Essential Guide To Hyperpigmentation: what is, what causes it and how you can treat it
Uneven skin pigmentation is a very common skin woe, affecting both men and women of all skin types, at any stage of their lives. This condition is known as hyperpigmentation and occurs when a specific part of your skin darkens compared to your primary skin tone.
This change in your skin tone is the result of your melanocytes (the skin cells that make melanin) becoming damaged or unhealthy and then producing extra pigment during the healing process.
Having more melanin makes our skin darker, while less of it results in lighter skin.
Hyperpigmentation results from an increase in melanin production within specific areas of your skin, forming darker spots compared to your overall skin tone and resulting in an uneven complexion.
Hyperpigmentation can appear in the form of freckles and dark spots — also known as age or sun spots — frequently found on the face, neck, décolletage, hands and other parts of the body, regularly exposed to the sun. Some other forms of hyperpigmentation include melasma, acne scarring, and inflammation lingering from an eczema flare-up.
To help you know exactly what to do if you suffer from any of these types of hyperpigmentation, we have put together this comprehensive guide, explaining what to do when treating it and preventing its appearance.
So, what causes hyperpigmentation in first place?
The most common cause of hyperpigmentation is sun damage. The exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays increases the production of melanin, which, as explained above, leads to changes in your skin tone and the appearance of darker spots.
Other causes for hyperpigmentation are:
- Hormones: Changes in hormone levels can also affect melanin production in some women. Pregnancy or an increased level of a particular hormone, such as Estrogen, can be, therefore, a trigger for hyperpigmentation, as they both cause hormonal fluctuation and this leads to an increase in the production of melanin.
- Pollution: Some chemical pollutants such as acid or alkaline can cause irritation in your skin. When this happens, there is again an overproduction of melanin, leading to a more uneven skin tone and the appearance of darker spots.
- Injury: An injury or skin inflammation, such as cuts, burns, acne, or lupus can also cause hyperpigmentation. It normally occurs after picking at a pimple, which heals after a period of time but leaves the skin marked with a reddish-brown spot.
What are the different types of hyperpigmentation?
1. Pigment spots such as freckles and age / sun spots
Excessive sun exposure is the biggest trigger of pigment spots, such as freckles, age or sun spots.
Freckles are often seen on the cheeks, chest, and back and are usually the result of sunburn, appearing more frequently during our childhood.
Age or sun spots, by contrast, tend to be small, darkened patches of skin appearing mainly on the body parts, as the face, neck, décolleté, hands and arms, which are regularly exposed to the sun. Their appearance increases as we age, therefore, they are frequently associated with the process of ageing.
You can treat age or sun spots with topical creams containing retinol, vitamin C, and niacinamide. Or you can opt for a cosmetic procedure, such as Fraxel laser, chemical peels, LED Light or IPL (Intense Pulse Light) treatments.
Also known as chloasma, melasma is a condition where symmetric, patchy areas of darker skin develop on the forehead, cheeks, bridge of the nose and upper lip, appearing or becoming darker right after being in the sun.
Melasma can result from a combination of genetic factors, sun exposure, and hormones and is also triggered by the overproduction of melanin.
Although men can experience melasma, it is much more common in women, affecting mainly pregnant women and women taking oral contraceptives. Melasma occurs as a result of a change in hormone levels, which causes an increase in melanin production.
Although melasma is difficult to treat, there are some topical skin lighteners such as hydroquinone, tretinoin, and tranexamic acid, which can make it less visible. Some of these ingredients are only found in prescription products. At ERA, our aesthetic doctor is able to examine your skin and prescribe the best-solution.
In terms of cosmetic procedures, LED Light or IPL (Intense Pulse Light) treatment can be very effective in lightening dark spots.
3. Post-Inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation results from skin injuries or inflammation such as cuts, rubbing, burns, acne, eczema, rashes, chemical exposure, Atopic Dermatitis, Psoriasis or any other irritation to the skin. Once the wound has healed, the skin area affected is left darkened and discoloured.
Although you can treat post-Inflammatory hyperpigmentation successfully, it is a lengthy process which can take between 6-12 months to achieve the desired results of depigmentation.
You can treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation with a variety of topical treatments, containing the following ingredients: hydroquinone, tretinoin cream, corticosteroids, glycolic acid (GA), and azelaic acid. Some of this treatments are prescription only and cannot be purchased over-the-counter.
Over-the-counter options include ingredients such as niacinamide, retinol, vitamin C, licorice extract, tea extracts, sepi-white. Although glycolic and salicylic acids are great for generating skin cell turnover, they can also be irritating, so it’s important to pay attention to your skin and stop using them if the discolouration persists.
There are also some cosmetic procedures which can lighten areas of skin and help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. These include: laser therapy, IPL (intense pulsed light), chemical peels and microdermabrasion.
If you suffer from any of these types of hyperpigmentation and would like to find out more on how some of our treatments, such as LED Light, IPL Light and microdermabrasion can help you restore the health, youth and radiance in your skin, get in touch. Your first consultation is always free.
This month we are also offering a IPL Pigmentation Removal 3-session course for only £300. Call us on 01844 698441 to book your appointment.
And remember to always keep your skin protected with a high factor broad spectrum sunscreen.