If you suffer from pigmentation on your face you’ll be all too familiar with the blotchy skin, dark patches, red spots or unsightly discoloration that can occur because of it.

Unfortunately, pigmentation is one of the more difficult skin conditions to deal with, as it is stubborn, hard to cover (even with makeup) and can leave you feeling self-conscious.


Today on the blog we’re taking a look at the root causes of pigmentation, the ideal ingredients to counteract it, as well as the best K-Beauty products for pigmentation.



Pigmentation can be caused by a wide range of factors – acne, exposure to the sun, hereditary conditions, hormones, medications, allergic reactions, eczema and other forms of skin damage. Hyperpigmentation is essentially caused by the excess production of melanin by the melanocyte cells in the body. Melanin is the pigment in skin that gives our skin its normal colour.


Acne is one of the key causes of pigmentation.

Once the skin is damaged, it may not be able to reproduce its original skin pigments, leading to darker pigments forming over the damaged area of the skin. Immediately post-acne, the skin is characterised by flat, red scars that can take many months to fade. Deeper acne scars usually remain permanently, and are characterised by depressed white scars.

Sun Exposure 

Exposure to the sun causes the skin to tan, which is a reflection of the trauma that has occurred to the skin’s cells.

When our skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, it responds by becoming inflamed. The activation of melanocytes is one of the responses to this. Once the melanocytes are activated, the production of melatonin begins.

Even though the skin darkens in colour and tans with exposure to the sun, this doesn’t mean the tan will be uniform or even. Pigmentation is a reflection of this.


A wide variety of medications contribute to and cause pigmentation, including the pill, antibiotics, anti-malarials, anti-topical retinoids, anti-seizure medications and more. Sometimes, pigmentation will remain even after the course of medication is complete.

Hormonal changes

One of the leading causes of pigmentation is changes in hormones, particularly in pregnant women. Hormonal changes often leave the skin with dark, blotchy patches. Pigmentation on the upper lip is another classic symptom of hormonal imbalance, particularly in women.



Treatment of pigmentation through topical skincare involves the application of products that are aimed at shedding discoloured skin faster, encouraging new skin cells to form, targeting melanin and preventing spots from occurring in the first place.


One of the most important products to apply to prevent pigmentation from occurring is a good quality sunscreen, preferably with at least 50+ SPF sun protection. A good sunscreen blocking both UVA and UVB is the key to preventing damage by the sun’s most harmful rays, which wreak havoc on the skin in the form of sun spots, pigmentation, wrinkles, fine lines and worse.

Other, lesser known treatments for pigmentation include skincare acids.


Skincare acids like lactic acid, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are perfect for targeting pigmentation, as they assist to chemically slough off dead skin cells and discoloration. They are best introduced to a balanced skincare routine slowly, initially once or twice a week. Our favourite Korean beauty acids include:

Mizon AHA BHA Daily Clean Toner – this daily clean toner works to soften old skin and reveal cleaner, clearer skin by resetting the skin to its correct pH level after cleansing. This helps skin to better absorb the next layer of skincare products you apply.

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid – this is an oil-soluble chemical exfoliant that clears dead skin cells from deep within pores to help prevent breakouts. It is formulated with betaine salicylate that assists in achieving brighter skin.



In addition to other practical ways of avoiding pigmentation, like not picking at or squeezing at pimples, and avoiding getting a tan by wearing sunscreen and long-sleeved shirts, there are a wide variety of ingredients that can help improve pigmentation.

Many ingredients commonly found in Asian beauty products are perfect for treating pigmentation, including Vitamin C, niacinamide, rice, galactomyces and more.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C derivatives have been shown to be effective against pigmentation, as they inhibit the skin from producing melanin, which causes discoloration in the first place. Our Korean beauty picks include:

Vlancvere Power VC15 Ampoule – a serum containing 15% Vitamin C – the perfect amount to get visible skin brightening results while preventing skin irritation. It targets aging skin with its lifting, UV protection, antioxidant and pore care properties.

It’s Skin Power 10 VC Effector – a brightening serum containing Vitamin C and green tea components that work to prevent skin from looking dull.

iUNIK Propolis Synergy Serum – a natural serum that combines the optimal ratio of Propolis (70%) and Vitamin C (12%) for skin brightening for sensitive skin. It targets skin damage, pigmentation and inflammation with instant calming benefits.

Snail mucin 

Snail mucin is one of Korean Beauty’s favourite ingredients for repairing skin, and this includes skin afflicted by acne, acne scarring, aging and photo damage.

Renowned for it’s ability to tighten and regenerate skin, snail mucin also heals acne scars and firms the skin. Our favourite snail-repairing Korean beauty products include:

Missha Super Aqua Snail Renew Sleeping Mask – an overnight mask that helps repair skin while you sleep to improve the look and texture of your complexion. This is perfect for aging, scarred and acne prone skin.

COSRX Snail 96 Mucin Essence – a treatment essence containing skin-friendly antioxidants, proteins, elastin, and glycolic acids that repairs photo damage and is helpful for acne, uneven skin tone and acne scarring.

Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream – a repairing gel-type moisturiser that helps improve the look and texture of pigmented, aging, scarred and acne-prone skin to give it a healthy, radiant glow.


Rice can assist with discolored skin cells by helping to slough away dead skin and brightening dull skin.

Korean beauty’s best-selling rice product is Skinfood Rice Mask Wash Off, a pH 5.5 balanced wash-off face mask that instantly brightens a dull complexion with it’s rice extracts, and also works to slough off dead skin.


A byproduct of the sake brewing process, this wonder beauty ingredient is produced when fermentation breaks the yeast down into smaller components. This allows it to effectively deliver antioxidants directly to the skin, protecting it from environmental and UV damage, which cause premature aging.

Galactomyces is an outstanding active ingredient that works to tone, nourish, moisturise and reduce the visible signs of aging.

COSRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence – this treatment essence enhances the skin’s natural renewal process to deliver anti-wrinkle and anti-aging benefits.

Elizavecca Milky Piggy Galactomyces 97% Serum – this serum transforms skin giving it a softer, healthier and brighter tone using the power of galactomyces.

Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence – one of K-Beauty’s all-time favourite products, this treatment essence delivers 8 benefits – soothing, smoothing, balancing sebum levels, moisturising, improving skin tone, firming, wrinkle repair and boosting.

iUNIK Rose Galactomyces Serum – this is an ultra hydrating serum that nourishes and cares for the skin with rose water, galactomyces fermentation water, niacinamide and adenosine.

Licorice extract

Licorice has skin-soothing properties and may be effective in improving the look of uneven skin tone. It is often indicated for people with a reddened complexion.

Some of our favourite Korean beauty products containing licorice include:

Soroci Calming Essence – formulated with licorice, rice extract, caviar and more this skin soothing essence also works to gently brighten skin.

It’s Skin Power 10 Formula LI Mask Sheet – this sheet mask contains licorice extract as its star ingredient, making it perfect for those with reddened or dull, pigmented skin.


Niacinamide is a type of Vitamin B3 that has several benefits for aging skin, including enhanced barrier function, improved textural appearance and improvement in hyper pigmentation, redness, and wrinkles. Niacinamide is widely found in Korean beauty products, but some of our favourites include:

Benton Snail Bee High Content Lotion – from one of Korea’s most famous product lines, this moisturising lotion is formulated with snail secretion filtrate, bee venom and niacinamide, which work together to rebuild skin and fade dark spots.

Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream – this K-beauty favourite contains niacinamide along with a host of other nourishing ingredients to brighten the complexion, firm skin and target the appearance of wrinkles.

STYLE STORY – Your Style, Your Story