How to Treat, Prevent and Fade Hyperpigmentation

In our final instalment of our post summer skincare series, we’re delving into a bit of skin science. We’re taking a step back to understand the function of Tyrosinase - the internal process that influences hyperpigmentation. Importantly, we’re also looking at how we can attempt to stop this process (or at least slow it down) in the hope of increased skin clarity.

Bear with us as we’ll be heavy on the science but by the time you finish reading you’ll see why knowing about Tyrosinase is so important to your skincare life.

What is Tyrosinase?

Tyrosinase is an enzyme found in our melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin. However, before there is melanin, Tyrosinase has to get in the mix. It is responsible for causing the amino acid Tyrosine to oxidise, therefore creating melanin pigment which is transported to the upper layers of the skin to give us colour.

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We all have the same amount of melanocytes in our skin, what differs is the amount of melanin that the melanocytes produce. Naturally the darker your skin, the more active your melanocyte cells.

However, melanocyte activity is also increased by exposure to UV rays as well trauma and damage to the skin, hormonal fluctuations, illnesses and medication. Tyrosinase kick-starts increased melanin production in an effort to fend off damage and protect our skin.

As the saying goes, too much of a good thing isn’t always great for you and one of the kickbacks of increased melanin production is that the Tyrosinase enzyme misfires and produces excessive melanin, that which leads to undesirable hyperpigmentation and uneven discolouration of the skin.
— Black Skin Directory

So, where are we going with this?

 In a nutshell, by understanding how excessive melanin leads to unwanted hyperpigmentation, we are able to limit the action of its main catalyst – Tyrosinase, by ensuring our skincare includes Tyrosinase Inhibitors.

What are Tyrosinase Inhibitors, why are they important in skincare?

Tyrosinase Inhibitor ingredients help prevent an overproduction of melanin. This is great news for those who suffer with hyperpigmentation as the inhibitors will help to prevent discolouration from occurring.

Tyrosinase Inhibitors come in many forms, some natural and some medicinal, therefore needing a dermatological prescription. Because you want to give these special ingredients time to penetrate the skin for maximum effect, you need to ensure they are as close to the skin as possible and not layered on top of other products. Ideally, you want them in your serums, applied to clean skin.

You’re looking out for anti-pigmentation, lightening and brightening serums that contain common ingredients such as Kojic Acid, Transexemic Acid, Hexlyresorcinol, Vitamin A, Bearberry, Niacinamide, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and Liquorice Root Extract.

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Even though its garnered some unfair press over the years, Hydroquinone is also a Tyrosinase Inhibitor. It is perfectly safe and legal to use for skincare when prescribed by a medical professional and offers one of the strongest defences and protection against hyperpigmentation.

Don’t be put off by the terms - lightening, whitening and brightening - in describing the prowess of Tyrosinase Inhibitors, they are no way related to skin bleaching. Tyrosinase Inhibitors have no impact on your overall skin tone and do not make your skin lighter in anyway. The only function of these ingredients is to stop the over-oxidising of Tyrosine so there is less overproduction of melanin.
— Black Skin Directory

Prevention is the best form of protection so if you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t suffer from hyperpigmentation, you can and should still incorporate Tyrosinase Inhibitors into your skincare regime to maintain radiant and healthy skin. You don’t need to wait until discolouration creeps up.

In addition, including a daily UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum SPF30 into your skincare routine is absolutely necessary to protect your skin cells from sun damage in the first instance, whilst preventing any worsening of existing hyperpigmentation.