All About Hyperpigmentation
Skin hyperpigmentation is a struggle!
Those annoying pimple marks that you never really grow out of, uneven skin tone from one too many sunburns, strange shadows during pregnancy, and then there are the early signs of aging that sneak up on most women in their 30's.
All different types of hyperpigmentation.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all looked in the mirror, looked at different shades of skin, and asked “when did my skin change?” We’ve applied our concealer and headed out for answers at the beauty shelves of the local pharmacy.
As frustrating and stubborn as this skin issue is, there is still hope.
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is a broad term that refers to a common skin condition otherwise known as discolouration. It is any patch or spots of skin that becomes darker in colour than the normal skin tone. It can occur in small patches, cover large areas or affect the entire body.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin generates excessive production of melanin.
Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin its colour. The excess melanin gets deposited into the deeper levels of the skin, causing discolouration. Several elements could trigger it, like inflamed skin scars, freckles, sun exposure, hormonal changes, and other serious medical condition.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
People of all skin tones are affected by hyperpigmentation. There are various forms of discolouration. The most common causes are:
One of the results of growing up in a sun-loving and beach culture, is age spots, also known as sunspots, liver spots, and solar lentigines. This is one of the most experienced types of hyperpigmentation and noticeable in elders over 50 years old. Anywhere the body has been exposed to the sun, is where age spots can be found. This includes the face, hands, shoulders, and arms. Age spots have a small, flat dark spot appearance.
Melasma is most common during pregnancy and in women and people with darker skin tone. Melasma is most prevalent on the face, like the forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, or just above the lips, making it a little difficult to treat. It is often termed as chloasma or "the mask of pregnancy" as it usually appears during pregnancy when the body undergoes hormonal shifts. It may also develop when taking oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, or excessive sun exposure. Sometimes, it goes away when the hormones are back to normal, like after pregnancy or after stopping the birth control pills. Drugs, including antibiotics and some chemotherapy drugs, can also trigger melasma.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
This condition results from skin trauma — such as psoriasis, eczema, acute acne, cuts, scrapes, even scratching, or friction causing inflammation. Inflammation causes an increase in the production of pigments, producing dark spots even after healing.
Medical Conditions or Medication
Medication and Medical Conditions can also be the cause of hyperpigmentation. Addison disease is a rare endocrine disease that can increase melanin production, that causes dark spots or patches in sun-exposed areas, such as the face, neck, and hands, and those areas with frequent vulnerability to friction, such as elbows and knees.
Freckles are extra patches of pigment under the skin. Yes, you can blame your genes for hyperpigmentation! Freckles may get worse and may become darker and more visible with UV exposure.
This is the most common reason and form of hyperpigmentation. To protect the skin from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, our skin boosts melanin production. Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin color and absorbs UV light to protect the skin from sun damage. This is why we get darker skin or tan when over-exposed to the sun. Sunburns and skin redness, however, happen when melanocytes (cells responsible for creating melanin) are not quick enough to produce melanin during prolong sun exposure.
Different types of hyperpigmentation have their corresponding causes and triggers. There is no one way to treat hyperpigmentation. It is crucial to understand and know the cause of your hyperpigmentation, to use targeted treatments and preventions.
Treatments for Hyperpigmentation
Most forms of hyperpigmentation respond well to treatment. Depending on the severity level, it is wise to consult a dermatologist to provide you with the best medical care plan for your condition. On the other hand, if you are experiencing mild to moderate discolouration, here are the treatments and preventions you can do to keep hyperpigmentation at bay:
Over the counter, treatments are readily available. These are lightening creams with ingredients that help brighten your skin and therefore reduce pigmentation. These ingredients can be found in your day and night cream, which you should apply to your skin twice a day.
Ingredients to look for in your day and night cream, to help prevent hyperpigmentation include UV filters like UVA and UVB sunscreen.
Ingredients to look for in your day and night cream, to reduce hyperpigmentation include:
- Vitamin C (found in Kakadu Plum and Lilly Pilly)
- L-ascorbic acid
- Koji acid (found in Mushroom Extract)
- Niacinamide or vitamin B3
- Licorice extracts
Exfoliating your skin helps to remove old skin cells and reveal new skin cells. The act of using exfoliating agents evens out the skin tone resulting in lighter and smoother skin.
