Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Mahek Chawla (Dietitian & Nutritionist)  on 12th Jan 2020

How to treat uneven skin tone and get that glow back

How to treat uneven skin tone

Do you often look at yourself in the mirror, comparing different parts of the face, wondering how they can differ in tone or shade?

Do you keep comparing your face and other body parts like hands and arms, wondering how sun exposure affects skin differently in different areas?

Scrolling the internet seems more comfortable when we stop this unnecessary comparison. Though this difference in skin tone seems solely because of sun exposure, there are many other causes.

Your skin doesn't have to degrade if you take good care of it necessarily. Uneven skin tone, dull and compromised skin are undoubtedly not serious issues you have to be distracted about, but who doesn't like dewy, glowy, and radiant skin every weekend?

Today we shall enlighten you to address the less worrisome woes of skin. Before that know what precisely an uneven skin tone is?

The tone or shade of our skin is determined by the amount and area of melanin production. Melanin, a pigment present in our skin cells in an inactive form exposed to the sun, chemicals, illness, or age, gets activated, causing the skin to look darker. It makes few areas of our face like the skin around the mouth, under the eyes, forehead, and few high points look dark. It is mainly called an uneven skin tone.

Previously this was observed in lactating or post-pregnancy women, working individuals, or women in their early 40s and above. But in a generation like this, several triggers predispose us to issues we have no time to deal with. Today teenagers, PCOS patients, stressed students are also suffering from skin tone issues, even though they try to take care of their skin.

Other than the unevenness of skin tone on the face, our hands and face can also differ skin tone-wise in some individuals. It has no specific cause but can be associated with tanning, genetics, melanin activity, etc.  

What are the causes behind this? 

Dermatologists have found most cases of uneven skin tone due to lack of sun protection. The world has amplified the use of a sunscreen or cream that contains a minimum of SPF 30. UVA & UVB rays can cause severe damage to the skin. Thus, sun protection is as important as brushing teeth.  

Other than this, below are other causes: 

  • Dryness 
  • Breakouts or blemishes  
  • PIH - post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • Aging  
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Product reaction
  • Low-quality makeup products 
  • Malnourishment  
  • Anemia - Iron deficiency or essential mineral deficiency  
  • No exfoliation - accumulation of dead cells  
  • Environmental pollution - carbon emissions  

The list of causes can be longer the more you ponder upon it. We're here to provide you solutions for your convenience to gain the glow and radiance back. When choosing a skincare type, it becomes tedious to decide what'll suit your skin and what might cause harm.  

For those in doubt on how to go about that, here's a classification of solutions: 

Since most of us who might deal with dull and even skin are either employees, students or teenagers, we often lookout for quick fixes or products that are much easier to apply and include in our daily routines than relaxing home remedies. We'll start with products or preferably ingredients to look for in products : 

Hydroquinone and AHA/BHA! 

Hydroquinone is the traditional gold standard for fading brown spots and significantly improving uneven skin tone over time. There exist alternative ingredients to hydroquinone, but their effectiveness is always in comparison to hydroquinone.

To speed up the final results from this remarkable (albeit controversial) ingredient, look for formulas that pair hydroquinone with BHA (salicylic acid) or AHA (glycolic acid) exfoliants—the power couple for radiant, smooth skin!  

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

₹ 545

When to use: PM

Frequency: Alternate days

View details

Mandelic acid:

It is just another alpha-hydroxy acid, one that's derived from apples, wines, bitter almonds, etc. Like glycolic acid, it is an exfoliating agent useful for preventing acne, treating sun damage, & evening out pigmentation. Moreover, due to its bigger molecular structure, it does not penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid, so it is less annoying or irritating. For this reason, it's recommended in peels instead of glycolic acid, particularly for ethnic skin, which is more prone to pigmentation. Rebound pigmentation occurs when resistance is built up to a particular substance due to excessive use. It causes the sense to be ineffective and often causes it to have the opposite of the intended effect.

