Hyperpigmentation: Causes and Confidence-boosting solutions

Hyperpigmentation is characterised by areas of the body that appear visibly darker than other parts. The pigmentation of a person’s skin, hair, and eyes can become darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation) and is usually completely harmless.

Melanin is not uniformly distributed in the skin; it’s found in varying concentrations in different layers of the epidermis. Hyperpigmentation occurs when melanin is produced in excess or when it’s distributed unevenly, resulting in the appearance of dark spots or patches.

While hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition that doesn’t discriminate against age, ethnicity, or skin type, it can be a source of insecurity depending on severity, visibility, and personal perception.

Let’s explore 3 common types of hyperpigmentation, preventative measures, and treatments. 


Melasma

Melasma typically appears as patches of deep brown, tan, or greyish-brown patches on the face, most commonly on the cheeks, forehead, nose, and upper lip. It can also affect other sun-exposed areas like the neck and forearms.

The condition is usually asymptomatic, meaning it doesn’t cause physical discomfort. Melasma is believed to be caused by hormonal changes and may develop during pregnancy or while using hormonal contraception. 

People with darker skin tones, such as those of African, Caribbean, Asian, and Middle Eastern descent, are more prone to melasma. A family history of melasma may increase the likelihood of developing the condition. 

It’s essential to consult a dermatologist for a personalised treatment plan. While melasma can be stubborn, with proper care and management, significant improvement in skin appearance is possible.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

This type of hyperpigmentation is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin such as acne, burns, or cuts. The skin produces more melanin during the healing process, leading to dark spots. It tends to fade on its own but can take a while.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs in the epidermal layer of the skin (the epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin) and is a superficial form of hyperpigmentation making it more responsive to topical treatments.

Sunspots

As you may have guessed, sun exposure is the primary culprit. This form of hyperpigmentation is also known as solar lentigines, liver spots, or age spots. As sunspots tend to occur due to ultraviolet (UV) rays, this also includes artificial sources such as tanning beds. 


Treatment

Prevention is better than cure.  Using sunscreen provides an immediate and significant reduction in the activation of melanin caused by exposure to UV light. Protect your skin from UV damage by using sunscreen, avoiding sunbeds and prolonged sun exposure.

Over-the-counter topical agents such as retinoids, vitamin C serum, products containing licorice root, niacinamide, and AHAs can fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation over time, while chemical peels, laser therapy, or microneedling combined with topical treatments may work better in more severe cases.  

It’s important to consult with your GP or a dermatologist to determine the most suitable treatment plan for your specific type of hyperpigmentation. Remember that results may take time, so patience and consistency are key to achieving a more even complexion.

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