WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION



Hyperpigmentation is excessive pigmentation of the skin. It is a harmless and common skin condition where the skin becomes darker and uneven in certain areas, usually in a patch or a spot. It is typically longer lasting and more challenging to treat in darker skin tones than lighter skin tones. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin it’s colour, we all have melanin in our skin. It helps to protect us from sun damage, when we get a tan that’s melanin reproducing. When we get to much sun exposure or when we injure the skin then we get an over production of pigment. When pigment producing cells (melanocytes) are damaged they produce more melanin that bundle together. Clusters of melanin on certain parts of the skin lead to dark patches or hyperpigmentation, it can occur on any skin type and age group but it is generally harmless. See image


WHAT CAUSES HYPERPIGMENTATION ?

Sun exposure, hormonal changes and trauma like a wound or acne, a burn or even a insect bite can all lead to excess melanin production taking form as:

Freckles
Sun spots
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
Melasma

Certain medications can also cause hyperpigmentation. Pregnancy changes hormone levels and can effect melanin production in some women. Hyperpigmentation can occur anywhere on the body. It may be more widespread when it happens as a reaction to a medication or localised after trauma to the skin. Of course, there are times when there is no obvious cause and it is just hereditary hyperpigmentation where there is usually a family history of this.  

What are the symptoms and risk factors:

  • Darkened areas on the skin are the main symptoms of hyperpigmentation. Patches can vary in size and develop anywhere on the body.
  • The biggest risk factors for general hyperpigmentation are sun exposure and inflammation, as both situations can increase melanin production. The greater your exposure to the sun, the greater your risk of increased skin pigmentation.
  • Depending on the type of disorder, other risk factors for hyperpigmented patches may include:
  • Oral contraceptive use or pregnancy, as seen with melasma
  • Darker skin type, which is more prone to pigmentation changes
  • Drugs that increase your sensitivity to the sunlight
  • Trauma to the skin, such as a wound or superficial burn or injury.

Diagnosis

A doctor or a skincare specialist can identify the type and cause of hyperpigmentation.

They will likely do so by:

  • Examining the skin, possibly with a special light called a Wood’s light
  • Asking about medical history
  • Asking about sun exposure and other lifestyle events or habits
  • In some cases, taking a biopsy, or a small sample of skin, to help rule out skin cancer

They will then make a plan to treat the skin suited to the individual.

Treatments:

Topical Creams
Topical creams are the first line of treatment for hyperpigmentation. Be consistent with the use of creams or serums and expect visible results only after weeks or months of usage.


Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is a skin lightening agent that functions by reducing the amount of melanin in the skin. (under medical supervision)

Azelaic Acid
Acne causes inflammation and can leave the skin with hyperpigmentation. Azelaic acid treats discoloration and is a leave-on gentle exfoliant. It is one of the safest and effective treatments for hyperpigmentation.

Retinoids
Retinoids is a broad term used for vitamin A derivatives. Most common forms of retinoids are retinol and tretinoin. They are a miracle ingredient in skin care known for their incredible benefits like anti- aging and skin lightening.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a powerful antioxidant that reduces hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage. It functions by inhibiting the activity of enzyme tyrosinase that is responsible for melanin synthesis.

Chemical peel
Chemical peeling can be described as the controlled chemical burning of the skin. It uses chemicals like glycolic acid (alpha hydroxy acid) or lactic to remove the top layers of the skin. This peels away dark patches or hyperpigmented skin and allows fresh skin cells to push up the surface.

Laser Therapy
If your hyperpigmentation is deeper, consider a laser resurfacing treatment. Light beams are targeted at the skin to remove the epidermal layers of the skin. Look for medical advice to understand if your skin is compatible for this kind of laser therapy.

Prevention

Wearing sunscreen is the number one preventive measure for hyperpigmentation. Pick a broad spectrum sunscreen and apply it 20 minutes before you go outdoors. Wear hats, sunglasses, scarfs and protective clothing while you are outdoors to protect the skin from the harsh rays. Avoid irritating your skin by picking spots or squeezing blackheads. Be careful with trying new active skincare products especially if you have sensitive skin or skin of colour as you may be more prone to PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation). Only ever have professional skin treatments such as laser and chemical peels at a reputable medical clinic by a medical practitioner as these can cause PIH and scarring if not performed correctly.

If you have any questions or you would like any more information on hyperpigmentation of your skin you can ring us and book in for a free skin consultation on 07779 739 488.