If you suffer from uneven skin tone, rest assured that you’re not alone. “Uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation is often characterized by skin discoloration and is a result of an overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin and hair color,” explains cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green. “This overproduction of melanin often occurs unevenly which results in dark spots and patches.”
While common—a form of hyperpigmentation called melasma impacts approximately five million people in the United States and has a prevalence rate of 40% in some populations—anyone who has ever dealt with this issue has probably wondered how to get even the skin tone on their face. Here’s everything you need to know.
What Causes An Uneven Skin Tone?
There are many factors that contribute to uneven skin tone, according to Dr. Green. These include:
According to Dr. Green, hormonal fluctuations can cause an increased risk of hyperpigmentation, especially in the form of melasma. “Many individuals may experience this while taking oral contraceptives or during pregnancy,” she notes.
For some people, an uneven skin tone is as simple as a genetic predisposition. “Individuals are more prone to uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation based on their family history,” Dr Green says. “For example, there is a strong hereditary component to the hyperpigmentation disorder melasma with half of the patients reporting a positive family history.”
The tone of your skin might make you more likely to develop hyperpigmentation. “Individuals with darker brown skin are more likely to develop an uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation since they naturally have more melanin,” Dr. Green says.
Sometimes, a dermatologist or other skin expert might use a laser treatment that isn’t suited to your skin, which can lead to uneven skin tone. “If laser treatment is used on a skin tone that it is not well suited for, it can result in skin discoloration or hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Green says. “This is often because the energy or heat of the laser is too high for a particular skin tone and your body reacts by increasing melanin production.”
Steps to Even Your Facial Skin Tone
What can I do to brighten my face? How can I fix discoloration on my face? How can I prevent uneven skin tone? Dr. Green shares some answers to these questions and steps you can take to help even out skin tone:
Step 1: Start using sunscreen
Before thinking about the steps you should take to even out your facial tone, start by using sunscreen to prevent further damage. “Always use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and above daily and to reapply every two hours,” Dr. Green says.
Step 2: Use a vitamin C serum
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that inhibits melanin synthesis by downregulating the activity of the enzyme tyrosinase, Dr. Green says. “This will help fade hyperpigmentation that may appear as sunspots, age spots, and melasma.”
Step 3: Try a retinol
Known for its anti-aging benefits, retinol can help even out skin tone, too. “Retinol inhibits the activity of tyrosinase which helps to lighten the skin while also improving the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, which can help make skin look more even.”
Step 4: Consult a board-certified dermatologist to discuss cosmetic procedures
If you’re not getting the results you want from your skincare products, consider consulting a professional. “Consult with a board-certified dermatologist. Several cosmetic procedures can help like the Cosmelan Peel, Fraxel Laser, AlexTrivantage Laser, Clear + Brilliant, Chemical Peels, and more,” Dr. Green says.
Other Facial Skin Tone Treatments
Here are other things you can do to achieve an even skin tone on your face:
Vitamin C serum is a great natural treatment option for uneven skin tone. “As a strong antioxidant ingredient, Vitamin C can combat the negative effects of harmful free radicals in the environment that contribute to the development of the signs of premature skin aging, including hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Green says. “Vitamin C also helps to inhibit melanin production in the skin, thus brightening overall skin complexion. Additionally, Vitamin C plays a role in the synthesis of collagen in the skin. By promoting skin cell regeneration and inducing the production of collagen, vitamin C improves both the texture and tone of the skin.”
The most important lifestyle measure you can take to even the skin tone on your face, Dr. Green says, is sun protection.
“Everyone should wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above regularly because it is one of the best and easiest ways to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation and prevent hyperpigmentation,” she says. “Pregnant women, in particular, should be diligent in applying sunscreen regularly. During pregnancy, it is common for patients to suffer from a skin condition known as melasma. Melasma often results due to hormonal fluctuations and presents itself as patches of skin that are darker than the patient’s natural skin tone. Sun exposure can worsen melasma and any hyperpigmentation so wearing sunscreen is especially important”
While you should always talk to your dermatologist about which procedures might be right for you, Dr. Green says chemical peels, laser treatments, and other procedures can be helpful when it comes to evening out skin tone. But as mentioned above, the wrong treatment can actually worsen hyperpigmentation—so make sure to have a thorough conversation beforehand.
How Can You Prevent an Uneven Skin Tone?
The very best thing you can do to prevent uneven skin tone? It probably won’t come as a surprise at this point, but you should apply sunscreen.
“The best thing you can do for your skin to prevent uneven skin tone from occurring or worsening is to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above daily and reapply every two hours,” Dr. Green says. “Sunscreen is great for protecting against hyperpigmentation that is a result of sun exposure. Excessive sun exposure will result in an increase in melanin production in the skin which ultimately manifests as hyperpigmentation.”
Long story short: Hyperpigmentation, otherwise known as uneven skin tone, is common—but there’s a lot you can do to make it less visible and protect your skin from further damage.
*All referenced results are based on an 8-week U.S. clinical and consumer study.
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*information is taken from The Skincare Source.