Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a common condition in which patches of skin become darker in colour than the normal surrounding skin.

Hyperpigmentation is the result of either of two occurrences: (1) an abnormally high concentration of melanocytes produce melanin or (2) hyperactivity of melanocytes. As the body ages, melanocyte distribution becomes less diffuse and its regulation less controlled by the body. Although it can affect anyone, people with darker Asian, Mediterranean, Latin or African skin tones are more prone to hyperpigmentation, especially if they have excess sun exposure.

There are various causes of hyperpigmentation, including

  • Overexposure to the sun
  • Heredity
  • Picking at the skin
  • Endocrine diseases and hormonal changes
  • Certain medications such as antibiotics, cancer drugs, antiseizure drugs and more
  • Hemochromatosis (iron overload)
  • Current or recent pregnancy, or current or recent use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapies
  • Inflammation and skin injuries from acne lesions, psoriasis, burns, friction and even certain professional skin care treatments.

Hyperpigmentation is not only a prevalent condition, it’s one that can also be particularly stubborn to treat. There is no ‘cure’ for hyperpigmentation. There are, however, options to treat this condition by lightening the appearance of it.

Hyperpigmentation presents no medical threat, however, it can sometimes be a symptom of disease or illness. Even though most spots are caused or exacerbated by the sun, they take different forms. See a dermatologist if a new kind of skin change shows up (to rule out anything dangerous such as melanoma), but here’s a guide to help determine what’s what when it comes to skin pigmentation of melanic origin.

Moles are growths on the skin that are usually brown or black. Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups. Most moles appear in early childhood and during the first 30 years of a person’s life. It is normal to have between 10-40 moles by adulthood. As the years pass, moles usually change slowly, becoming raised and/or changing colour. Often, hairs develop on the mole. Some moles may not change at all, while others may slowly disappear over time. Moles occur when cells in the skin grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin. Moles may darken after exposure to the sun, during the teen years, and during pregnancy. The vast majority of moles are not dangerous. Moles that are more likely to be cancer are those that look different than other existing moles or those that first appear after age 30. If there are changes in a mole’s colour, height, size, or shape, it is recommended to have it evaluated by a dermatologist. Moles also need to be checked if they bleed, ooze, itch, or become tender or painful.

Melasma (chloasma) spots are similar in appearance to age spots but are larger areas of darkened skin (more patchy than spotty) that appear most often as a result of hormonal changes and most commonly on the face. Pregnancy, for example, can trigger overproduction of melanin that causes the “mask of pregnancy” on the face and darkened skin on the abdomen and other areas. Melasma frequently goes away after pregnancy. Women who take birth control pills may also develop hyperpigmentation because their bodies undergo similar kind of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Although it can affect both genders and any race, it is more common in women and people with darker skin-types who live in sunny climates. Melasma usually becomes more noticeable in the summer and improves during the winter months. Melasma can run in families, suggesting an inherited tendency.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (‘PIH’): these are dark spots that develop after acne, bug bites, or other flare-ups, and then stubbornly remain long after the initial inflammation has healed. They begin to fade as the skin regenerates itself—a process that can take months or more. On the positive side, PIH generally responds well to treatment.

Sometimes it can be difficult to clearly distinguish between an acne scar and hyperpigmentation. However, some ‘acne scars’ are actually not true acne scars but rather a type of PIH. If a mark that has developed from an acne lesion does not heal and go away after 6-12 months, then chances are that particular mark is a true scar. In other words, if it’s a permanent mark, it’s a scar, but if it eventually fades away, it is only a type of Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation.

Solar lentigines (single: lentigo) are known as age or liver spots. These small-to-medium brown areas vary in size and multiply as one gets older, popping up most often on backs of hands, tops of feet, face, shoulders, upper back and chest — all places with maximum exposure to sun. Some lentigines may be caused by genetics or by medical procedures such as radiation therapy. Lentigines are more common among white ethnicities, especially those with fair skin and those older than age 50. But, younger people can get them too, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun. Although age spots can look like cancerous growths, true age spots are harmless and don’t need treatment.

Periorbital hyperpigmentation is characterized by dark circles around the eyes, is hereditary, may be caused by lower eyelid venous stasis and frequently found in individuals with dark pigmentation or Mediterranean ancestry. It may occur in the young and old. Periorbital hyperpigmentation is challenging to treat, complex in pathogenesis, and lacking straightforward and repeatable therapeutic options. The key to successful treatment is determining the primary cause and complying with maintenance and preventive regimens.

Freckles are small brown spots usually found on the face and arms. They may come and go, fading in the winter and darkening in the summertime, especially among lighter-skinned people and people with light or red hair. Causes of freckles include genetics and exposure to the sun.

Uneven skin tone: rather than a few specific spots, this involves larger areas of pigmentation that make skin look darker in some areas, lighter in others.

Freckles, age spots, and other darkened skin patches can become darker or more pronounced when skin is exposed to the sun. This happens because melanin absorbs the energy of the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays in order to protect the skin from overexposure. The usual result of this process is skin tanning, which tends to darken areas that are already hyperpigmented.

In order to reduce the occurrence of hyperpigmentation one can:

  1. Wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 daily and avoid sun exposure
  2. Be mindful that discoloration is also in dead surface cells so it is imperative to exfoliate regularly to shed and slough off the build-up, which will help minimize hyperpigmentation. With dry, sensitive or mature skin, it is best to exfoliate 1-2 times a week. With combination to oily skin, exfoliating 2-3 times a week is recommended. However, facial scrubs should not be used on acne erupted skin as they are too abrasive and can worsen the condition.

 

Most forms of hyperpigmentation are not dangerous and do not require medical treatment.In some cases people may want to have the spots removed permanently for cosmetic reasons. Typical prescriptions may include hydroquinone, sometimes with retinoids, such as tretinoin, although these can make the skin more sensitive to UV damage and thus make the problem worse in the long run. Permanent solutions may require surgical techniques such as laser treatment or cryotherapy, or the removal of layers of skin through chemical peels or dermabrasion.

Please don’t hesitate to contact a medical professional for an appointment if you have:

  • Skin discoloration that causes significant concern
  • Persistent, unexplained darkening or lightening of the skin
  • Any skin sore or lesion that changes shape, size, or colour may be a sign of skin cancer

 

SEQuaderma Uneven Skin Tone is a dermatology serum proven to address all kinds of skin imperfections of melanic origin such as: melasma spots, age, sun or ‘liver’ spots, freckles, post-inflammatory and periorbital hyperpigmentation. It is proven not only to improve complexion, reduce size and number of pigmented skin blemishes and lighten colour of blemishes but also to improve skin health, smoothness and elasticity. Over 95% of users assessed SEQuaderma as the most effective hyperpigmentation treatment they have ever used. Please check our life changing stories.