Hyperpigmentation affects millions of people worldwide but it is more prevalent among Indians and Asians. If you're one of the millions worldwide dealing with hyperpigmentation, don't worry. You're not alone, and there's hope on the horizon. There are more options than ever before for treating skin pigmentation issues. Today, we're going to focus on the types and causes of hyperpigmentation along with the best treatment options available to help you regain your confidence.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation refers to a range of dermatological conditions that involve darkening of the skin. Dark pigment usually occurs in small patches on the face and hands, but can be more widespread, including full-body coverage. While the hands, arms, and face are the most common sites of hyperpigmentation, it can feasibly occur anywhere on a person's body. Hyperpigmentation is generally the result of your body increasing its melanin production, although the condition may be influenced by other, less common factors.
There's good news regarding hyperpigmentation: it is usually not dangerous, nor are there additional side effects.
There are three major types of hyperpigmentation, including:
As that body ages, melanin begins to affect your skin in more pronounced ways, causing increased hyperpigmentation, especially on the hands and face. This type of hyperpigmentation, also known as liver pots, is a direct result of cumulative sun damage. Years of direct exposure can cause dark areas to emerge on a portion of your skin regularly exposed.
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
PIH refers to the after effects of skin disease or trauma, especially damage caused by acne . As your body heals following injury, aggravation, or an outbreak it will elevate its melanin production to help compensate, causing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This type of hyperpigmentation requires a different level of care and attention including consultation with a doctor, and the careful use of all-natural products to help encourage quicker healing.
The Five Major Causes of Hyperpigmentation
1. Cumulative Sun Exposure
Hyperpigmentation is always an issue for people who spend a disproportionately large amount of time in the sun. Over time, sun exposure can cause your body to up its level of melanin production, eventually resulting in dark spots in places like your hands, face, arms, and legs.
While we already touched on this point, it's worth reiterating; as the body ages, melanin has a greater effect on your skin tone, often causing splotches —or even large-scale patches— to emerge.
3. Hormonal Fluctuations
Hormones regulate many of our body's key processes. Increased hormone production can cause your body to increase its melanin production dramatically.
4. Existing Skin Conditions
Pre-existing skin and medical conditions, i.e. medication usage, can also cause hyperpigmentation to emerge. If you have other skin care issues, understand that you are at an increased risk of developing dark patches on your skin's surface.
5. Wound Healing
Skin trauma is another contributing factor. If the surface of your skin has been injured or aggravated, such as with a burn, acne, or severe allergic reaction, then your bodily chemistry may compensate during the healing process.
Five Less Common Causes of Hyperpigmentation
There are also a host of less common reasons that cause hyperpigmentation. Those reasons include:
We all feel stress to varying degrees. It's part of what marks us human. Stress, however, is the root of many diseases and may sometimes contribute to hyperpigmentation. Protect your skin by properly attenuating your stress level.
2. Incorrect Skin Care Regimen
Not all skin care products are created equal. In fact, those with lesser-quality ingredients or harsh, skin-bleaching elements, such as hydroquinone, can actually contribute to melanin build-up rather than eliminating it. Bleaching agents such as hydroquinone can actually have the opposite effect, creating dark patches across your skin with improper use. Treating hyperpigmentation starts with eliminating the harmful skin care practices from your existing regimen and replacing them with all-natural alternatives better suited for your body' chemistry.
3. Heat From Cooking/ Kitchen
Surprisingly, time spent in the kitchen can contribute to hyperpigmentation. Whether in your own home or in a commercial setting, the very act of cooking takes place in an enclosed space. As a result, high heat and evaporating gas have a comparable effect on your skin to the sun's rays.
4. Skin Bleaching
While we briefly touched on skin lightening treatments above, understand that they can often be harsh and abrasive, with numerous damaging chemical compounds contained therein. With repeated use —or improper use across large areas of your body— skin bleaching products can actually cause another diagnosis called "exogenous ochronosis" which causes blackish blue spots to emerge. To rid yourself of hyperpigmentation and other skin care issues, rid yourself of harmful skin lightening practices as well.
5. Air Pollution
When it comes to skin tone, don't rule out environmental effects. Areas with heavy concentrations of smog and other ambient pollutants can wreak havoc on your skin. Over time, exposure to atmospheric pollutants can penetrate the outer layer of your skin, reducing the body's natural barrier against surface inflammation.
Four Potent Methods to Get Rid of Hyperpigmentation
It's true that hyperpigmentation can impact your life negatively. Fortunately, there are many easy, yet potent treatments available. Let's discuss the top three treatment methods and their efficacy.
1. Topical Creams
Rather than using harsh chemical agents to essentially bleach your skin tone, it's better to use all-natural ingredients that can help your skin to properly heal. The key ingredients that you should look for include:
- Pterocarpus marsupium extract
- Alpha arbutin
Pterocarpus marsupium comes from a deciduous tree that's native to India. It contains antioxidants and UV protection, as well as skin-lightening qualities due to its phytochemical arrangement.
Tetrahydrocurcumin does the same thing that many skin bleaching products do, only naturally! It helps your body to regulate its melanin production, thus lightening pigmentation.
Alpha arbutin comes from berries and fruits and is used not only to lighten existing dark patches, but also as a preventative to additional discolorations. Alpha arbutin actively works to reduce the body's melanin production, lightening and reducing dark skin, age spots, PIH, and other related skin issues.
2. Vitamin C Serums
Serums containing high amounts of vitamin C are also critical in treating, reducing, and eliminating instances of hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C is important because it helps provide your skin with beneficial antioxidants that help to reduce free radicals. In turn, you'll see your unsightly dark spots begin to rapidly fade with continued vitamin C use.
People with normal skin tone should look for products containing ethyl ascorbic acid . More oily, acne-prone skin types should seek out products with both sodium ascorbyl phosphate and camellia sinensis leaf extract .
3. Laser Treatment
Finally, there's laser treatment available for more severe cases of hyperpigmentation. Laser treatment should only be done in direct consultation with a qualified dermatologist.
There are two types of laser treatments available:
Ablative is more intense, peeling the top layer of your skin. Non-ablative only works with the surface in an attempt to mechanically induce collagen production.
Laser treatment isn't for everyone, however. It can be especially harsh on the skin if not done carefully. In some skin types, it can even cause increased darkening rather than the desired effect. Always consult with a doctor before choosing laser treatment.
One of the single, most effective methods for treating and preventing hyperpigmentation may already be in your medicine cabinet. Don't underestimate the role that sunscreen plays in soothing darkened skin.
Regular use of sunscreen helps to block incoming UV rays of course, serving as a key preventative measure. Combine with the right skin care regimen, however, helps you to lessen accumulated light damage, restoring your skin's natural tone.
Hyperpigmentation can have a profound impact on your self-esteem, peace of mind, and life in general. Fortunately, the condition is rarely serious and highly treatable. No matter what, always remember that patience, positivity, and perseverance go a long way towards helping your skin to heal properly. Pairing healthy lifestyle choices with a purposeful skin care regimen and regular use of sunscreen as a prophylactic creates the ideal conditions for treating —and eliminating— your hyperpigmentation.