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Hyperpigmentation: What is it And How it Affects Your Skin?

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation refers to a skin condition where there is an overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color causing a darkened area. Although it is medically harmless, it is unwelcome to those who suffer from it on cosmetic grounds. It either occurs when there is an abnormally high concentration of melanocytes for melanin production or when melanocytes are hyperactive.

What are Signs and Symptoms of Hyperpigmentation?

The most common signs of hyperpigmentation include age or liver spots. In some cases it may be present as birthmarks if present from the nativity. Darkening of the skin on a specific or a wider area is the most prevalent sign of hyperpigmentation. During hot seasons, you will probably notice that your birthmarks become darker when exposed to sunlight. On realizing any unusual discoloration of your skin, you should immediately consult a dermatologist to rule out the possibilities of skin cancer. Provide a full list of medication you take to avoid misdiagnosis.

What are The Causes of Hyperpigmentation?

  • Sun Exposure: This is the most common cause of hyperpigmentation. The sun triggers the production of melanin which acts as natural sunscreen for protecting harmful rays of the sun from reaching your body. This is the reason why your skin becomes darker when exposed to sun. However, excessive exposure of your skin to the sun can cause hyperpigmentation.
  • Hormonal Changes: These are responsible for specific types of hyperpigmentation such as Melasma and choalasma. The two conditions occur in women when estrogen and progesterone triggers overproduction of melanin following your skin’s exposure to sun light. Certain birth control pills which affect hormonal production also cause melasma.
  • Heredity: You are at an increased risk of suffering from hyperpigmentation if any member in your family including your parents, grandparents or great grandparents suffered from the same. According to health experts, certain genes are responsible for passing on traits from one generation to the next.
  • Botched Skin Treatments: Use of some cosmetic products or undergoing skin surgeries can at times lead to hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation can also be worsened if treated with intense pulsed light emissions if administered improperly. This calls for extra caution when selecting your physician.
  • Celiac Disease: This refers to an immune reaction towards consumption of certain food types that contain gluten, rye, or barley. With celiac disease, your small intestines are incapacitated and thus can’t absorb some important nutrients. This often impairs a number of your organs including your skin leading to hyperpigmentation among other serious complications.

Types of Hyperpigmentation

  • Melasma: It is characterized by brown to grey patches that mostly occur on your forehead, chin, nose, cheeks, or on the upper lip. You can also get them on your neck or forearms. The most common cause of melasma is prolonged exposure of your skin to sunlight. Stay away from sun or use a sunscreen to fight melasma.
  • Chloasma: Also referred to as the “mask” of pregnancy, chloasma is also caused by exposure of the skin to the sun although it only occurs in pregnant mothers. It is believed that hormones progesterone and estrogen triggers overproduction of melanin when a pregnant mother exposes herself to the sun.
  • Solar Lentigens (Sun Damage): Also known as Sun Damage, solar lentigens refer to dark (hyper pigmented) spots caused by exposure to the sun’s UV light. They can occur as a group or individually. They appear as brown to black flat spots and can affect anyone regardless of age.
  • Freckles (Aka Ephelides): These consist of flat brown or red patches that disappear with a reduction* of exposure to the sun light. Freckles darkens or increases* in number the more you expose your skin to the sun.
  • PIH (Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation): These refer to a variety of spots with a range of colors usually left behind following pimples infections or wounds. They are mostly caused by acne and scrubbing an inflamed area increases* their occurrence. They are best treated with OTC products containing alpha hydroxyl acids.

What is Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation?

Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation consists of temporary or permanent discoloration spots left on the skin following an inflammation. The good news is that majority are treatable with OTC products although some can last for a lifetime. Scratching an area that has acne increases* the chances of post inflammatory pigmentation. Sensitive skins are more susceptible to such inflammations.

Aging and Sun Exposure

Baking in the sun is fun but as you age a number of skin complications starts to emerge especially when harmful sun rays alters melanin production in your body. Wrinkles and age spots are some of the common problems that come with aging and exposure to the sun. On the negative edge, tanning of the skin from effects of the sun increases* your risks of suffering from skin cancer. Sun cause damages to elastin fibers causing your skin to sag. The skin loses its ability to stretch and becomes easily bruised and easy to tear. Mostly, sun exposure and not aging is the main reason that most people don’t retain a youthful skin later in life.

Hormonal Change and Pregnancy

Pregnant women experience drastic changes in hormones estrogen and progesterone. Majority of women undergo significant changes in their skins’ appearances during pregnancy. Luckily, most are short-lived although some like stretch marks can be permanent. The mask of pregnancy or hyperpigmentation at areolas is the most common type of skin change in vast of pregnant moms. The darkening can also occur at the abdomen, genitals or Linea Alba. Hyperpigmentation on the face or melasma can be accelerated by exposure to sunlight. It is therefore recommendable for pregnant mothers to wear sunscreens daily or to avoid undue exposure to sunlight.

Hyperpigmentation Treatments

Wearing sunscreens is the preliminary step towards preventing hyperpigmentation. Sometimes though, it can catch with you unawares. Luckily, there are several treatment options available including home remedies, creams, or prescribed medications. Some home remedies can react with your skin and worsen your skin condition especially if you are not aware of your skin type. Going for prescribed medications entail undertaking extra costs and spending time that both could have been put in to better use. The most convenient treatment approach is the use of skin brightening creams which are specially formulated for different type of skins. They contain naturally extracted ingredients that will tone the color of your skin eliminating all those dark spots, wrinkles, freckles and offer protection against harmful rays of the sun. They are also convenient to order and easy to use without possibilities of any side effects.