Hyperpigmentation is a darkening of the skin due to an overproduction of melanin. It can be caused by various skin lesions, acne vulgaris, sun damage, and inflammation. It is more common in people with darker skin tones who spend a lot of time in the sun, although anyone with any type of skin tone can develop it. Examples of hyperpigmentation include liver spots, sun spots, age spots, melasma (mask of pregnancy), and freckles.
There are three types of hyperpigmentation:
Light brown spots, not as dense as dermal.
Dark brown spots on the skin, some may appear ash gray and quite dense and solid.
A mixture of epidermal and dermal, presenting as dark brown spots.
Darkened areas of the skin are the only symptom of hyperpigmentation. These areas can be located on your face or hands, or they can even cover your entire body.
Who is affected
Although anyone of any race or color can be affected by hyperpigmentation, genetically those with darker skin tones, as well as Asians and those of Asian descent, are at higher risk. People who spend too much time in the sun are at higher risk of developing hyperpigmentation because UV rays stimulate melanocytes to become hyperactive, and these are the cells that produce pigment (melanin).
The natural tone of an individual’s skin will determine the type of hyperpigmentation that occurs. People with more melanin (or people with darker skin) will likely develop hyperpigmentation from scars and irritations. People with less melanin (or people with lighter skin) are more likely to develop hyperpigmentation due to sun damage.
While hyperpigmentation is usually caused by overproduction of melanin, there are many different reasons why the body begins to overproduce melanin. Generally, when the skin is damaged in some way, hyperpigmentation is your body’s defense reaction. Various causes include:
- Sun exposure (the most common cause of hyperpigmentation)
- Side effect of chemotherapy
- Certain medications
- Changes in hormone levels.
- The pregnancy
- Endocrine diseases
- Side effects of skin treatment.
- Various metabolic disorders.
- Surgical procedures
- Severe sunburn
- Razor strokes
- Insect bites
- Birth control pills
How to diagnose hyperpigmentation
What is most important when diagnosing hyperpigmentation is not the dark spots on the skin themselves, but the reason why they appeared. In general, hyperpigmentation is strongly linked and most commonly associated with overexposure to sunlight, however, there are many other possibilities behind why hyperpigmentation has occurred, and a doctor will need to delve into your medical history and medical condition. current to make a diagnosis.
A wooden lamp is used to analyze the areas of your skin that have developed hyperpigmentation. A wooden lamp emits a black light that allows the doctor to see any fluorescence, a sign of hyperpigmentation.
Types of hyperpigmentation include:
- Solar Lentigines: These spots are harmless and generally affect people over 40 years of age. They are caused by excessive exposure to UV rays, which causes a proliferation of melanocytes and an accumulation of melanin in skin cells.
- The mask of pregnancy: This usually happens in women (but it can also develop in men). Melasma is caused by hormonal changes in your body, as well as excessive exposure to the sun.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This occurs when there is a lesion on the skin such as an injury, wound, insect bite, acne scar, chicken pox scar, etc. leading to excess pigmentation.
How to treat hyperpigmentation
Topical prescription medications, such as 4% hydroquinone, are often used to treat hyperpigmentation. This medicine bleaches your skin, although it may take several months for the affected areas to clear up.
Other medications include:
- Tretinoin Cream
- Glycolic acid (GA)
- Azelaic acid
- Trichloroacetic acid
- Mild cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen (used only with extreme caution)
- Pigmented creams - can be used to mask dark spots as a cosmetic solution
- Over-the-counter brightening products containing licorice root, kojic acid, pine bark extract and vitamin C, vitamin E, wine proanthocyanidin, soy genistein, ferulic acid, green tea polyphenols, and wine resveratrol
- Photofacial Treatment (IPL): involves intense pulsed light to treat affected areas
These medications can be used alone or in combination. Also, a doctor may recommend chemical peels in addition to topical ointments to significantly lighten the skin.
It is also important to note that these treatments are effective only for epidermal hyperpigmentation, as dermal pigmentation cannot be treated from the surface of the skin. Instead, it must be treated with laser or even invasive surgery (as a last resort) to penetrate the top layer of skin (epidermis) down to the dermal layer. If you’ve been using brightening creams to treat your hyperpigmentation, and after weeks or months of use, you don’t see a difference, you likely have dermal pigmentation and should seek treatment from a doctor or dermatologist.
You can also have a combination of epidermal and dermal hyperpigmentation and as such you must use multiple treatment methods.
Hereditary freckles, on the other hand, cannot be treated.
How to prevent hyperpigmentation
Most hyperpigmentation is caused by excessive sun exposure, which means that the most important prevention technique is to limit sun exposure, use sunscreen lotion, and wear protective clothing when in the sun.
