Treating and Preventing Hyperpigmentation
If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, you know how difficult and frustrating it can be to treat. A day out in the sun without sunscreen and your dark spots will appear significantly darker. Treating hyperpigmentation requires a lot of time and discipline. You don’t want to let a few hours in the sun set your skin back months. But first, you need to know the cause of your hyperpigmentation in order to treat it effectively.
Melasma is a condition in which dark patches appear on the face, usually the cheeks and upper lip, although it can really be any facial area. Melasma is extremely resistant to hyperpigmentation because it is triggered by hormonal processes. Pregnancy or even birth control pills can affect hormones that may cause an increase in the production of melanin. If you have a hormonal imbalance, or certain types of birth control cause excessive hyperpigmentation, trying to resolve this is the first line of defense against hyperpigmentation.
These small, dot-like formations are genetic, but can appear anytime someone with an inherited trait for freckles, spends time in the sun. You are most likely to see freckles in those with fair skin, but they do occur in darker skin tones as well. Sunscreen that protects against UVA rays is key for this type of hyperpigmentation.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
For some of us, it’s not the pimple that’s so bothersome, it’s the mark that it leaves behind. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or (PIH) is an excessive amount of melanin produced in response to injury or inflammation. Many individuals experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation due to acne, facial waxing, shaving or aggressive skin treatments. Calming inflammation or avoiding it altogether is crucial here. If certain acne medications irritate your skin, switching to something gentler can help. Using antioxidant skincare products are a great way to reduce inflammation of the skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that has skin brightening benefits since it has the ability to interrupt the skin’s production of melanin. Lactic acid is a popular treatment for those who experience PIH from acne because it exfoliates dead skin cells which can lead to clogged pores and acne. Lactic acid inhibits the production of melanin while increasing cell turnover, so it not only helps with acne, it will cause the dark mark left behind to fade much sooner.
Age spots, sometimes referred to as liver spots or solar lentigines tend to show up in older ones. They are the result of years of sun damage on the skin and typically more common in Caucasian or lighter skin tones. Products containing niacin can help with these dark patches of skin. Vitamin A derivatives like Retin-A or tretinoin increase cell turnover, which helps fade dark spots. Since these products also increase photosensitivity, a sunblock must be used regularly. Plasma pen treatments can improve the look of age spots dramatically.
This is a scaly and hard growth on the skin that forms from years of cumulative sun exposure. If you suspect you have actinic keratosis, you should see a dermatologist. These lesions can become cancerous, so they should be examined and removed by a physician.
Treatment OptionsNd:YAG lasers are an expensive approach to treating hyperpigmentation, but one advantage is they can be used for all shades of skin. However, multiple treatment sessions are required, and there's no guarantee that the dark patches won’t return.
Microneedling using antioxidant serums like Vitamin C and niacin are also effective. Daily use of lactic acid is also an effective low cost solution for your hyperpigmentation issues. In skin types I - III plasma fibroblast treatments can also help with improving skin pigmentation, but sunscreen must be worn every single day to prevent the spots from returning.
Because there are a variety of causes for hyperpigmentation, there’s no one size fits all approach. Knowing your skin is the best way to tackle this issue with success. And remember, stay out of the sun and make it a habit to wear sunscreen daily to avoid making the problem worse!