Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition that can affect all skin types and all ages. Learn what causes it & how you can treat and manage it with useful advice from skincare experts.
What is hyperpigmentation ?
Hyperpigmentation or skin darkening occurs as a result of an increase in melanin – the substance in the body that is responsible for our skin color. production. This increase in melanin production could come about from skin traumas (breakouts, injuries, bug bites), sun damage, medication, and hormonal changes.
The skin often releases melanin in response to trauma in a bid to protect it, which usually results in the darkening of the affected area. Exposure to sunlight is also a major cause of hyperpigmentation and will darken already hyperpigmented areas.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
There are two main types of hyperpigmentation not to be confused with hypopigmentation or acne scars.
These include Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE).
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation short for PIH is the overproduction of melanin in the skin triggered by the skin’s natural response to inflammation. Common causes of PIH are acne, injuries, cold sores, and sunburn. PIH is usually flat and it is darker than the surrounding skin. Discoloration can range from light to deep brown or even black.
There are two main types of hyperpigmentation namely; Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and Post-inflammatory erythema. Learn how you can successfully treat them both. . Click To Tweet
Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE)
Post-inflammatory erythema short for PIE is damaged or dilated capillaries (blood vessels) caused by inflammation and skin trauma. These can be caused by excessive exfoliation, sunburns, and inflamed acne. Popping your pimples or using drying skincare products can also contribute. Unlike PIH, PIE usually leaves behind red or purplish marks.
PIE falls on the lighter spectrum of skin tones and is less likely to affect people of color. It’s possible to have a mix of both PIE and PIH. In fact, PIE can sometimes turn into PIH if left untreated.
How Can I Treat Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation can be frustratingly hard to get rid of. For best results, it’s first important to determine which type of pigmentation you have before deciding on a treatment.
While some types of hyperpigmentation, like the sort that comes after you’ve popped a pimple, will slowly fade, there are other types like the kind produced by sun exposure that will take a little longer for it ever to fade.
One can also consider over the counter treatments or in-clinic treatments.
- Use Products with Tyrosinase Inhibitors
One of the most effective ways to treat hyperpigmentation is to use products that contain melanin inhibiting ingredients. Thanks to science and lots of studies, there are several ingredients that one can choose from. Some of these include Azelaic acid, Hydroquinone, Kojic acid, Arbutin, Licorice root extracts, Mulberry extracts, Tranexamic Acid & N-Acetyl Glucosamine.
- Don’t sleep on the Vitamin A, B, and C of Skincare
Retinoids (Vitamin A), Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) & Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), or what I like to call the holy trifecta can equally benefit your skin on your journey to treating hyperpigmentation. These ingredients are antioxidants with multiple skin benefits.
Retinoids work to reduce cell damage, boost collagen formation and reduce skin pigmentation, Niacinamide slows down the transfer of melanin to the skin cells and therefore helps to stop the scars before they can appear on the skin, Ascorbic Acid (and other derivatives of Vitamin C) help brighten the skin tone
- Take advantage of chemical exfoliants
Chemical exfoliants like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs are very effective in treating hyperpigmentation since they speed up cell turnover to reveal smoother, brighter cells that take over the pigmented ones that are on the surface of your skin. Think Lactic acid, Mandelic acid, Glycolic acid, Gluconolactone, Salicylic acid, and Malic acid. Try not to over-exfoliate so as not to further irritate your skin.
To successfully treat hyperpigmentation you need to invest in adequate sun protection. Click To Tweet
- Don’t Sleep On Sunscreen
As earlier mentioned, hyperpigmentation is caused by excessive melanin production which can be triggered by skin trauma and unnecessary sun exposure. Investing in a good sunscreen goes a long way in bringing you closer to fading your hyperpigmentation.
Sunscreens containing the physical blockers zinc oxide or titanium dioxide come in handy in blocking daylight’s UVA rays, which makes hyperpigmentation worse. Also avoiding unnecessary sun exposure, wearing sun-protective clothing and accessories (hats, glasses) can help.
For more advanced treatments and procedures, it’s definitely worthwhile consulting a dermatologist at a clinic you trust so that they can prescribe the right course of treatment for your individual hyperpigmentation. Here are a few treatments that are available.
- Chemical Peels
Even in clinical trials, chemical peels have shown promising results in treating hyperpigmentation. Of all the chemical peels, glycolic peels are the safest and most effective in eliminating spots.
- Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin)
Both tretinoin creams and chemical peels act on the dark spots in a similar way. Both disperse the melanin pigments and lighten the spots. Tretinoin usually requires a doctor’s prescription.
This is a procedure in which the topmost layer of your skin is removed (exfoliate and suction them off) by using a device. You will need multiple sessions to get the desired results.
- Laser Treatment
Also known as laser resurfacing treatment, this procedure uses light beams to remove or peel your skin surface. Laser treatment can be ablative (uses an intense laser to remove skin layers) or non-ablative (boosts collagen development and tightens the skin). Ablative lasers are a bit strong and may cause side effects. Talk to your doctor before considering laser treatment because the type of laser suitable for your skin depends on your skin type and the degree of discoloration.
Watch this video by Renee of Gothamista to learn more about Hyperpigmentation treatments.
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