Unfortunately, hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition that can affect almost anyone. It becomes particularly obvious as we get older and have spent more time in the sun. But the good news is that hyperpigmentation can be treated with a range of new technologies and topical fading agents. Below, we've covered everything you need to know about how to treat the annoying skin condition.
What causes skin hyperpigmentation?
Skin hyperpigmentation is caused when the melanin levels in the skin increase, creating brown spots or patches and areas of discoloration, often on the face and areas frequently exposed to the sun. The best-known causes are:
Sun damage.One of the most common forms of hyperpigmentation is damage caused by UVA/UVB rays, which can result in a tan, freckles, and sun spots. Wearing sunscreen everyday (yes, even when it's cloudy and during winter) will stop harmful rays form reaching your skin.
"Make sure your sunscreen offers broad-spectrum cover against UVA and UVB," explained Rachel McAdam, scientific communications and education manager for skincare brand La Roche-Posay. "By consistently protecting skin against the sun, brown marks may begin to fade."
Melasma.This is more specific than sun damage, and is caused by hormonal changes, including those from pregnancy, the oral contraceptive pill, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause.
"Melasma or chloasma is partly due to a person's skin type, with a big component due to UVA and hormones, made worse with many oral contraceptives and pregnancy," said dermatologist Dr. John Sullivan. "Where melasma mainly affects the face [cheeks, nose, forehead and upper lip], the HRT-related one can be more the forearms or chest."
Acne.Unfortunately, if you have suffered from acne, you might also suffer from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Occurring in areas where you've had breakouts, this skin discoloration is a side effect of the skin's healing process.
What are some hyperpigmentation treatments?
Look for products containing vitamin C in levels above 25 percent and vitamin A in the form of retinol (in varying percentages). Ideally, you would use a vitamin C serum during the day (followed by sunscreen) and a retinol product at night. However, if you are pregnant, you are advised not to use any form of vitamin A and to check with your doctor first.
Chemical exfoliation using alpha hydroxy acids (such as lactic acid and glycolic acid) are also good to use to gently remove the top dead layers of skin and increase cell turnover.
In-salon options performed by a trained professional can also help treat hyperpigmentation.
"The best candidate for any sort of pigmentation treatment is someone with fair skin, as there's less chance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)," said Natalie Abouchar, registered nurse and founder of the Privée Clinic in Sydney, Australia. "Darker skin types can still be treated, however the treatment they choose will need to be adjusted to suit their skin type."
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL).IPL uses broad-spectrum light to break down melanin pockets within the skin into smaller pieces, which are then removed by the body's natural lymphatic draining.
Chemical peels.Cosmelan is a specific type of chemical peel that targets all types of brown patches and skin discolorations, including melasma, explained Natalie. It works by decreasing the skin's melanin production by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase (responsible for creating melanin) within the body. A mask is applied to the skin, which is left on for a period of time, and then washed off. Afterwards, clients will notice significant skin peeling, redness, sensitivity, and mild swelling, which can last up to five days after treatment.
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As always, make sure to consult a doctor to see which treatment option is right for you.
This post was written by Amber Elias. For more, check out our sister site Now To Love.