Hyperpigmentation Skin Care Routine for Dark Skin

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Skin of Color vs Caucasian Skin

Melanocytes are packets of cells that contain the pigment called melanin. With skin of color, these melanocytes are huge, whereas with caucasian skin, they are tiny. That is why with skin of color, these melanocytes get triggered so easily due to its large size while caucasian skin melanocytes are not prone to pigmentation. And that is the main difference between a caucasian skin and brown/asian/dark skin tones.

How Pigmentation Happens

Melanocytes are the packets of cells that have the pigment melanin. The next layer of cells above the melanocytes is called Keratinocyte which are the skin cells. Melanin enters the Keratinocyte cells and reaches the surface of your skin where the pigment becomes visible on the skin. The amount of time it takes for melanin pigment to reach the surface of the epidermis (top layer of the skin) through the Keratinocytes is about 30 days.


This entire layer is just 0.5mm to 1mm thick. That is why when you peel the skin, you see immediate temporary results because what you basically did with using a chemical peel is that you took away all the keratinocyte skin cells which had melanin in them. And suddenly your skin looks brighter.


That’s temporary brightness because the melanocytes are going to trigger the melanin production again and reach the surface of your skin 30 days later. You have not yet fixed the melanocytes by reducing the rate of melanin production in the melanocyte packets, the pigmentation is going to come back again in 30 days. All you did was clear the top layer of the skin, without really treating the root cause.

How to reduce Melanin Production

Tyrosine -> L-DOPA -> Melanin

In order to control the rate of Melanin production from Tyrosine, we need Tyrosinase Inhibitors that reduce the rate of melanin production.

Why Pigmentation Happens

Pigmentation can happen due to internal or external factors like:

  • Acne
  • Hormonal Pigmentation (puberty or pregnancy)
  • UV Damage
  • Bite
  • Scratch
  • Burn
  • Irritation

When any of the above happens, inflammation happens. The inflammation in the skin triggers melanocytes which start to produce too much pigment (melanin).

Cause of Melasma

The cause of melasma is UV Damage. When your skin experiences chronic UV radiation on the skin, it leaves free radicals on the skin which trigger the melanocyte.


Even if the UV radiation does not lead to development of free radicals on the skin, the skin will still experience inflammation due to the sun radiation which again triggers your melanocyte packets.

Dermal Pigmentation

Increase in enzymes damages the base membrane in our skin which leads to Dermal Pigmentation. It is the worst form of Pigmentation that is extremely difficult to fix. Sunscreen is extremely important.

Best Actives for Pigmentation with Dark Skin

The key to finding the right active ingredients for treating Hyperpigmentation in skin of color is to pick an ingredient that is the most effective with the least irritation.


  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Niacinamide
  • Azelaic Acid
  • Octadecanoic Acid
  • Phytic Acid
  • Ferulic Acid
  • Licorice Extract
  • Mulberry Extract
  • Kojic Dipalmatate (instead of Kojic Acid which can be irritating for skin of color)

The Skin Care Routine for Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin

  1. Cleanse with Simple Micellar Facial Gel Wash ($10 | 150ml)

Simple Micellar Facial Gel Wash Cleanser

Recommended By: Dr. Vanita Rattan

  1. Cosrx Foaming Cleanser ($10 | 150ml)

COSRX Foaming Cleanser

Use Simple Micellar Gel Wash first and then Cosrx Foaming Cleanser for your double cleanse.

Recommended By: Dr. Vanita Rattan


  1. The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA ($11 | 30ml)

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% with Hylaronic Acid

  1. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($8 | 30ml)

The ordinary Niacinamide 10% zinc 1% for acne scar treatment

  1. The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate ($12 | 30ml)

The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% Vitamin C

  1. The Ordinary Azelaic Acid

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension

  1. Moisturize using Cetraben Cream ($17 | 500g)

Cetraben Cream thick moisturizer bottle

Thick moisturizer.

  1. CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 ($12 | 75ml)

CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 The Best sunscreen

Common Mistakes While Treating Hyperpigmentation in Dark/Brown Skin

Glycolic Acid Peel

Glycolic Acid peels are the most standard treatment however the glycolic acid contains extremely tiny molecules that go right into the deep layers of skin and create hot spots or burn in the areas that they hit. With dark skin types, this could lead to inflammation and eventually more hyperpigmentation.

TCA Peels

These should never be done on asian/brown/dark skin. This can lead to severe pigmentation.

Laser Treatments

Laser Treatments involve an energy beam that hits the skin in the form of light. This energy heats up the water in the cell, and the cell will either repair itself or be damaged.


A visible light, an infrared light or UV rays - any form of energy to the skin of color can trigger our melanocytes.


This is a very powerful Tyrosinase Inhibitor. As we mentioned earlier, we need tyrosinase inhibitors to reduce the rate at which our melanocytes produce the pigment melanin. When you use Hydroquinone, you get amazing results because you completely block your melanocytes by using this.


The problem is that the pressure built by controlling the Melanocytes is too irritating for skin of color. You can only use Hydroquinone for as long as 3 months because if you use more than that, it is going to damage your skin anyway. Once you come out of Hydroquinone use, you have already angered your melanocytes with all that pressure, which is when a rebound pigmentation occurs which is worse than what you started with. Hydroquinone is too aggressive for skin of color. Avoid it by all means.


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Table of contents

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