Other modes of prevention include:
- If you see dark spots of hyperpigmentation developing, immediately start using glow products from the drugstore. Look for creams that contain kojic acid, licorice root, pine tree bark extract, or vitamin C, as all of these ingredients inhibit the production of tyrosinase - an enzyme responsible for the development of melanin.
- Your skin is sensitive, and it will react to scratching and scratching. If you notice a pimple, pimple or insect bite on your skin, don’t poke it. Manipulating these spots will increase inflammation and increase the risk of hyperpigmentation.
- Get regular skin checks by a qualified dermatologist. Regardless of whether or not you see dark spots on your skin, scheduling regular skin exams with your dermatologist will help you quickly curb any darkening of the skin with a prescription-like hydroquinone.
- If you buy over-the-counter skin lightening agents, make sure they contain other ingredients that benefit your skin, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and retinol, all of which promote cell turnover.
- People who are prone to dark spots on their skin should address problems as soon as they arise. Acne should be treated immediately with acne medications and bug spray should be used to prevent bug bites. Use sunscreen lotion if necessary, but make it a priority to say out of the sun as much as possible.
- When spending time in the sun, wear a hat and clothing with good coverage to limit your skin’s exposure to intense UV rays.
There is also an oral product available called Sunsafe Rx that is made with natural ingredients shown to help promote your defenses against the effects of sun exposure. Take Sunsafe Rx to support your skin in the sun. Just one capsule per day provides ingredients that are natural, healthy, and anti-aging. You can definitely use the sunscreen lotion synergistically as well, while the ingredients in Sunsafe Rx help support your entire body all the time.
Natural ingredients that help maintain your skin
Fortunately, there are a number of natural ingredients that have been shown to help combat the effects of sun exposure. The ingredients in Sunsafe Rx can also help protect your skin from the sun.
Also, in an article on melasma (a type of hyperpigmentation), we summarized the results of clinical trials on natural ingredients that can help alleviate the symptoms of melasma. In particular, polypodium leucotomos, grape seed extract and other natural ingredients such as vitamin A (from beta-carotene), vitamin C and vitamin E, all have shown good clinical results in patients. A Mediterranean-type diet has also shown positive results. This is important because avoiding sun exposure can always be difficult, and taking natural ingredients that work continuously can be a convenient and effective regimen to help prevent hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation Forecast / Outlook.
Fortunately, most cases of hyperpigmentation are not serious. While some hyperpigmentation can be caused by various diseases, the vast majority is caused by other factors such as overexposure to the sun and damage to the skin.
The two different types of hyperpigmentation are treated differently. Epidermal hyperpigmentation can usually be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications such as hydroquinone. Dermal hyperpigmentation is rooted deeper in the skin and requires more invasive therapy, such as laser treatments and chemical peels.
Some cases of hyperpigmentation are known to fade on their own, but most require some bleaching agent and take several months to improve. Other spots may never clear completely, but in this case cosmetic solutions such as pigmented creams can be used to mask dark patches. Most hyperpigmentation can be prevented by diligently avoiding sun exposure and ingesting natural ingredients to help prevent sun damage when sun exposure cannot be avoided on exposed skin.
Although all skin types are susceptible to hyperpigmentation, it most commonly affects people with darker skin tones, especially those of Asian descent. Hyperpigmentation usually develops on the face, such as under the eyes and on the cheeks. It is also common on the hands and soles of the feet, but can develop anywhere on the body.
Wood lamps are used in the diagnosis of hyperpigmentation. Although generally harmless, hyperpigmentation can sometimes be caused by various diseases, including Addison’s disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, hemochromatosis, and others.
Hyperpigmentation can be treated with brightening products such as tretinoin cream, corticosteroids, glycolic acid (GA), and others. Hydroquinone is a commonly prescribed brightening agent for people who need a stronger method than over-the-counter products. These methods work for epidermal hyperpigmentation; however, treating dermal hyperpigmentation requires more intrusive methods, such as chemical peels and lasers.
When shopping for over-the-counter brightening creams to treat hyperpigmentation, people should look for products that contain vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice root, and pine bark extract along with an effective moisturizer to soothe the skin.
Preventing hyperpigmentation requires constant efforts to regulate sun exposure through the use of sunscreens and clothing that avoid exposing your skin to the sun. Regularly checking your skin, in addition to having it done by a doctor, will allow you to immediately treat any dark spots that are found, as treatment when the pigmentation is new produces the best results. Removing and scratching the skin is strongly discouraged.
Sunsafe Rx is an effective tool to keep your skin healthy and support it during sun exposure. This nutritional supplement contains natural antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, green tea polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene, and many others that have been clinically shown to promote your defenses against the effects of sunlight.