Getting Even: Understanding, Preventing and Treating Discoloured Skin Caused by Hyper-Pigmentation

They say beauty is only skin deep, but we all know how deep our skin’s health and appearance can affect our confidence, self-esteem, and peace of mind. And as different as each person is, so too is every person’s skin. 

Everyone wants bright, even, and glowing skin because a radiant complexion is a sign of health, youth, and freshness. But the sad reality is that uneven, discoloured, and blotchy skin are common concerns caused by a variety of internal and external triggers.

Hyperpigmentation is a common, usually harmless condition in which some areas of skin are darker than the surrounding skin. It occurs when specific cells in the skin make too much of the pigment called melanin. Hyperpigmentation may appear as freckles, age spots, or larger areas of darkened skin.  

This article will dig deep into the causes of hyperpigmentation,  preventative measures, and options available to treat dark spots, uneven skin,  and discolouration.

What is Hyperpigmentation

All skin contains melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin and give skin its colour. In certain conditions,  melanocytes can become abnormal and cause an excessive amount of darkening, uneven tone, or discolouration. 

Skin with too much melanin is called hyperpigmented skin. Skin with too little melanin is called hypopigmented. Skin with no melanin at all is called depigmented.

While hyperpigmentation usually isn’t harmful, it can be upsetting, and disturbing,  and can sometimes be a symptom of another medical condition.  

Hyperpigmentation varies from person to person and from one area of the body to another. It can occur in small patches, over large areas, or affect the entire body.

Types of Hyperpigmentation

There are several types of hyperpigmentation, with melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation being the most common.

  • Melasma – Melasma is normally caused by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. This type of hyperpigmentation can appear on any area of the body, but are most common on the stomach and face.
  • Sunspots – Also called liver spots or solar lentigines, sunspots are very common. Related to overexposure to the sun, sunspots can develop over time, generally appearing on areas exposed to the sun, like the tops of the hands and the face.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation –  A result of injury or inflammation to the skin, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is common among cystic acne sufferers. 

Symptoms of Hyperpigmentation 

Darkened areas on the skin are the most obvious symptoms of hyperpigmentation. Patches can vary in size, level of darkness, and location on the body.  People with naturally darker skin are more prone to experience hyperpigmentation due to increased melanin in the skin.

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is caused by an excess production of melanin.  Several factors can alter the production of melanin in your body.

  • Prescription drugs – Medications that increase light sensitivity Pregnancy – Melasma, or pregnancy mask  
  • Hormone system diseases –  An endocrine disease called Addison’s disease can produce hyperpigmentation in areas most frequently exposed to the sun and areas exposed to friction, such as the elbows and knees.  
  • Sun exposure. The greatest risk factor associated with hyperpigmentation is sun exposure which causes an increase in melanin production.  
  • Trauma to the skin, such as a wound or burn
  • Acne
  • Skin inflammation 
  • Haemochromatosis  (an overload of iron)

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Preventing Hyperpigmentation

Avoiding overexposure to the sun and wearing sunscreen are the two most important steps one can take to reduce or prevent hyperpigmentation. The best sunscreens are those that contain zinc oxide as the main active ingredient, contain an SPF of 30 to 50, and provide broad spectrum coverage.

Wearing Many Hats: Why Sun Exposure Causes Premature Ageing and How to Avoid It (While Still Enjoying It). 

Sunscreen should be used daily, not just for days at the beach, pool, or participating in outdoor sports. Reapply it every 2 hours if you are out in the sun for extended periods and more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming.

For hyperpigmentation caused by skin disorders such as melasma,  a mineral sunscreen that contains iron oxide is recommended.

SPF-infused sun-protective clothing is now widely available and is recommended for use during prolonged periods in the sun.

Treating Hyperpigmentation 

A dermatologist can diagnose the cause of hyperpigmentation by performing an exam and requesting a patient’s medical history to determine the cause. In some cases, a skin biopsy is performed.

Topical medications such as hydroquinone and retinoids are available to treat some cases of hyperpigmentation. Prolonged use of topical hydroquinone, however, can cause ochronosis, a darkening of the skin. For this reason, topical hydroquinone should only be used under the care of a physician.

Hyperpigmentation isn’t generally harmful, and in many cases, dark areas will fade on their own with good sun protection. In other cases, more aggressive treatment is needed.  

Treatments like Lazer Genesis (insert link to Laser genesis article) and dermal peels can help to reduce hyperpigmentation.

There are also combinations of treatments that help with certain types of discoloured skin.

At Specialist Skin Solutions,  a cosmetic clinic specialising in non-surgical, anti-aging aesthetic procedures, including the latest laser techniques and dermal therapies, we proudly offer the latest treatments and products for hyperpigmentation and other skin concerns. 

We believe in transparency and education first and foremost, providing every client with information, explanations, and treatment options before performing any procedure.  Offering a thorough consultation prior to treatment, we’ll discuss the areas of concern and the range of treatment options suggested to produce optimal results.  So, if you’re ready to get even with hyperpigmentation, book an appointment with us today! At Specialist Skin Solutions, we’re dedicated to helping each one of our clients feel their best by bringing out their natural beauty and loving the skin they’re in at any age. We look forward to speaking with you!

If you have specific questions, call us at 02-4934-1700.  

Disclaimer: This blog post is meant to serve as an informative tool only, and is not meant to diagnose or treat skin concerns. Skin is an organ, and skin concerns are medical conditions. It is, therefore, highly recommended that you seek help from a dermatologist if you are experiencing skin problems.

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