What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is a condition where the skin becomes darker. It may occur over large areas on the face, in small patches, or over the whole body.
Resulting from excess pigmentation, this is not a life-threatening condition.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
There are many types of hyperpigmentation. However, the standard forms are sunspots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Sunspots-Sometimes called solar lentigines, or liver spots, are a common form of hyperpigmentation. It occurs due to over-exposure to the sun. Gradually, the spots will appear on the areas directly exposed to the sun, such as the face and hands.
Melasma- This form of hyperpigmentation arises from hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy. Dark skin patches may appear on any part of the body, usually on the face and stomach.
Post-inflammatory- Sometimes, inflammation or injury may result in hyperpigmentation. An example of an inflammatory condition is acne.
Why Does it Happen?
Hyperpigmentation is caused by an overproduction of melanin. It is a pigment that gives skin its natural color. Melanin is made in the skin cells or melanocytes.
Certain conditions may affect melanin production. For example, Addison’s disease is a rare endocrine disorder that makes the body produce excess pigmentation. It often occurs on the face, hands, and neck. Sometimes areas of friction may see hyperpigmentation as well, such as the knees and elbows.
Sometimes medications may trigger hyperpigmentation as well. For example, a few chemotherapy medications may lead to hyperpigmentation.
Too much sun exposure will result in increased melanin production.
How is Hyperpigmentation Treated?
A dermatologist will determine the cause of hyperpigmentation after conducting a physical exam and assessing your medical history. In rare cases, a skin biopsy may be necessary.
Some types of hyperpigmentation are treated using topical medications like hydroquinone. This medication lightens your skin. However, hydroquinone treatment is not used for long periods as it may cause skin darkening. Your dermatologist will advise the time frame for this medication.
Topical retinoids are another course of treatment in hyperpigmentation. This medication effectively treats dark spots, but it may take a few months to notice visible results.
In a few cases, your dermatologist may recommend chemical peels or laser treatments to minimize hyperpigmentation.
Lastly, home care measures are another way to improve your hyperpigmentation. This includes wearing sunscreen. Look for a product that contains the following:
- Broad spectrum UV coverage
- Sun Protection Factor or SPF 30-50
- Contains zinc oxide.
Apply sunscreen an hour before heading out. If you plan to stay in the sun, reapply sunscreen every two hours.
How to Prevent Hyperpigmentation?
The best way to minimize your chances of developing this skin condition is by:
- Avoiding going out in the sun between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Wearing clothing and hats that physically block sunlight
- Using products with SPF 30 or more.
Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition with different treatment options. Speak to your dermatologist for treatment guidance.