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Hyperpigmentation – Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatments and more

Hyperpigmentation

Are you facing dark spot issues on your skin? Then, delve right into the article.

When a certain part of the skin is darker than the other region, it is known as hyperpigmentation. Several factors can cause hyperpigmentation. Excessive sun exposure, melasma and inflammation of the skin are some of the common causes.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is skin darkening brought about by an excess of melanin pigment in the skin.

Melanocytes are specialised skin cells, which when exposed to sunlight result in the production of more melanin pigment. This causes the outer layer of the skin to tan and darken.

Uneven melanin synthesis gives rise to patches of dark pigmentation known as freckles. Other sources besides melanin can induce skin darkening in rare cases.

Types of hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation can be categorised into many types, the most popular ones being,

Melasma

Melasma

Melasma is the dark brown skin pigmentation that is observed in regions of sun exposure. Melasma can occur anywhere in the body but is usually noticed on the face.

Melasma is also seen in women post-pregnancy due to hormonal changes. It is more prominent in women than in men.

Sunspots

Prolonged sun exposure leads to flat dark spots on the skin. These spots are termed as sunspots. Sunspots are generally harmless and can also be referred to as age spots or liver spots. These spots are treatable.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) is dark patches on the skin caused due to hypermelanosis following an injury or inflammation. Acne, eczema or burn injury is also said to result in PIH. In most cases, PIH fade on its own.

Symptoms of hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is visible in the form of patches and varies in shape and size. They develop in any area of the body and differ depending on the type of hyperpigmentation.

Common symptoms of hyperpigmentation include,

  • Dark-coloured sunspots on the skin
  • Pigmentation patches
  • Discolouration of the skin post inflammation
  • Dark patches that are raised.

Causes of hyperpigmentation

An individual’s skin tone is determined by a pigment called melanin produced by the skin cells. On damage, these skin cells produce an excessive amount of melanin. When melanin accumulates in a region, the area appears darker.

Sun exposure

Hyperpigmentation is predominantly caused due to over sun exposure. Sun triggers melanin production and continuous exposure can disrupt the process and result in hyperpigmentation.

Skin Inflammation

Any injury to the dermis or epidermis layer of the skin results in hyperpigmentation. When the epidermis is inflamed, the melanocytes are prompted to enhance melanin synthesis.

Pigments are also transferred to nearby keratinocytes as a result of this process. The post-inflammatory pigmentation darkens with prolonged sun exposure. Sunscreen is the primary precautious step to prevent skin inflammation.

Melasma

Melasma manifests itself as brown or blue-grey patches or freckle-like spots on the skin. It’s often referred to as the “pregnancy mask.”

Melasma is caused by an overproduction of melanocytes, skin cells that produce melanin. It’s a common harmless ailment. Treatments can keep away the symptoms and after a few months, melasma normally fades.

Risk factors

Looking out for risk factors is very important to stay precautious and keep off hyperpigmentation.

Oral contraceptive use or pregnancy

During pregnancy and while using oral contraceptive pills, hyperpigmentation can occur due to hormonal changes in the body.

Darker skin type

People with darker skin tones are more susceptible to hyperpigmentation as the melanin pigment in the skin is high.

Drugs that increase sensitivity to the sunlight

Certain drugs are photosensitive, and exposure to sun while on such medications results in skin pigmentation.

Trauma to the skin

The top layer of the skin, which is the bottom layer of the epidermis can be damaged. This allows the pigments to penetrate the skin and get trapped in the dermis layer of the skin. As a result, the pigmentation becomes more resistant to treatment.

Reactions to drug use

About 10 – 20% of acquired hyperpigmentation occurrence is due to drug-induced skin pigmentation.

Drugs that cause pigmentation include,

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs)
  • Phenytoin
  • Antimalarial drugs
  • Antipsychotic drugs
  • Cytotoxic drugs
  • Tetracyclines

Some medications can create a fixed drug eruption that is followed by localised hyperpigmentation that diminishes with time.

Medical conditions of hyperpigmentation

Certain diseases and medical conditions can also manifest hyperpigmentation in individuals.

Focal hyperpigmentation

Focal hyperpigmentation is typically postinflammatory in nature. It occurs after any injuries or inflammations in the body. Conditions such as phytophotodermatitis, acanthosis nigricans, lentigines and melasma are common causes of focal hyperpigmentation.

Diffuse hyperpigmentation

Diffuse hyperpigmentation results from drugs as well as neoplastic causes like melanoma and lung carcinoma.

Hemochromatosis, primary biliary cholangitis and Addison’s disease are a few medical conditions that are significant causes of hyperpigmentation.

Addison’s disease causes damage to the adrenal glands. Hyperpigmentation due to Addison’s disease can occur in the following areas of the body,

  • Skin folds
  • Knees, knuckles and elbows
  • Lips
  • Toes
  • Inner mouth

Treatment for hyperpigmentation

Treatment for hyperpigmentation is determined by the cause of dark pigmentation and its extent.

Chemical peels

A chemical peel involves removing the top layers of the skin by applying a chemical solution to it in order to treat the discoloured skin. The skin is resurfaced with this procedure.

Depending on the depth of the pigmentation, chemical peels can range from light chemical peels to deep chemical peels.

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure involving epidermal resurfacing that is used to treat uneven skin tone and texture, photoaging, sun damage, melasma, and scars, such as acne scars.

Microdermabrasion is regarded as a successful treatment for skin conditions like melasma when used in conjunction with topical or oral treatments.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

Intense Pulsed Light employs laser energy to precisely target pigmented or damaged skin cells and eliminate them. People may use IPL to address a variety of skin problems. These are some of them,

  • Acne marks
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Melasma
  • Freckles
  • Sun damage

Laser resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is a procedure that uses lasers to reduce the appearance of scars and pigments, balance out skin colouring, tighten skin and remove tumours.

