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How to treat hyperpigmentation in summer

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Summer time is to have fun and enjoy the outside world, but that arduous heat from the sun makes it a hard season to treat hyperpigmentation.

Regardless of what type of hyperpigmentation you experience, either solar damage, melasma (hormonal), or post- inflammatory (after acne or injury), it can get more accentuated when exposed to the sun. This is because pigment cells called melanocytes get excited with the heat which causes inflammation.

Melanocytes get active and respond by producing more melanin. The pigment that protects and shields your skin from harmful sun rays.

That is why most people suffering from hyperpigmentation complain about those areas getting darker during summer months.

And even though the sun and hyperpigmentation don’t like each other, there are certain things you can do to help prevent the pigmented areas from getting darker or to lighten up the dyschromias (discolorations).


  • Use a good sunscreen and reapply often every 90 minutes or every time after swimming or excessive sweating. Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Avoid extreme heat and direct sun exposure. Use a sun umbrella or look for a shade.

Be aware that just the reflection of the sand or concrete is enough to cause a reaction on the pigment production. This is one of the reasons why many people see a worsening of the pigmented areas and they complain that they have not been directly exposed to the sun.

  • Use a wide brim hat of at least 3″ to protect the face.
  • Avoid exfoliating skin treatments like chemical peels, micro needling or microdermabrasion etc. and products containing exfoliating acids or scrubs or/and retinoids before sun exposure.

This is a BIG ONE!! Exfoliated skin is more vulnerable to sun damage and your skin will be more prone to sun damage and the hyperpigmented areas will be triggered to get darker.

  • Avoid exposure to heat from hot whirlpools, warm pools or saunas. Hot steam also over excites the melanocytes.
  • Consume foods rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidants raise your natural defenses to protect your skin from harmful sun rays. Specially those rich in vitamin C and A. Some of the best known to support your skin from within are:

blueberries, watermelon, greens like spinach and kale, tomatoes, walnuts, carrots and green tea among many others.



If you already have hyperpigmentation and are looking to brighten and lighten up the pigmented areas, look for skincare ingredients that help to moderate the production of melanin creating a lighter more even skin tone.

To name the most popular skincare ingredients, I must start by mentioning the most prevalent; “hydroquinone”. I personally don’t care for it at all. Not only it is a very controversial skincare ingredient but has significant levels of toxicity, so much so that it has been banned from many countries in Europe and Asia.

In the U.S. it is approved to be sold over the counter at 2% and prescription strength 4%.

My personal experience after working with many dermatologists for years that prescribed hydroquinone in higher percentages like 6 or 8% was that it had a great start and showed a quick lightening effect but after it reached its peak, no more improvement was perceived and a rebound effect was often observed after long term use or the ingredient use was suspended.

I prefer more natural alternatives known as tyrosinase inhibitors. Tyrosinase is an enzyme directly involved in the production of melanin. Therefore, suppressing the production of this enzyme helps to reduce melanin production resulting in a brighter, more even skin tone.

Powerful tyrosinase inhibitors are:  Ascorbic acid, Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid. Arbutin. licorice, mulberry to name a few have had great success at giving the skin a brighter more uniform tone.

I wish you a healthy and happy Summer!

Until next time,

Dora Salazar

Medical Aesthetician


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