#SpaExpertSeries - Hyperpigmentation with Johanna Yilmaz


Johanna started studying Structural Engineering at university, but after six months she realised that it wasn’t for her and decided to completely change path. She had always been passionate about beauty and cosmetics, so she decided to do a one-year course in this area. Following this, she decided to get experience in an actual spa, so she started an internship at Rocco Forte’s The Charles Spa in Munich. Starting as a trainee, Johanna was promoted year after year, and she eventually became the Spa Manager there. She has also recently been promoted to Area Spa Manager for Rocco Forte Spas in Germany.

As a true spa expert, Johanna knows a thing or two about skin problems. So, we asked her about hyperpigmentation…

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation, or uneven skin pigmentation, is a skin condition in which dark spots and dark patches of skin appear on the face, hands and other parts of the body. They can make the skin look uneven. These spots or patches are caused by an increase in melaninMelanin is the natural pigment that gives our skin, hair and eyes their colour. A number of factors can trigger an increase in melanin production, but the main causes are sun exposure, hormonal influences, age, skin injuries and inflammation.

What are the different types of hyperpigmentation?

There are several types of hyperpigmentation; here are some of the most common ones:

  • Freckles: the most common type of pigmentation. Your genetics can usually influence whether you get freckles. However, they are also often the very first signs of sun damage as they tend to develop after repeated sun exposure.
  • Solar Lentigines/ Sun Spots/ Age Spots/ Liver Spots: these are pigmented spots which vary in colour from light brown to black. They can appear anywhere on the body and are caused by UV rays from sun exposure. These types of pigmentation must be monitored as they have the potential to develop into skin cancer and melanoma.
  • Melasma: this is believed to be caused by hormonal changes and can often develop during pregnancy.
  • Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation or Hypopigmentation: this is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin. A common cause of this type is acne.

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Several different conditions or factors can cause hyperpigmentation:

  • Some medication, such as the birth control pill;
  • It can be a chemotherapy side effect;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Excessive sun exposure;
  • Scarring from acne;
  • Simply being genetically predisposed to it, such as being born with freckles.

What skincare regime would you recommend for someone with hyperpigmentation?

Sun or Age Spots can be helped by using the right skincare products.

Firstly, antioxidants are important to neutralise free radicals from causing oxidative damage to the skin and blocks enzymatic processes that make more pigment in the skin. Therefore, look out for products that are rich in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E. All the Irene Forte Skincare products are packed with antioxidants; I really like the Brightening Orange Blossom Face Oil. 

Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is a great ingredient which slows pigment production. The Irene Forte Almond Eye Cream contains this ingredient.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are an effective way of exfoliating dead cells from the surface of the skin to enhance radiance and improve hyperpigmentation. The Irene Forte Lemon Toner, Apricot Face Peel, and Lavender & Rosemary Face Mask contain a blend of AHAs, including Red Grape, Apple and Lemon Extracts. These slough off dead, dull skin cells, helping to brighten and lighten the skin. You should also look out for Azelaic Acid, which is present in the Lavender & Rosemary Face Mask. Azelaic acid is known to inhibit the enzyme tyrosinase, which is needed for the production of melanin.  

Other important ingredients include hydroquinone (which also inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase) and retinoid (which can also enhance a hydroquinone treatment). However, I would recommend getting these from products prescribed by a dermatologist or doctor.

Either way, the most important product is sunscreen; use it every day! 

What treatments would you recommend for hyperpigmentation?

Microdermabrasion is a well-known exfoliating treatment for hyperpigmentation that uses tiny particles of sand to peel away dead skin. A dermatologist would usually recommend three to six treatments spaced out over two to three weeks.

Chemical peels are another good way to treat hyperpigmentation. They promote cell turnover to remove the top layers of the skin that hold pigment. Look for fruit acid, salicylic acid or glycolic acid peels. Fruit acid peels are particularly effective against pigment spots, albeit a little aggressive.

Laser is particularly suitable for deeper hyperpigmentation. Lasers work by delivering an intense beam of light that specifically targets melanin. This light is then absorbed and converted into heat, which either disperses the group of melanin cells or destroys the skin cells carrying the pigment molecule.

Any other tips you think our readers should know?

I would recommend starting any treatment in the winter months because it's easier to stay clear of the sun.