What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin produces more melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. This can make spots or patches of skin appear darker than surrounding areas. Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition. It affects people of all skin types.
Some forms of hyperpigmentation, including melasma and sun spots, are more likely to affect areas of skin that face sun exposure, including the face, arms, and legs. Other types of hyperpigmentation form after an injury or skin inflammation, such as cuts, burns, acne, or lupus. These can occur anywhere on the body.
Having extra pigment in some areas of skin is usually harmless but can sometimes indicate another medical condition.
How to get rid of hyperpigmentation
Although hyperpigmentation is harmless, some people wish to get rid of it. There are a range of possible treatment methods and home remedies that people can try.
To prevent hyperpigmentation, or to stop it becoming more prominent:
1. Avoid exposure to the sun. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect the skin and stop hyperpigmentation from becoming darker.
2. Avoid picking at the skin. To prevent hyperpigmentation from forming after an injury, avoid picking at spots, scabs, and acne.
3. People can try the following treatments to lighten dark patches of skin and remove hyperpigmentation:
Many people use topical treatments to treat hyperpigmentation. Topical treatments will include ingredients that lighten the skin, such as:
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
- chemical peels
People who are considering undergoing one of these procedures should discuss the process and possible side effects with a skin care specialist, or dermatologist.
Types of hyperpigmentation:
Freckles are usually small brown spots caused by sun exposure. They can occur anywhere, at any age, but are most common on the face, neck, chest, and hands. These are nothing to worry about unless asymmetry, irregular borders, or changes in color develop.
As their name suggests, these pigmentations are present at birth. They can be caused by clusters of pigmented cells or malformed blood vessels. Birthmarks may go away without treatment, stay the same, or change over time. They also may be present in different colors or contain different types of tissue.
Melasma is the darkening of skin tone due to hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy. Patches of melasma are often gray-brown and occur on the cheeks, forehead, bridge of the nose, chin, and upper lip. This can also be a side-effect of taking birth control pills. Melasma may be worsened by sun exposure.
Patchy areas of redness that occur for no apparent reason, and which can flare up for weeks or months and go away. Common on the cheeks, chin, nose, or forehead, rosacea can be exacerbated by sunlight, temperature extremes, and an increase in blood flow to the skin. Rosacea can resemble blushing but more advanced stages are characterized by visible blood vessels, and an enlarged nose, chin, and oil glands.
Also known as age spots, liver spots, and solar lentigines, photoaging often results from years of prolonged sun exposure. Clusters of dark spots may appear in one’s late thirties or early forties. Sunlight affects the production of melanin, which results in uneven skin tone.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
It is often associated with acne; once a pimple heals, a dark spot may be left behind. PIH can happen due to any trauma to the skin. Even if you get a scratch or an insect bite, melanocytes, or pigment cells, can create more pigment in response to the injury. Inflammatory conditions such as lupus and eczema can lead to PIH as well.