Uneven Skin Tone Solutions That Actually Work

From hyperpigmentation and acne scarring to rosacea and blotchy skin, a complexion that’s about as even as the number 21 is up there with gray hair and wrinkles as one of the most visible (and annoying) signs of aging. In fact, skin discolorations can make you look ten years older if left untreated – and that’s about ten years more than we would like, thanks very much.

But all is not lost folks, because even though certain pigmentation issues like melasma are caused by internal body imbalances and hormonal fluctuations, all discolorations respond well to consistent treatment with medical-grade skincare products and regular in-office procedures. It’s just a matter of finding the correct, most effective option for you.

“For chronic hyperpigmentation issues most patients understand there’s not going to be a one-step miracle treatment,” explains Dr. Haena Kim, HintMD partner and top facial plastic surgeon in Walnut Creek, California.

“It takes years for pigmentations to develop, so it’ll take some time to get an improvement – especially if you want to avoid complications such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation or scarring.”

This is where your doctor, derm or plastic surgeon comes into the equation. By signing up for a beauty plan you get all the benefits and knowledge of the best, board-certified skin experts in the land at your fingertips, including a personally prescribed treatment regime, as well as an at-home maintenance program. And when it comes to dealing with an uneven skin tone, this is priceless.

Herein, the kind of recommendations you can expect from some of our key partners…

At The Doctor’s Office:

As with most skin concerns, in-office treatments remain the quickest and most effective course of action for targeting discolorations of any description.

“Professional peels can be very helpful with chronic pigmentation issues,” says Dr. Kim.

“Personally, I’ve found VI Aesthetics Peels to be far more effective and well tolerated than even higher percentages of TCA (trichloracetic acid) peels,” she adds.

Non-ablative laser resurfacing such as Clear + Brilliant is also a great option.

Clear + Brilliant is a very safe and effective way to refine skin texture, soften fine lines and reduce sunspots with minimal down time,” explains HintMD partner and board-certified internal medicine physician Dr. Sheena Kong, who regularly treats patients with Clear + Brilliant at her San Francisco Med Spa. It’s perfect for younger patients or anyone looking to boost radiance or smooth the texture of their skin, but if you’re looking to treat more serious pigmentation or scarring, try the Fraxel Dual Laser, which works on a much deeper level and offers more dramatic results. 

“Another impressive technology to ask your doctor about is the picosecond technology that has evolved in lasers,” adds Dr. Kim.

“This is usually a 755 or 532nm laser delivered in shorter, faster bursts than those conventionally used. These short bursts fragment the pigment into pieces that are eventually cleared by the skin, while decreasing the risk of thermal damage to the surrounding skin. It’s especially effective for ethnic patients where post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a concern.”

At Home:

“Prior to starting any treatment plan, I make sure my patients establish an adequate at-home skincare routine to address pigmentation issues,” explains Dr. Kim.

“After all, investing into medical-grade procedures is a waste of time and money unless a patient is willing to maintain their results at home.

“In my opinion, a retinoid regimen is an essential part of helping address uneven skin tones. It’s a tried and true topical ingredient that works and gets the skin into a phase of constant renewal and turnover. I’ve even had some patients get more impressive results from consistent usage of a retinoid than with fractional CO2 treatments,” she adds.

While drugstores and department stores are brimming with ‘radiance boosting skin miracles’ (no comment), your best option for dealing with an uneven skin tone at home is with medical-grade, doctor-prescribed skincare. And if you’re worried about the cost of Neova over Nivea, don’t be. Medical-grade treatments harness the power of proven, trusted ingredients and the latest technologies and formulations, meaning they save you the fuss and expense of experimenting with countless products until you find the best fit.

“You save money in the long run because you’re investing in effective solutions that actually minimize the need for a lot of topical skincare, rather than buying several ineffective products you end up tossing away,” explains Dr. Stephen J. Ronan, MD FACS and founder of Blackhawk Plastic Surgery & MedSpa in Danville, California.

First up, introduce a broad-spectrum daily sunscreen into your beauty plan and apply it liberally and regularly as if you’re life depended on it. The sun is a devil for making pigmentation issues worse. End of.

“I tell all of my patients that if they aren’t committing to a good sunblock, they’re defeating the whole purpose of the rest of their skincare regime! Plus it’s also the most cost effective anti-aging product out there,” says Dr. Kim.

Once this has been nailed, question your aesthetic expert about these targeted treatments when you’re next at the office…

1. Great For Stubborn Discolorations: SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum

After being tested on participants across three different countries, SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum has been proven to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation across all ethnicities ­– yes, even those with darker skin tones whose pigmentation issues can be­ notoriously difficult to treat. Using powerful, active ingredients such as tranexamic acid to correct the external appearance of dark spots, phenylethyl resorcinol to help balance melanin production, plus niacinamide and tetrapeptide-30 to help prevent new spots from appearing, Lytera 2.0 has the ability to work on all pigmentation issues – without even a sniff of retinol or hydroquinone.

2. Great For All-Round Maintenance: ZO Skin Health Skin Brightening Program for Hyperpigmentation

ZO is the brainchild of top dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi who, after selling his namesake company (Obagi), wanted to develop a whole new range of solution focused products to work with the skin. Using potent ingredients in super-high concentrations, this complete Skin Brightening regime helps improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation, again without the use of hydroquinone or retinol. The multi-product system includes an antioxidant serum to help retexturize and remove surface discolorations; a brightening treatment to target pigmentation; a light moisturizer, and that all-important sunscreen. Perfect for anyone who is serious about kicking discoloration totally out of the ballpark.

3. Great For Reducing Redness: PCA Skin Dual Action Redness Relief

Facial flushing and skin redness can be a darn nuisance in the plight for an even, radiant complexion. Which is why we can’t recommend PCA Skin Dual Action Redness Relief enough. Using the brand’s special Omnisome time-release delivery system, it works hard to improve the skin’s barrier function to reduce redness and inflammation both immediately and long-term.

One last and truly important thing to remember: aging is an awesome privilege.

“Sagging skin, discoloration and wrinkles are usually signs of a long life well-lived,” says Dr. Ronan. “Everyone should count themselves lucky they’ve lived long enough to see their skin aging.”

We often lose sight of this in our bid for youthful skin and an ageless body, but it really is an important fact to bear in mind.

And obviously a little help here and there is OK, too;)