What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of the skin due to a substance called melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin its natural color. When it is overproduced it creates dark spots that can appear vastly different from the skin surrounding it. Skin can appear darker from other substances such as iron causing similar appearing dark marks.
Most Common Types of Hyperpigmentation
- Sun & Age Spots
Sometimes referred to as “liver spots”, these are the most common form of hyperpigmentation, found most often in older adults. Generally, age spots are characterized by dark brown or even tan scaling patches of discoloration on any part of the body. Sun spots, or lentigines, are usually brown flat spots most often appearing in sun-exposed areas.
Also known as chloasma or mask of pregnancy, melasma classically presents as patchy dark pigmentation on the face. The most common areas are the forehead, cheekbones, and upper lip; however, it can occur off of the face. This condition is most common in women, especially those who are exposed to increased estrogen – often due to pregnancy or birth control pills. Also, those with darker skin have much higher rates of melasma. UV-light, heat, and other light spectrums are thought to play a role in melasma as well.
- Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
This form of hyperpigmentation appears after an inflammatory skin condition, such as acne or eczema. This is extremely common in people with darker skin color and often more distressing than the inciting cause since it can last months to years after the initial inflammation has disappeared.
Causes of Skin Darkening
- Exposure to the Sun – UV rays cause the body to produce excess melanin as a defense mechanism against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
- Inflammation or Chronic Rubbing of the Skin
- Hormones – Estrogen or Insulin
- Medications – Some medications can be photosensitizing or even cause pigmentation not related to melanin, but iron deposition in the skin causing bluish/grey discoloration. Common medications include cardiac and antidepressant medications.
- Systemic Disease – Rarely systemic disorders such as Addison’s Disease, hemochromatosis, or metastatic melanoma can cause diffuse hyperpigmentation.
Treatment of Hyperpigmentation
Since discoloration of the skin has many different causes, treatments may vary depending on the initial cause. Some of the most popular treatment methods include:
- Chemical Peels – Help to resurface the skin’s outer layer and reduce the presence of dark spots and discolorations.
- Topical Creams – Depending on the specifics of your hyperpigmentation, we may recommend the use of certain topical creams that can help brighten the skin and reduce inflammation. Some of these include – Vitamin C, hydroquinone, retinoids, glycolic acid, corticosteroids, and many more.
- Laser Skin Resurfacing – Helps remove the outer layer of skin and stimulate the production of new fresh skin cells.
- IPL – Intense pulsed light therapy, uses an intense beam of light energy to target pigment in the skin. IPL also stimulates the production of fresh collagen to aid in cellular turnover and reduce the presence of discolorations. This must be done carefully by an experienced physician to not create burns or inflammation that can cause more pigmentation in prone individuals.
For more information on treating skin discolorations, be sure to contact Nova Dermatology today.