Delivery Systems

Primary to any topical treatment is its ability to deliver active ingredients to the skin, and that’s surely true of hyperpigmentation products. As the previous ingredient list illustrates, these products can come in a variety of formulas—and the delivery system that’s best depends on the ingredients within those formulas. Pevonia’s Jurist agrees that many formulas can work: freeze-dried (for purity, strength and ease of administration); serums, thanks to their low molecular weight and deep and easy penetration (however, according to Jurist, they are best used in high concentrations as boosters and in conjunction with a correlating care cream to seal and hydrate); gels, optimal for all skin types and user-friendly, but best for the delivery of acids in professional and homecare formulas due to their uniformity of penetration and light texture; and even time-release capsules.

Murad prefers lighter bases, such as gels and serums, for pigmentation treatments. “The lower oil content allows for better penetration of the actives into the skin, and the lighter consistency of gels and serums makes subsequent application of a moisturizer with broad-spectrum UV protection much easier and more comfortable,” he notes.

Asquith, however, prefers the use of a concentrated serum combined with a cream. “The serum is used directly on the prominent pigmentation spots and is a more concentrated complex, often containing AHAs as well as other actives for intensive treatment,” she relates. “The cream is then used over the entire face and will contain a different combination of active ingredients to interfere with various stages of melanogenesis.”

Lees agrees that serums are effective because they’re typically the first product to come into contact with skin, but notes that other procedures—such as microdermabrasion, peels and lasers—can speed up the results for the client. However, he warns, microdermabrasion and peels, though helpful for pigment on the top layers of the skin, can be harmful if overdone, actually leading to more pigmentation because they can stimulate an immune response, leading to inflammation and melanin production.

In The Pipeline

Expect the following developments in hyperpigmentation research:
More nature-based ingredients: More people are clamoring for “natural” ingredients—and researchers are noting their great results. “Research shows natural ingredients that are promising, like active soy, which helps to inhibit the production of excess melanin, and Indian gooseberry, which appears to inhibit the transfer of melanosomes to the outer skin cells,” says Pevonia’s Jurist.

A greater role for peptides: “Every day there’s a new peptide discovered, so I believe something will come out on that end,” Mark Lees predicts. “They’ll probably work in about the same way as what’s out there now but might have a different attack mode in terms of the biochemistry that leads to melanin production.”

Greater focus on overall tone: Now that researchers have refined the science of lightening individual spots through prevention of melanin formation, the focus going forward will be on methods of indirectly evening skin tone more generally, speculates Jeff Murad. “This will be done by minimizing the effects of light and shadows caused by enlarged pores, fine lines and rough texture, as well as using new methods to help the skin eliminate the buildup of waste materials that leads to blotchiness and dull, uneven skin tone,” he explains.

Ingestible treatments: A pill to suppress hyperpigmentation? Jurist says that it has been in the works for many years, but the general public will simply have to wait for it to become a reality.