Salicylic or skin acids exfoliate the top layer of your skin quickly. This is best for more moderate hyperpigmentation or people with lighter skin tones.
Ingredients to look out for in an exfoliating product to treat hyperpigmentation:
- azelaic acid
- kojic acid
- salicylic acid
- antioxidants like vitamin C (in the form of l-ascorbic acid) works well together with alpha-hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic, citric, malic, or tartaric acid
Studies have shown that retinoids stimulate cellular turnover, meaning that they may help with fading dark spots caused by hyperpigmentation.
But you have to be cautious, as retinoids have been known to cause redness or irritation and may even trigger hyperpigmentation. They may also take a few months before you see an improvement.
A chemical peel uses powerful acid concentrates and may treat the hyperpigmented area of the skin by removing the upper layer of the epidermis.
This reduces the appearance of the discolouration. Glycolic peels are one of the safest and most effective in eliminating dark spots.
Other Treatment Options
If you have persistent dark shadows that just won’t disappear, you’re best to consult your dermatologist. They can advise you on the impact the following treatments may have on your specific skin discolouration. If you do choose to try the following treatments, be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
Also called laser peel or laser resurfacing treatment, laser treatment utilizes targeted beams of light to reduce hyperpigmentation. There are two types of laser peels: ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers are the most aggressive, and they involve removing layers of your skin. Non-ablative procedures, on the other hand, like Intense Pulse Light therapy (IPL), promote collagen growth within the dermis and tightening effects.
Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive cosmetic procedure that treats discolouration that affects the epidermis only. It involves removing the top layer of skin with a small hand-held tool to restore overall skin tone and texture. Then exfoliates the skin, reduces signs of aging, and evens the skin tone. Microdermabrasion is considered safe for all skin types.
Please follow the instructions carefully.
How To Prevent Hyperpigmentation
The initial step in handling hyperpigmentation is avoiding it from happening. Most times, it is inevitable, but most often than not, there are factors that we can control to prevent it. Let us take a look at how we can defend our skin from getting further hyperpigmentation.
1. Wear Sunscreen
Applying sunscreen is your best protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Choose the one that has the highest SPF and offers both UVA and UVB protection. Apply it every day, even indoors and especially before going out into the sun.
2. Stay Moisturized
Increase cellular turnover by using skincare products with great moisturizing ingredients like glycerin or hyaluronic acid and retinol. If you are into vegan skincare products, look for a moisturizer with organic rosehip oil, Kakadu plum, Jojoba oil, and Lily Pili, like Kadee Botanicals Hydrating Day & Night Cream. All of which promotes collagen production fights the signs of aging, combat adult acne and acne scarring, brightens the skin, and aids with cell regeneration to maintain a healthy, youthful glow.
3. Resist Picking or Squeezing
I know how tempting it is to scratch or pick at a pimple or insect bite, but you have to resist to save your skin. Picking, scratching, or squeezing will only make the inflammation worse and your discolouration harder to treat.
If you already have scars from scratching or popping a pimple, using topical creams can help lighten the dark spots. Over-the-counter remedies containing vitamin C, licorice root, and kojic acid help lessen dark spots.
4. Avoid Sun Exposure
There are a lot of ways not to get sun-induced discolouration. Bringing hats, sunglasses, and umbrellas when you go outdoors may help. Staying in the shade, and away from direct sun exposure, especially when the sun is at its peak are some of the best ways to prevent hyperpigmentation. Again, do not forget your sunscreen.
Every single day you are exposed to various factors causing hyperpigmentation. Following an excellent skincare regimen helps your skin rejuvenate and heal from damage. Choose a skincare product that is natural and gentle on your skin, as irritation can exacerbate hyperpigmentation.
It is not easy to deal with hyperpigmentation. Whether you are treating a newly irritated pimple or discolouration due to medical reasons, starting treatment sooner rather than later is advised. Vitamin C potent skincare, like Kadee Botanicals Hydrating Day & Night Cream, may help to brighten hyperpigmentation.
For more serious or persistent discolouration, it’s recommended you consult with a dermatologist.