but it has never been linked to any cases of cancer. I usually treat my patients dealing with acne with hydroquinone for four-six weeks, but only on spots, not the whole face. I never use it as a long-term treatment.
I usually use natural ingredients such as soy, licorice, vitamin C and a few others to treat long-term hyper pigmentation. Completely removing hyperpigmentation can take longer, anywhere between six months to a year. For eczema, I use natural products and lotions to treat spots without irritation and drying.
EBONY: What about treating body hyperpigmentiation?
Dr. Lloyd: Treating hyperpigmentation on the body is a bit tough because the skin is a lot thicker. I usually use multiple therapies for my patients. I use AmLactin, which is an exfoliator to rid dead skin that has 12 percent lactic acid. Use it twice a day, everyday, to remove dark areas on the elbows and knees. To avoid darkening skin in those areas, adjust your position, so that you’re not always resting on your elbows and knees.
Removing dark spots on the inner thighs, neck and underarm is very hard to treat because the skin is more sensitive due to skin constantly rubbing against skin. Using a product as AmLactin frequently can irritate the skin. It could be used, but only once or twice a week, along with a mild dark spot corrector or soy moisturizer. Darkened skin between the thighs is usually caused by friction from thighs constantly rubbing together, so options to avoid that would be weight loss, using powder to help with the friction, or wearing a slip to stop the thighs from rubbing together. To help avoid darkened underarms, I would recommend laser hair removal. It usually disappears, or patients see a 50 percent difference. Most people have a low-grade nickel allergy and since nickel is in shaving razors, most women experience darkened skin from the razor. So no longer shaving is another way to avoid darkened underarms.
EBONY: Do you have any tips or advice for preventing hyperpigmentation?
Dr. Lloyd: The key is to treat hyperpigmentation early, so that you can prevent it. Wear sunscreen everyday, because sunscreen reduces dark spots. Wearing hats in the sun, staying in the shade, preventing acne breakouts and using cortisone cream on bug bites before inflammation starts are other ways to treat it as well. Never forget the power of prevention. I want to put a strong emphasis on wearing sunscreen. We have to remember that as people of color, our aging factor is hyper pigmentation, but wearing sunscreen everyday can prevent that.
Learn more about Dr. Woolery-Lloyd at www.drwoolerylloyd.com.