They are many skin problems that can be treated with laser skin resurfacing. The laser used eliminates the outer layer of the skin and keeps the underlying tissue warm. This leads to new collagen development.

The skin that regrows is smoother and tighter. Carbon dioxide lasers, erbium lasers and advanced combination systems are examples of ablative laser treatments.

Non-ablative lasers also promote collagen development in a less intrusive manner than ablative lasers, requiring a shorter recovery time.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy destroys the cells that produce skin pigment, resulting in a permanent pale area at the treatment site. Extreme cold is used in cryotherapy to freeze and eliminate abnormal tissue. Dermatologists suggest cryotherapy to address a lot of skin diseases.

Liquid nitrogen is administered in a specified spot and frozen for a few seconds. This method kills the pigmented cells through freezing. As the skin heals, the area will become lighter.

Topical creams

Hydroquinone is commonly found in most prescription skin-lightening treatments. We have bleaches that lighten and fade darkened skin patches by slowing the production of melanin, causing the dark spots to fade over time.

Prescription bleaches have twice the amount of the active component hydroquinone as over-the-counter bleaches. Tretinoin and cortisone creams may be used in more severe situations. These may irritate sensitive skin and take 3-6 months to show results.

Home remedies

Skin health is natural and long-lasting when consumed in the form of food rather than external product application. Foods rich in vitamin C would be the best option due to their healing properties. These include amla, orange, broccoli, strawberries, etc.

Home remedies can help with hyperpigmentation when ingredients that have skin-lightening agents are used. Turmeric, aloe vera, green tea extract, tomato, apple cider vinegar, milk and curd are some effective natural ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation.

Prevention of hyperpigmentation

Prevention is any day better than cure. Hyperpigmentation can be prevented using the points mentioned below.

Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30

Sunscreen must be made a part of the daily routine. Choosing a sunscreen with a ‘broad spectrum’ (UVA and UVB) range is necessary to block harsh sun rays. Sun Protecting Factor (SPF) greater than 30 – 50 is recommended to attain maximum protection. Months of treatment can be undone by a single day of excessive sun exposure.

Sunscreen usage is the simplest strategy to prevent further development of dark spots and lower the risk of skin issues. Applying sunscreen to the sun-exposed skin regularly and reapplying every 2 hours is the best way to combat hyperpigmentation.

Wearing hats or clothing that block sunlight

Wearing clothes and hats that have a high UV protection factor (UPF) blocks the effects of the sun on the skin. The quantity of UV radiation that the garments block from reaching the skin is measured in UPF.

Clothing coated with UV absorbents or chemical sunscreen may provide additional sun protection. The ability of these clothes to defend the skin fades with time.

Choosing sun-friendly clothes is more convenient. Clothing composed of tightly-woven fabric is the best choice. This will absorb more UV radiation from the sun. Clothes that block out a lot of light will be more protective.

Avoiding the sun during day time

With the increasing sun’s radiation, stepping out in the day time has become a task. It is vital to refrain from sun exposure between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM to avoid skin damage. Pigmentation caused due to the sun can be inhibited this way.

Conclusion

Hyperpigmentation is very common these days owing to the frequent sun exposure. People with dark spots need not worry as it is treatable. Being precautious by avoiding the sun and using sunscreen serves to be the primary prevention step.

The external marks on the face don’t define a person. No matter what changes a person goes through on their skin, being confident in one’s own skin is always a feasible mantra.

FAQ

1.What is the main reason for pigmentation?

The primary cause of pigmentation is extreme sun exposure. Sun rays are known to damage the skin in ways unimaginable.

2.How to stop hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is preventable. Being precautious by avoiding direct sunlight, regularly using sunscreen and wearing hats and protective clothing are ways to knock off hyperpigmentation.

3.Can hyperpigmentation go away?

The fading of pigmentation depends on its cause. In most cases, hyperpigmentation disappears on its own, but it may take a longer time. When the pigmentation is deeper, it may never totally cease to be visible.

4.What foods cause hyperpigmentation?

Foods with certain chemical hormones can worsen hormone-induced hyperpigmentation. Foods containing estrogens like black beans, flax seeds, chickpeas and soy products are said to cause hyperpigmentation.

5.Does drinking water help with hyperpigmentation?

Though drinking water renders healthy skin and prevents dehydration, pigmentation cannot be cured by water consumption.

6.Can pigmentation be removed?

Hyperpigmentation is a skin disorder that can be removed with cosmetic treatments, topical creams and home remedies.

7.How can I reduce pigmentation on my face?

Pigmentation on the face can be reduced with chemical treatments and home remedies. Chemical peels are commonly used to reduce hyperpigmentation.

8.What reduces pigmentation in the skin?

Reducing pigmentation on the face as well as the body can be done through similar methods. Chemical treatments give results in a short span while consuming healing foods and using home remedies will show the result with time.

9.How do you prevent hyperpigmentation on black skin?

To get rid of hyperpigmentation, the cause must be adequately treated. The first step of prevention involves using a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Sunscreen, when used daily, prevents the development of new dark spots and patches. It can also assist in removing the existing ones.

10.How do you fade hyperpigmentation fast?

Dermatological procedures prove to be the most efficient technique to eliminate hyperpigmentation faster. Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser therapy and dermabrasion are procedures for removing hyperpigmentation from the skin.

11.What are the effects of hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation causes flat, darkened patches to appear on the skin, which can vary in size and colour. Uneven pigmentation is the first noticeable symptom of hyperpigmentation.

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