Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition characterised by the darkening or increased pigmentation of certain areas of the skin. It occurs when an excess production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, occurs in specific areas, resulting in patches or spots that appear darker than the surrounding skin. These patches can vary in size, shape, and colour intensity.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
Melasma: Melasma appears as brown or gray patches on the skin, usually on the face. It is often triggered by hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or birth control usage, and excessive sun exposure.
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH): PIH occurs after an injury, inflammation, or skin trauma, such as acne, burns, cuts, or even certain cosmetic procedures. The affected area develops darker pigmentation than the surrounding skin.
Solar Lentigines: Commonly known as age spots or liver spots, solar lentigines are flat, tan, or brown spots that typically appear on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, hands, shoulders, and arms. They are caused by long-term sun exposure.
Freckles: Freckles are small, flat, tan, or light brown spots that are usually genetic and appear predominantly on fair-skinned individuals. They are the result of an increased production of melanin in the skin.
Causes of Hyperpigmentation
Excessive Sun Exposure: The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun stimulate the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin colour. Prolonged sun exposure without adequate protection can lead to the development of hyperpigmentation.
Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, can trigger melasma, commonly seen during pregnancy (chloasma or “mask of pregnancy”) or while taking hormonal contraceptives.
Skin Trauma or Inflammation: Inflammatory skin conditions, injuries, acne, or cosmetic procedures can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Genetic Predisposition: Some individuals are genetically prone to developing freckles and certain types of hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation Treatment Options
Topical Treatments: Over-the-counter creams, lotions, and serums containing ingredients like hydroquinone, retinoids, azelaic acid, kojic acid, vitamin C, and licorice extract can help lighten hyperpigmented areas over time. However, it is essential to follow product instructions and consult a skin specialist like Dr Bhavjit Kaur for personalised recommendations.
Chemical Peels: Chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin, which helps exfoliate the outer layer and reduce pigmentation. Superficial or medium-depth peels containing ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or trichloroacetic acid are commonly used for hyperpigmentation.
Laser Therapy: Laser treatments, such as intense pulsed light (IPL) and fractional laser, can target and break down excess melanin, leading to a more even skin tone. Multiple sessions may be required for optimal results.
Microdermabrasion: This non-invasive procedure uses a device to gently exfoliate the outer layer of the skin, helping to diminish hyperpigmentation.
In addition to professional treatments, there are some steps you can follow at home and preventive measures you can incorporate into your skincare routine:
Sun Protection: Protecting your skin from the sun is crucial in preventing and managing hyperpigmentation. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days. Additionally, use wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and seek shade during peak sun hours.
Gentle Cleansing: Cleanse your skin with mild, non-abrasive cleansers to avoid further irritation. Harsh cleansers can exacerbate hyperpigmentation.
Exfoliation: Regular exfoliation can help remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover. However, be gentle and avoid excessive scrubbing, as it can irritate the skin.
It’s important to consult a skin expert like Dr Bhavjit Kaur for a proper diagnosis and personalised treatment plan for your specific type and severity of hyperpigmentation. She can assess your skin, recommend suitable treatment options, and provide guidance on the most effective ways to manage and prevent hyperpigmentation.
Remember, patience is key when treating hyperpigmentation. It often takes time to see significant improvements, and consistency with your chosen treatments is crucial for long-term results.
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Dr Bhavjit Kaur
Dr Bhavjit Kaur is an Aesthetic Physician, with over 27 years of clinical experience. She is a postgraduate in Pathology, Biomedical sciences, DRCOG, DFSRH and Cosmetic Medicine.