Would you believe that one of the most frustrating skin conditions has nothing to do with your skin type? It doesn’t matter if your skin is oily or dry, sensitive or mature, when it comes to hyperpigmentation, anyone can be affected. This pesky skin condition occurs when the pigment producing polymer in the skin is overactive causing a number of side effects including uneven skin tone and dark spots and blotchy skin. While hyperpigmentation is generally harmless and is one of the least concerning skin conditions on the spectrum, it still is a pain point for many people.
The appearance of skin affected by severe hyperpigmentation can cause self consciousness, anxiety, and in some cases depression. The good news is, most kinds of hyperpigmentation are temporary or can be treated and improved over time. To figure out what course of action to take begins with a deeper understanding of the hyperpigmentation conditions and their causes.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
While many people use the term hyperpigmentation in the general sense, there are in fact a few different type of hyperpigmentation conditions, each affecting the skin in unique ways. The three main kinds of hyperpigmentation are post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, lentigines, and melasma. Each type of hyperpigmentation is typically characterized by their causes and how they appear on the skin.
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation: While this type hyperpigmentation sounds a bit intense, and it can be, it is actually very common. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation generally occurs as a result of some kind of trauma or injury to the skin. Common causes of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation can include side effects from conditions like psoriasis or acne, injuries including scrapes and burns, allergic reactions to products or environmental stressors, and even from aggressive professional grade skincare treatments. This kind of hyperpigmentation can affect people of all skin tones and types, however, those with darker skin tones are more commonly affected. With post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the appearance of an uneven skin tone is temporary with most cases clearing within 6 – 12 months as the skin cells go through the normal cycle of growth and regeneration. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is also easily treated using a combination of topical creams and physical procedures.
Lentigines: This type of hyperpigmentation is one of the more difficult kinds to treat but it is just as common as post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Lentigines, which means multiple freckles, are a type of hyperpigmentation that is commonly referred to as sun, liver, or age spots. This type of hyperpigmentation is characterized by small brown patches or tan colored spots on areas like the face, back of the hands, and tops of the feet. You’ll notice these are all areas that are frequently exposed to the sun which is why lentigines are frequently referred to as sun spots. Lentigines typically affect those with lighter skin tones and are commonly found on mature skin. The best treatment for this type of hyperpigmentation is prevention and that starts with sun protection. Always wearing a sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays is key. Covering the skin while in direct sunlight with loose clothing and staying in the shade are other ways to keep skin protected from the harmful rays of the sun. If you’ve already been affected by lentigines, the good news is, they aren’t a health concern. Any treatment would be specifically for cosmetic purposes. That being said, there are a number of procedures that can help reduce the appearance of lentigines including chemical peels and laser therapy.
Related: How to get rid of freckles
Melasma: The last type of hyperpigmentation is the most frustrating one to deal with. Melasma is a kind of hyperpigmentation that occurs as a direct result of hormonal changes in the body. One of the most common onsets of melasma is pregnancy. This kind of hyperpigmentation is so common in pregnant women it has even been referred to as a “pregnancy mask”. Melasma appears on the skin at patches of gray or brown on the face generally in areas like the forehand, cheeks, and chin among other areas. While there are a few skincare products that can help improve the appearance melasma, the best way to fully resolve the effects are to restore a normal hormone level. For pregnant women, skin generally returns to normal after pregnancy.
Skin Care for Hyperpigmentation Treatment
Like all skin conditions, the best way to get a handle on hyperpigmentation is with good skincare practices specific to your condition. With hyperpigmentation, your skincare should preferably start with prevention. Since most hyperpigmentation conditions can be easily prevented, starting there can save you a world of trouble. Some easy ways to prevent hyperpigmentation from occurring are simple protection and allowing irritated skin to heal. We can’t stress enough the importance of sunscreen regardless of your age or skin tone. A lifetime of well protected skin under the sun is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t deal with hyperpigmentation as you age amongst other skin conditions. Secondly, allowing injured or irritated skin to run its course is essential to prevent hyperpigmentation. Don’t mess with acne or blemishes and don’t agitate burns or scrapes.
If you do find yourself dealing with hyperpigmentation, something everyone inevitably encounters at some point, the proper treatment and a world of patience can help restore your skin to its best health. The best kind of products to treat hyperpigmentation are brightening creams. Before you jump in and buy the strongest chemical brightener you can find, try products that contain nature’s brightener, vitamin C, and gradually work your way up from there. The star ingredient in most brightening creams is hydroquinone. This potent brightener is typically prescribed by a skincare professional but lower doses can be found in over the counter cosmetic creams as well. While hydroquinone is known for its power and effectiveness, if you decide to go this route be prepared. Hydroquinone can actually make your skin more susceptible to sun damage so you’ll need to be extra careful when exposed to the sun. It’s also important to note that if your hyperpigmentation is caused by pregnancy like melasma, you must steer clear of hydroquinone based products, even those that can be bought over the counter as it’s not safe to use while pregnant.
If vitamin C serums and chemical strength brightening creams still aren’t enough to restore your skin, there are a number of cosmetic procedures that may give you the relief you are looking for. Some of the most common skin procedures used to treat hyperpigmentation include chemical peels or microdermabrasion. There are also various types of laser therapies that can be used to treat certain degrees of hyperpigmentation. These kinds of intense treatments, done by a professional, can help with uneven skin tone and speed up the healing process. That being said, it can still take a few sessions to see improvement in the skin so patience when dealing with hyperpigmentation is key.
Further reading: Skin Discoloration
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