Hyperpigmentation is a widely common skin concern that affects people of all ages and skin tones. It refers to dark patches or spots on the skin caused by an increase in melanin production. Melanin is the pigment responsible for giving our skin its color. When there is an overproduction of melanin, it can lead to the appearance of darker spots on the skin.
How and Why Hyperpigmentation Happens
There are several factors that can trigger hyperpigmentation, including sun exposure, skin injury, inflammation, and hormonal changes. Among these, sun damage is the most common culprit. When the skin is exposed to the sun, it produces more melanin to protect itself, which can lead to hyperpigmentation. This is how freckles, sun spots, or solar lentigines – all forms of hyperpigmentation – are formed. Another type of hyperpigmentation is Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH). PIH occurs after there has been inflammation or an injury to the skin. The skin’s response is to produce more melanin, which can result in darker patches.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
There are several presentations of hyperpigmentation, including post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), sun damage, freckles, and sunspots or solar lentigines.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is caused by inflammation or injury to the skin, often as a result of acne, eczema, or a wound. It appears as dark spots on the affected area and can take months to fade.
- Sun damage refers to the dark patches or spots that appear due to overexposure to UV rays from the sun. These spots are often seen on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the face, hands, and arms. This can appear as uneven skin tone, dark spots, freckles, etc.
- Freckles are small, flat spots on the skin that vary in color from light brown to dark brown. They are a form of sun damage and typically appear on fair-skinned individuals.
- Sunspots or solar lentigines are larger dark spots, typically seen in older individuals with a history of sun exposure. These are collections of melanin that have accumulated over time and are often found on the face, hands, and chest.
Why Hyperpigmentation is Difficult to Treat
What makes hyperpigmentation difficult to treat is its trigger – light. Even when using treatments, if the skin is exposed to light, it can re-stimulate the melanin production process. This is why it’s crucial to use sun protection during and after treatment and be diligent with reapplication 365 days a year.
Treatment Options for Hyperpigmentation
There are various treatment options available for hyperpigmentation, depending on its severity and type. These include:
- Topical treatments such as retinoids, hydroquinone, tyrosinase inhibitors, vitamin C, and more, which can help fade dark spots over time.
- Chemical peels that use acids to exfoliate the skin and promote cell turnover.
- Laser therapy, which targets the excess melanin in the affected area.
- Microneedling facials, which can help improve cellular communication, and even skin tone especially when combined with a peel.
It’s essential to consult with a dermatologist or licensed skincare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your specific case of hyperpigmentation.
To effectively improve hyperpigmentation, a comprehensive plan is vital. Working with a trained esthetician is particularly beneficial. Skincare specialists can accurately evaluate your skin type and nature of hyperpigmentation, and identify the most effective treatment plan. We can then customize a skincare regimen that combines professional treatments with at-home care, ensuring consistent, targeted treatment for noticeable and sustainable results.
Hyperpigmentation is a common but stubborn skin concern that can be caused by various factors. While it may be difficult to treat, there are effective options available that can help fade dark spots and improve the overall appearance of the skin. Remember to always protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen and seeking shade, as prevention is key in avoiding hyperpigmentation.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2021). Hyperpigmentation: Overview. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/color-problems/hyperpigmentation#overview
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Get rid of age spots with these treatments. https://www.health.harvard.edu/skin-and-hair/get-rid-of-age-spots-with-these-treatments
- Mayo Clinic. (2019). Hyperpigmentation: Overview. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperpigmentation/symptoms-causes/syc-2035583