Anyone who deals with hyperpigmentation is probably already well aware that the sun is their worst nightmare. The UV light that radiates from it can make dark spots and melasma much worse. But of course, in our world, it is nearly impossible to completely avoid the sun at all times. But luckily for us, there is a product that works wonders… maybe you've heard of it? Sunscreen? Okay, we're just teasing, we know everyone knows about this skincare holy grail, but what you may not know is that there is one special ingredient that is extra beneficial for anyone prone to hyperpigmentation. Here's everything you need to know about iron oxide.
Dr. Elizabeth Kream, a dermatologist based in Chicago, suggested, "If you are prone to hyperpigmentation, and especially for those with skin of color, please use a physical sunscreen, particularly one with iron oxide." But what exactly is iron oxide? The transition metal oxide has been tested, and it showed that sunscreens that contain this ingredient are capable of "significantly protected against visible-light-induced pigmentation compared to untreated skin or mineral SPF 50+ sunscreen in Fitzpatrick IV individuals."
The dermatologist advised that a good sun protection cream will also include a tint. "Opt for a physical sunscreen with a tint. The tint typically means that the active ingredient iron oxide is also on board, and this ingredient also provides visible light protection in addition to UV protection. Visible light is what we see—it's what goes through windows and is a known exacerbator of melasma and photo-aging." It's a win-win situation, because not only will we be protecting our skin from the harsh effects of the sun, but we can also cover up pre-existing dark spots or scars. The sunscreen has "dual functions and can provide additional benefits in patients' daily routine by masking existing pigmentation and preventing the development of pigmentation triggered by sunlight exposure, extending protection beyond the UV spectrum."
Now that we know why physical sunscreens are the best go-to for hyperpigmentation, let's understand why chemical sunscreens can actually have adverse effects. "The mechanism of action of chemical sunscreens is they absorb the solar radiation and transform it into heat. These particles then become excited, and when they revert back to their un-excited ground state, they will release heat onto our skin, and heat is a known trigger of melasma," Dr. Kream explained. "Unlike chemical sunscreens, physical sunscreens don't absorb UV radiation and dissipate heat; rather they will just reflect the UV radiation." A good choice that the skin doctor advises is EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 44.