When shopping for products to eliminate hyperpigmentation on the skin's surface, Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip stressed that it's important to keep in mind the best brightening agent or product will contain a blend of multiple ingredients. The type of product you use — be it a serums cream, cleanser, spot treatment, or oil — also plays a role in its effectiveness.
Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip and Dr. Nussbaum both agree that serums are superior. "Serums are products that are designed to deliver high concentrations of specific ingredients, and as such, they are extremely effective vehicles for delivering skin-brightening products to the skin," said Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. Not only do they typically contain a larger quantity of the brightening agent, but by formulation, they're better at addressing skin concerns like scars or dark spots. "Serums are generally thin and penetrate easily, therefore quickly absorbing the ingredients," said Dr. Nussbaum. "Serums can also be easily targeted to small areas of skin."
But that's not to say that a brightening moisturizer or lotion isn't worth using. It should just be used in conjunction with a powerful brightening serum. "Moisturizers typically have a lower concentration of active ingredients in order to be able to massage it in to a larger surface area without risking contact dermatitis or irritation," said Dr. Nussbaum.
How to Determine the Potency of Your Skin-Care Ingredients
"The best way to determine the potency of a skin-care product is to look at the ingredient list. If you are looking for a vitamin C product and vitamin C appears at the bottom of the ingredient list, then you are not really getting a potent vitamin C product," says Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. Just like the packaging on food products at the grocery store, ingredients are listed in order of strength or amount in the product. "The most abundant ingredients appear at the top of the ingredient list."
Other Tips for Brightening Skin Discoloration, Hyperpigmentation, and Dark Spots
Retinol, both prescription and over-the-counter, as well as chemical peels and specific laser treatments performed by a professional can be great for brightening an uneven skin tone, too.
"Chemical peels are excellent to treat skin discoloration as they can exfoliate superficial pigmented dead skin cells and also incorporate skin-brightening ingredients which can penetrate deeper," said Dr. Nussbaum. "Lasers are excellent at treating skin discoloration by breaking up the pigment and creating microcolumns of destruction that can then be expelled such as in the fractionated lasers."
"Regardless of what product you choose, sunscreen is always a must-have. The sun exacerbates all types of hyperpigmentation," said Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. Skin-brightening ingredients, laser treatments, chemical peels, and retinol can also increase skin sensitivity to the sun, making sunscreen all the more important.