What is hyperpigmentation?
Noticed that some areas on your face look darker compared to others? Well, if certain patches of skin are covered with a darker colour than the surrounding areas, you could have hyperpigmentation, a common skin condition that occurs when the skin produces more melanin. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes and gives our skin, hair and eyes their color. Generally dark-skinned people have more melanin than those who have a lighter skin shade.
What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?
Symptoms of hyperpigmentation
- Large patches of darkened skin
- Black (or dark brown, tan) spots due to sun exposure
- Spots or patches on skin due to inflammation (hyperpigmentation acne) or injury
Types of hyperpigmentation
External factors such as UV exposure, pollution and internal factors such as hormones and aging play a role in hyperpigmentation, but the main ones include
- Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
If you thought dealing with acne/zits or pimples is tiresome, wait until they go away and leave a dark spot behind after healing. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is caused due to any trauma to the skin which causes the melanocytes to create more melanin, turning the area into a dark spot.
In this type of hyperpigmentation, prevention is the best cure. Getting acne, eczema or other problems under control will prevent new dark spots from forming. Combining natural skin brighteners such as licorice and Niacinamide along with retinols (help in exfoliating the dead skin cells thus rejuvenating it) can work well too.
Melasma is caused mainly due to hormonal changes and is characterized as gray-brown patches mainly on the cheeks, upper lip and forehead center. It is a common condition among pregnant women and also in some women who take birth control pills. In cases of melasma, exposure to sun can aggravate the skin condition.
Hyperpigmentation Treatment for Melasma includes using natural skin brighteners like licorice, vitamin C, Kojic acid, and green tea as they can be used for a longer duration. Professional treatments for melasma include chemical peels and microneedling in combination with brightening agents.
- Photoaging or sun spots
Also called as age spots or liver spots, they commonly appear on the face and hands, or on sun-exposed areas of the body. Photoaging mainly affects elders (starts in your late thirties or early forties) due to prolonged sun exposure. It results in uneven skin tone and cluster of darker spots that are bigger than freckles.
Treatment for photoaging mostly includes chemical peels which have proven quite effective. For people with lighter skin IPL (intense pulsed light) is a good treatment option.
Freckles are mostly a hereditary skin condition where brown spots occur prominently on the bridge of the nose and cheeks. Although they can form in any age, freckles mostly occur during childhood and become conspicuous after long term sun exposure.
Freckles are difficult to get rid of and the best treatment for them is limiting exposure to the sun and using a good SPF, broad spectrum sunscreen while going out.
- Diagnosis of hyperpigmentation
In cases of melasma or most doctors will be able to identify the type of hyperpigmentation just by looking at the skin. In other cases where just an examination is insufficient to determine the hyperpigmentation, the dermatologist will take small sample of skin, or a biopsy, to identify the type and cause of the condition.
- Skin Care Tips
Following some simple skincaretips can protect your skin from hyperpigmentation.
- Don’t go out too much in the sun
- Always apply a good SPF 30 & above, broad spectrum sunscreen before going out
- Use a vitamin C serum (antioxidant properties) to reduce existing dark spots
- Don’t forget to remove make up before sleeping
- Use mild creams with skin lightening agents like kojic acid, arbutin or sabi white with retinoid
- Wearing caps and long sleeved cotton clothes that limit direct contact of sunlight with your skin