Skinceuticals is one of my all-time favorite brands, so imagine my excitement when, post-pregnancy and with a few new sunspots, I found Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense. This serum includes the following proven ingredients:
- 3% tranexamic acid: minimizes the reoccurrence of discoloration and brown patches with continued use
- 1% kojic acid: helps improve skin brightness
- 5% niacinamide (vitamin B3): has been shown to help reduce the appearance of skin discoloration
- 5% HEPES: activates natural enzymes in skin to help break the bonds that bind dead skin cells to the surface for even exfoliation
For more ingredient analysis and my personal opinions, read on!
According to a 2002 study by Hakozaki et. al., a topically applied 2% niacinamide and sunscreen lotion significantly decreased hyperpigmentation and increased skin lightness after 4 weeks of use more significantly than a control lotion.
The efficacy of 4-5% niacinamide — the highest available over-the-counter — has often been compared to a 2% (half-strength) hydroquinone. However, unlike hydroquinone, niacinamide does not run the same risks. Hydroquinone decreases hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase catalyzation of melanin production (Hakozaki et. al.). However, niacinamide reduces hyperpigmentation by inhibiting 35–68% of melanosome [pigment] transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes (skin cells). These results were affirmed by a study, using a niacinamide concentration of 4%. As such, in concentrations of at least 2% and up to 5%, niacinamide seems to provide a rather unique, effective method in decreasing hyperpigmentation.
Kojic acid is normally used twice a day for 1-2 months for the lightening of dark spots or the treatment of melasma. According to Baumann-cited studies by Ellis and Garcia, kojic acid combined with glycolic acid was more effective than 10% glycolic acid or 4% hydroquinone for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. A third Baumann-cited study by Lim et. al. found that 2% kojic acid in combination with 10% glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone further improved melasma symptoms over a mixture of 10% glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone alone.
Of all the ingredients in Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense, tranexamic acid and HEPES are the newest. Tranexamic acid has been shown to decrease hyperpigmentation in the skin when used in microinjections (Dermatologic Surgery). It is believed to work by being a plasmin inhibitor, which means that it helps to break down proteins in the skin that contribute to melanin (skin pigment) production (JEADV). It does not have known side effects.
As far as discoloration treatments go, I think that hydroquinone is best, although anyone with darker skin tones should not use it. In decreasing order from there, I like glycolic acid and other AHAs or retinoids, vitamin C, brightening peptides like Haloxyl, kojic acid, azelaic acid, and niacinamide.
Is Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense the best potent treatment out there? No, but it has a lot of ingredients that fight hyperpigmentation that are great “assists” for a potent glycolic acid treatment a few times a week, for instance, or to complement the action of other brightening ingredients. I do recommend it as a part of a hyperpigmentation-fighting regimen.
Aqua / Water, Butylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Glycerin, Tranexamic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Kojic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Allantoin, Chlorphenesin, Xanthan Gum, Disodium Edta