You look closely into a mirror. You see the red bump, bulging out, screaming to be squeezed. You give in to the temptation; knowing there’ll be a scar reminding you of the forfeit.
That little scar, otherwise known as hyperpigmentation isn't necessarily a condition but a term that explains areas of the skin that appear darker. It might not only be scars, but also other forms of dark patches. It can occur in small patches, covering large areas or affect the entire body.
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin produces excessive amounts of melanin– the pigment that gives the skin its colour. It can affect people of all skin types; however, it is more common on skin of colour, as darker skin tones already have a higher melanin content. Burns, bruises, acne, rashes, or other trauma to the skin can cause it to produce more melanin and lead to dark spots. Common types of skin hyperpigmentations are age spots, also called “liver” spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Some medications and certain health conditions can also lead to hyperpigmentation.
What are the symptoms and risk factors?
Darkened areas on the skin are the main symptoms of hyperpigmentation. 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 and trauma to the skin, such as a wound or superficial burn injury.
A dermatologist can diagnose the cause of your hyperpigmentation. They will request your medical history and give you a physical exam to determine the cause. In some cases, a skin biopsy can narrow down the cause.
How to get rid of hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is often harmless and may require no treatment at all. However, some people may prefer to remove it. For those who do, various treatment methods and home remedies may help.
Topical creams are the most common way to treat hyperpigmentation. Topical treatments will include ingredients that can lighten the skin; such as, azelaic acid, vitamin C, retinoids and tretinoin, glycolic acid peels, and niacinamide. Creams containing steroids and hydroquinone can take 3–6 months to affect the skin colour.
Some popular products that works wonders for scarring and hyperpigmentations are: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, and the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ Acne Spot Treatment.
Some cosmetic procedures can also lighten areas of skin to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Cosmetic procedures for hyperpigmentation include: laser therapy, intense pulsed light, and chemical peels. People considering whether to undergo one of these procedures should discuss the process and possible side effects with a skin care specialist or dermatologist. They can possibly worsen hyperpigmentation by injuring the outer layer of the skin.