When it comes to treating women of color, hyperpigmentation—dark spots, acne scars and dark patches—is their top skin care concern. “Asian, Latina and African-American skin are all prone to hyperpigmentation because the melanocytes are larger in these skin tones, cover a greater area and produce more of the pigment melanin,” says Shani Darden, celebrity esthetician.
Because the melanocytes respond to inflammation or injury to the skin by producing more melanin, it causes a condition called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), resulting in dark spots and acne scars. “I love using light chemical peels and retinol on my clients with PIH,” says Darden. “A series of peels helps even out skin tone and retinol helps lighten dark spots.” Alpha or beta hydroxyl acid, and glycolic acid peels are best.
Melasma usually shows up as dark patches on the cheeks, forehead, around the eye area or around the lips. “It occurs more often in women of color and usually because of hormonal changes like pregnancy, menopause, hormonal imbalances, medication, sun exposure or genetics,” says JoElle Lee, licensed celebrity esthetician. According to celebrity esthetician Ling Chan, professionals should treat pigmentation issues like melasma with topical Vitamin C-based products—which are gentler, yet as effective as hydroquinone.
“But more than anything, the most important thing an esthetician can do is to educate their clients on the root causes of hyperpigmentation,” says Chan. If it’s from acne scarring, go over an acne therapy regimen. If it’s dark spots from sun exposure, emphasize daily SPF use to prevent them.