Aha + BHA + PHA:

In addition to AHA and BHA, newer face acids have better properties and efficiency than PHA or polyhydroxy acids. These acids have a higher number of functional group hydroxyl, which ensures that the acid suffices its duty to exfoliate and is a very potent humectant. Humectants are substances that can retain moisture to keep the skin glowing and hydrated. These acids together dissolve the superficial layer of dead cells, revealing an even skin tone. Like mandelic acid, PHAs also have a larger molecular size, thus penetrating slowly, causing less irritation than direct acids.

AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel
AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel
AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel
AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel

AHA PHA BHA 32% Face Peel

₹ 689

When to use: PM

Frequency: Once in 2 weeks

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Alpha arbutin:

Alpha Arbutin has a similar tyrosine (a non-essential amino acid that binds with tyrosinase to catalyze melanin synthesis). Due to its perfect affinity for active sites of tyrosinase, Alpha-Arbutin blocks tyrosine. It is thereby inhibiting melanin ( tyrosine is a precursor of melanin ) production without affecting cell viability. It is scientifically proven to show effects even at lower concentrations. According to the AAD, when you stop causing dark spots and protect your skin from UV rays damage, then fading is significant and fast.

Ascorbic acid/Vitamin C:

it is a pure form of Vitamin C. One of the most researched and used water-soluble vitamins is vitamin C that protects the skin from the damage caused by "free radicals" produced continuously by exposure to the environment. This exposure leads to epidermal degradation and discoloration of the skin. Ascorbic acid usually is/usually highly unstable and thus easily oxidized in the presence of light & air. There are other forms of Vitamin C popularly known as Vitamin C derivatives that are less potent than ascorbic acid but much more stable. These forms are incorporated in serums or vitamin C skincare products that can restore the dullness. Additionally, many research papers and practical cases have reported the brightening effect of vitamin C. All vitamin C attributes are because of its high antioxidant content.  

Vitamin C 10% Face Serum
Vitamin C 10% Face Serum
Vitamin C 10% Face Serum
Vitamin C 10% Face Serum

Vitamin C 10% Face Serum

₹ 695

When to use: AM / PM

Frequency: Everyday

View details

There are several other products and ingredients listed on the internet claiming to treat uneven skin tone. It is easy to be fall prey to marketing gimmicks. But one must be aware and do background research about the active ingredient you are going to use or buy.

Home remedies may not always give you that instant glow or even tone, but it guarantees changes gradually with continued use and care. An added benefit of in-house ingredients is that it is not cost-effective, but they rarely have any side effects. Thus a homemade weekend mask can do more good than any harm at all.  

  • Tomato and honey: Tomato, a fruit known as a vegetable, has high amounts of citric acid and malic acid. Both the acids being plant-based have an antioxidant property that has been proven to take off the stubborn tan! On the other hand, it has antibacterial and soothing properties to counter-attack the sensation created by acids.
  • Papaya: Papain, an enzyme present in papaya, is a powerful antioxidant used to achieve glowing skin. It is also added to many natural and organic skincare products. Also, carotenoids are forms of vitamin A present in papaya that can increase cell turnover. Few cubes of papaya can be turned to paste and applied to a clean face for a span of about 10 to 15 mins till it dries out and then washed off. A little red or orange tint is left behind.   
  • Orange peel powder: an excellent source of vitamin C and other phytochemicals. Oranges have been researched to provide antioxidant activity and scavenge the free radicals that can cause the cells to accumulate melanin. Orange peel contains more protecting substances than the edible part. These sun-dried orange peels are commercially turned to powder to produce many antioxidant supplements and topical products. Collecting peels over time and then sun drying can be effectively done at home. The sun-dried peels can be ground to powder and stored. The powder mixed with coconut oil, creams, curd, etc., can be applied to the places you see pigmentation.  

Wrapping Up 

Lastly, no effort will show results unless you have taken care of your skin, especially using sunscreen. The years' dark spots take to become visible is enough for you to know how slow the damaging effect of sun rays is. Thus, choosing what may, and uneven skin tone takes more time and less effort to heal independently. Products formulated today have also undergone several studies and trials before handing them over to the customer, and the companies and brands take care of the quality. But every other individual is different, and so is their skin type. Some products or ingredients may show instant results, and some may not show any effect even after consistent usage.

So, don't let stress or age take over the beauty that you are!

Keep taking care of your skin, and don't forget the savior "sunscreen."