Everyone loves their complexion. We also love a more even and glowing complexion. Because of this, we try to find products and oils that help us maintain a glow, or even out our complexion.
One day, you look in the mirror and realize you’re a shade or two darker. You panic (or not; I did sha), you’re scanning every product you’ve used wondering which one is the traitor.
You finally decide on that new cream you bought and chuck it out, well I’m here to tell you that cream might not be completely guilty. You might be the traitor yourself, don’t believe me? Let me tell you a short story.
About 2 years ago I was dealing with severe hyperpigmentation, and I don’t mean spots. No, I mean my entire face and feet were turning almost 2 shades darker.
I’m not exactly light-skinned but you wouldn’t call me dark either. Just in the middle.
So yeah, that was it. Anytime I was in school, I’d turn a shade or two darker but once I got home, give my skin 3 weeks to a month and it’s back to normal.
Now, I knew this was happening because of the sun. But that was the only thing I actually knew. You know what I did to try to solve it? I got this soap with kojic acid and another with carrot extract; I had papaya oil too. I was ready to fend off any sun damage. (this level of naivety🤦️)
As you can guess, my darkening got worse than before.
This was me for 2 years and I did not understand my ‘battle arms’ were causing more problem. By the next year, I found out something that eliminated every issue of hyperpigmentation for me.
It’s very basic, but I was too uninformed to realize it before and now I’m telling you just in case you’re making my mistake.
Questions to ask yourself
Am I stressed?
Are any of the products I use acidic?
Am I on any medication?
How long do I spend in the sun?
DO I USE SUNSCREEN OF SPF 30 and up? (I was using one cream which claimed to have UV protection)
Am I pregnant?
Am I darkening to my original tone? (If you previously used a lightening agent)
How Often do I exfoliate my body? (Not just your face)
Am I using a night cream or oil during the day?
If your answer to any of these questions was a yes, you’ve found your problem.
Let’s talk hyperpigmentation…
Hyperpigmentation is characterized by a noticeably darker portion of your skin compared to your normal skin tone. This occurs when there’s an overproduction of melanin in the epidermis than normal. Although hyperpigmentation is usually harmless, it’s very common and not what a lot of us want to live with.
The Fitzpatrick scale classifies skin according to melanin production and reaction to sunlight. According to Thomas Fitzpatrick, the darker the skin (more melanin) the easier it easy to tan or in other words get darker. We might not be able to experience sunburn as Nigerians abi Africans but our skin tans easily, prolonged exposure to sunlight without protection is an invitation to hyperpigmentation.
The major reasons for hyperpigmentation or skin discolouration include:
When you continuously expose your skin to the sun without the necessary protection, our melanocytes become overactive and try to make more melanin than normal to protect us from the harsh rays. This, in turn, leads to you getting darker and skin discolourations.
Hormonal Imbalance (or Melasma)
This is another common cause of hyperpigmentation, especially in pregnant women. It is common in pregnant women because, at that point, their hormones are ‘everywhere’ and it leads to an overproduction of melanin. This results in darker patches of skin/complexion. Other things that can contribute to melasma include contraceptives and sunlight.
Although this is a bit different from our key focus, it is another cause of hyperpigmentation. Dark spots or patches usually develop after injuries, pimple and other skin inflammatory conditions have healed. I talked more on this here.
Mixing the wrong ingredients with sunlight
If you’re using something like lime/lemon or any product containing retinoids, kojic acid, carrot extract, hydroquinone, and the likes, be rest assured you’re increasing your skin photo-sensitivity (i.e more reactive/sensitive to the sun). This makes you get darker or tan when exposed to sunlight.
Ingredients that increase photosensitivity
- Citrus Essential Oils
- Kojic Acid
- Benzoyl Peroxide
- Papaya Extract
- Carrot Extract
- AHA and BHA – glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids
Now, this is quite a list, and I highlighted ingredients you’re better of using at night for those that can’t give up everything here during the day. This isn’t all, but these are the major abi most common. Honestly, I think I should have highlighted everything. This is why sunscreen is really important for us blacks because it might not affect us in the form of burns, but it will with hyperpigmentation.
It’s funny what can fade hyperpigmentation can also cause it.
- Toxic or harsh chemicals
- Reaction to Medications (e.g. antimalaria, antibiotics, etc)
- Hidden medical condition
How I maintained my skin tone
The first thing I did was to get a lotion with SPF 30.
After that, I also got the Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Sunscreen. You can find this on Jumia or here
Next, I switched out my papaya soap (Extract) for Dettol pink glow. It’s a really nice soap btw. I use Avila black soap for my face or Beauty Formula Facial Tea Tree Wash.
I still exfoliated 3 times a week and masked twice a week. That didn’t change.
My Vitamin C serum didn’t leave my routine either.
I made umbrellas and UV protecting sunglasses my best friends.
Simple and short, I became a lot more conscious and careful with my skin and sun. If you think you’re black and it can’t affect you? Think again.
What You Should Do to Maintain Your Tone
First of all, I won’t tell you to ditch your soap and run to the nearest shop and buy Dettol Pink Glow (although it’s really awesome). What I stated above isn’t even my skin routine at home (besides the SPF), that’s strictly for school when I know I get a lot more sun exposure.
If you’re getting darker and you’re using products with any of the ingredients above, don’t stop! I know, weird, but don’t. Those are practically the only things that can help you. What you should do is…
STEP 1: Get a sunscreen right now if you don’t have one.
Look for one with ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium oxide, avobenzone. If you have oily/acne-prone skin, stick to a gel formula sunscreen. Apply it every 2 hours and if you have makeup on, the spray one will do just fine. You could also buy makeup with SPF.
STEP 2: Categorize your products.
Which is for the day and which is for the night? A clear giveaway that we can use a product during the day is if it has SPF or any UV protection. That still doesn’t mean it replaces sunscreen though. Anything I highlighted red above should be strictly for night use only, or when you know you won’t be out in the sun.
STEP 3: Find an Antioxidant Bestie/Besties.
Antioxidants are great for the skin, they help repair our skin, brighten the complexion and minimize signs of ageing. Some include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Niacinamide, Resveratrol, Retinol, Flavonoids, etc.
Mine are Honey–Flavonoids, Olive Oil – Vitamin E and Vitamin C.
STEP 4: Exfoliate your skin
On an average, our skin takes 28 days for cell turnover/ renewal. This is the process of bringing a brighter and new complexion. Cell turn over equally aids fading of hyperpigmentation. As we grow older, this process takes longer than 28 and that’s where exfoliation takes place. Besides the fact exfoliating your skin could help minimize the appearance of pores and reduce blemish, it also aids cell turn over. Regular exfoliation 2/3 times a week can help if you struggle with hyperpigmentation.
STEP 5: Embrace Sunshades
From umbrellas to sunglasses and any other form of shade you can find, embrace it. If you see the sun is particularly scorching today and you need to head out, don’t feel weird carrying an umbrella. You could also wear wide-rimmed hats.
STEP 6: Avoid Stress
You might not believe it, but when your stress level is high and you’re out of flow mentally, it can manifest on your skin. A healthy, happy and stress-free mind equals a glowing, dull-free and happy skin. Try to do anything you know can help you relax and relieve stress.
Although the cause of hyperpigmentation is not limited to UV rays, it’s a major factor with us blacks due to our skin tone. This is why it’s essential to watch your products and protect your skin. Secondly, if you’re pregnant, there’s really nothing to worry about. Melasma, another reason for hyperpigmentation is commonly referred to as the mask of pregnancy.
Have you had a similar experience like mine? Would love to hear it 😃