Dark patches around the mouth, often referred to as melasma or hyperpigmentation, are a common skin concern that can affect individuals of all skin types and ages. These patches of increased pigmentation can appear on the upper lip, lower lip, chin and sometimes extend to the surrounding areas. While not harmful, these patches can be distressing for those who experience them. Understanding the causes, effects, and available treatments can help manage and address this condition more effectively.
What causes uneven dark patches around the mouth?
Pigmentation around the mouth area, often attributed to dark patches, can be triggered by a variety of underlying causes. This phenomenon, often referred to as melasma or hyperpigmentation, can have various underlying causes and effects on the skin's appearance.
This occurs when the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the colour of our skin, becomes uneven or excessive, which can lead to the development of dark patches around the mouth. Understanding the following causes can help guide effective treatment and prevention strategies-
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun stimulate the production of melanin as a defence mechanism against UV damage. However, prolonged and unprotected sun exposure can result in localized overproduction of melanin, leading to hyperpigmentation.
Genetic factors can influence how melanocytes (cells that produce melanin) respond to triggers such as hormones and sunlight. Individuals with a family history of melasma are more likely to develop dark patches around the mouth.
Perfumes and Fragrances
Some products, particularly those with photosensitising ingredients, can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and contribute to the development of dark patches.
Inflammatory skin conditions, injury, or trauma to the skin can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The skin responds to inflammation by producing excess melanin during the healing process.
The deficiency of vitamin B12 and vitamin D can also cause skin pigmentation. According to a study published in 2018, a deficiency of vitamin D was noticed in people with melasma. This insufficiency mainly takes place when you avoid sunlight for a long period.
Note: Causes of hyperpigmentation can vary from person to person and are often influenced by a combination of factors.
Unveiling the effects of hyperpigmentation around perioral region (mouth area)
It is important to recognize that the effects of hyperpigmentation are not solely physical; they also extend to emotional and psychological well-being. Addressing hyperpigmentation not only involves the improvement of skin appearance, but also the restoration of confidence and a positive self-perception. These effects include:
Uneven Skin Tone: The most noticeable effect of excessive melanin production is the development of dark patches that contrast with the surrounding skin. This uneven skin tone can create a prominent visual difference.
Physical Discomfort: While hyperpigmentation itself is generally not physically uncomfortable, individuals might experience itching, dryness, or other mild discomfort related to skincare treatments used to address the condition.
Psychological Impact: The visible change in skin tone can have psychological effects, causing emotional distress and impacting self-esteem. Feelings of insecurity or embarrassment may arise, particularly when the hyperpigmentation is prominent around mouth areas.
- Treatment and Management Efforts: Addressing hyperpigmentation often requires consistent skincare routines, products, and treatments. This can be time-consuming and may require adjustments to one's daily routine.
Addressing hyperpigmentation not only involves the improvement of skin appearance, but also the restoration of confidence and a positive self-perception.
Restoring radiance: Solutions for treating dark patches around the mouth
Several treatment options are available to address hyperpigmentation caused by melanin overproduction around the mouth area. These treatments aim to reduce excess melanin, promote skin cell turnover, and improve overall skin tone.
1. Sun ProtectionConsistent and everyday use of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an oxybenzone-free sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 and PA++++ rating can ensure protection against harmful UV rays and prevent the exacerbation of hyperpigmentation. Sun protection helps in managing and preventing hyperpigmentation by-
Effective barrier to UV rays- Sunscreens containing organic or inorganic filters enriched with minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide work by scattering and reflecting UV radiations that prevent further skin darkening and the development of new patches.
Minimises trigger factors: Sun exposure is a known trigger for hyperpigmentation. By using ingredient-specific sunscreens enriched with skin-ameliorating components like Eurol BT, Aloe Vera extract and Caprylic Capric Triglyceride can minimise the overproduction of melanin, lighten pigmentation marks, and reduce the formation of dark patches/blotches around the mouth.
Maintains even skin tone: Consistently using sunscreen helps maintain an even skin tone and prevents the development of irregular patches, contributing to a clearer complexion.
- Prevents recurrence: Even if the dark patches have lightened or disappeared, the skin can remain sensitive to UV exposure, making it prone to new hyperpigmentation. To imbibe an overall radiant look, opt for a Sun CC cream that has the multiple added benefits of hydration, sun protection SPF 50 (filters 98% of UV-B) and effective treatment of pigmentation.
2. Topical Treatments
Several topical ingredients are known for their ability to reduce excess melanin formation and promote natural skin brightening. These ingredients work by exfoliating the skin's outer layer and promoting a more even skin tone. Here are some notable ingredients and their effects:
Vitamin C- It is an antioxidant that inhibits the activity of tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in melanin production. It also helps fade existing dark spots around the mouth region and promotes collagen production.
Alpha Arbutin- By targeting excess melanin production, alpha arbutin can help address not only dark patches, but also other forms of hyperpigmentation, such as melasma and age spots.
Niacinamide- It regulates melanin production by inhibiting the transfer of melanin from melanocytes to skin cells and effectively reducing pigmentation and further skin darkening.
Licorice Root Extract- It contains antioxidants and flavonoid ‘glabridin’, which reduces melanin production and helps protect the skin from free radicals and environmental stressors. It also helps disperse existing melanin within the skin, reducing the appearance of dark patches.
- White curcumin- By protecting the skin from oxidative stress, it aids in preventing further dark spot formation. It also effectively treats hyperpigmentation, dark spots, blemishes and inflamed skin by inhibiting melanin generation.
Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A and are known for their ability to regulate cell turnover, exfoliate the skin's surface, and stimulate collagen production. Here's how retinoids contribute to addressing dark patches:
- Enhancement of Topical Treatments: When used in combination with ingredients like vitamin C or hydroquinone, retinoids can optimise the results of these treatments.
Inhibition of Melanin Production: Retinoids regulate melanin production and aid in lightening dark patches and achieving a more even complexion.
- Cell Turnover: Retinoids accelerate the natural process of skin cell turnover. This means that older, pigmented skin cells are shed more rapidly, making way for newer, healthier cells. As a result, the appearance of dark patches can gradually diminish.
4. Laser Treatments for Hyperpigmentation
Laser treatments use focused light energy to target and break down excess melanin in the skin, leading to improved skin tone. There are different types of laser treatments used to treat hyperpigmentation:
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): IPL emits broad-spectrum light that targets melanin and haemoglobin in the skin. It is effective for reducing hyperpigmentation and improving overall skin texture.
- Q-Switched Laser: This laser type emits quick, high-energy pulses of light that break down melanin particles. It is commonly used for treating specific pigmented areas, such as dark patches.
5. Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation
Chemical peels such as Glycolic Acid Peels and TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) Peels involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin that promotes the growth of new, healthier skin cells and can help reduce hyperpigmentation. They penetrate deeper into the skin, promote cell turnover and are effective for more stubborn hyperpigmentation.
Addressing dark patches around the mouth requires a holistic approach that combines sun protection, skincare products, professional treatments, and a positive mindset. By committing to a consistent routine and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can effectively reduce the presence of dark patches and achieve a more even and radiant complexion.