How Skin Experts Treat and Beat Their Own Hyperpigmentation

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Once you get on the melasma and hyperpigmentation train, it feels like you’re never going to get off. The flare ups come and go and can be triggered by sun exposure, heat, hormones, medications and genetics. Finding the right treatment plan is a puzzle that involves trial, error and trying almost anything. To find out what really works, we tapped top skin experts who treat themselves with the same meticulous approach that they apply to their celebrity clients. Here, the treatments, products and methods the pros are using to treat their own pigment concerns.

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Washington D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD

“My favorite recipe for hyperpigmentation is the following: Protect during the day with a topical antioxidant like the A Method C Antioxidant Gel 20% ($118) and tinted mineral sunscreen like the Revision Skincare Intellishade Truphysical Tinted Moisturizer ($80). Then, repair at night by alternating a retinol-containing product, I like the Sentè Bio Complete Serum ($118) with topical tranexamic acid like my Advanced TX Lightening Elixir ($94).”

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Celebrity aesthetician Veronica Barton Schwartz

“In the 70’s, deep dermabrasion was done only by plastic surgeons. I had one dermabrasion treatment that helped my hyperpigmentation left over from having cystic acne. Dermabrasion along with Retin-A helped clear my skin. Retin-A not only helps with hyperpigmentation, but it also strengthens the skin by building collagen and elastically. Even though it isn’t technically an exfoliant, it does increase cell turnover. This will bring hyperpigmentation to the surface, where it can be sloughed off by microdermabrasion, and other exfoliators. Another product on the market that I recommend is SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense ($98). It helps with brown patches and post-acne marks.”

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New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD

“I have melasma after my pregnancies, and anyone who has melasma knows that once you have melasma, you’ll always have melasma. During times of the year that I am more exposed to the sun, I always use tranexamic acid to decrease pigment production. I use SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum ($154) as my moisturizer which contains tranexamic acid. I always use a sunscreen that is not only specific UVA/UVB specific, but also one that blocks visible infrared light, such as products that contain iron oxide. Another favorite product is Cyspera Intensive Pigment Corrector ($185), which I use as a short contact everyday maintenance on spots that are prone to melasma. During the fall months I start my customized melasma protocol, which starts with a strong TCA peel and incorporates lasers, prescriptions and skin care. This protocol is ideal for anyone struggling with melasma because it addresses the root cause and treats the pigment in a multitude of ways to keep it at bay long term.”

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Celebrity aesthetician Shani Darden

“I’ve been dealing with melasma for several years now. First and foremost, I use my Retinol Reform ($88) most nights to help even my skin tone. In the past I have also used prescription topicals such as a hydroquinone and tretinoin mix along with an annual Coolaser treatment. However, last year I was prescribed an oral tranexamic acid to help with it as well which was overall the most effective treatment for me. Tranexamic acid works by inhibiting melanin production, which helps to minimize the appearance of melasma over time. Additionally, I always make sure my face is shaded from the sun when I’m spending time outdoors. I wear an SPF of 50, along with a wide brim hat and huge sunglasses when I’m outside. I like to keep my face cool with a fan or even by spritzing water on my face as well which is a key part of preventing melasma from coming back.”

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Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine B. Downie, MD,

“I treat my own hyperpigmentation with VI peels every other month, the Lutronic Lase MD laser and the Fraxel Re:store laser. I use the Total Defense + Repair SPF 50 by SkinMedica ($68) every single day and I reapply the Colorescience Sunforettable Brush-On Sunscreen ($69) in tan over it several times a day. I take Heliocare ($30) twice a day from April to October and once a day from October to April as an oral photo protective agent. I also like the ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen ($60) and I use that over my regular sunscreen when I am out running. I am very serious about my melasma/hyperpigmentation!”

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Tammy Fender, holistic aesthetician and founder of Tammy Fender Skincare

“I recommend managing hyperpigmentation though a combination of holistic peels and ultrasonic treatments in the spa, focusing on carefully resurfacing the skin, and followed by an at-home regimen focused on skin-brightening, and including the Purifying Cleansing Gel ($55), Essential-C Tonic ($60) and Luminous Morning Crème ($95), each blended with potent citrus essences. In managing hyperpigmentation, you are working with the skin both at the surface and at deeper layers, so I love using peels and ultrasonic to help lift away dullness while also introducing a regimen of citrus-infused formulas to encourage natural brightening.”

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Celebrity aesthetician Nerida Joy

“First, I am a 61-year-old with a very fair skin and freckles all over my face. I have always dealt with freckles and melasma when I was on birth control or pregnant. People tend to overdo overdo the strong peels, lasers, hydroquinone, and retinol which tends to upset the melanocytes, leading to more pigment and a never ending cycle. My approach is to stop all the strong treatments and feed your skin flavonoid nutrients like arnica, vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin C. Get the skin hydrated and healthy before even attempting to treat the hyperpigmentation. Once it’s healthy, now start with the arbutin, licorice root extract, kojic acid and mild AHAs like the Rejuvi (g) AHA Cream for sensitive skin ($44). It’s a process and you cannot be impatient.”

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