Hyperpigmentation — What is it and why does it occur?

Yes we hear you sigh, Hyperpigmentation is not uncommon.

What is it and why does it occur?

Hyperpigmentation occurs when melanin is overproduced in certain areas on the skin.

Hyper pigmentation results in flat, darkened patches of skin that are light brown to black in colour, and can vary in size and shape.

There are many types of hyper pigmentation, but the following are the most common:

  • Melasma or Cholasma is often referred to as “the mask of pregnancy”, it typically affects 90% of pregnant women. It occurs as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy or in the use of birth control pills. It can cause dark and irregularly shaped areas on the face or arms that can be quite large.
  • Pigment spots such as age spots are caused by sun exposure. For this reason, they appear mainly on body parts that are frequently exposed, such as the face, hands and arms. They tend to be small, darkened patches of skin.
  • Freckles are caused by sun exposure, and commonly appear on the face.
  • Post inflammatory hyper pigmentation occurs when a skin injury or trauma heals, it leaves an area of discoloration behind once it heals. Commonly found among acne sufferers, and unfortunately it can also be caused by some cosmetic procedures such as dermabrasion, laser treatment and chemical peels, it does highly depend on how these are cared for post treatment.

There are other factors that can cause patches of skin to become darker – such as scarring, birthmarks, solar or actinic keratoses and skin cancers – these aren’t considered to be forms of hyperpigmentation.

What causes it?

Hyper-pigmentation is caused by an overproduction of melanin – the pigment that gives our skin, hair and eyes its natural color.  The overproduction is triggered by a variety of factors, but the main ones can be linked back to:

  • sun exposure,
  • genetic factors,
  • age,
  • hormonal influences, and
  • skin injuries or inflammation.
  • Sun exposure-Sunlight triggers melanin production, making it the number one cause of hyper pigmentation. Melanin acts as your skin’s natural sunscreen by protecting you from harmful UV rays, which is why people tan in the sun. But excessive sun exposure can disrupt this process, which can lead to hyper pigmentation. Sun exposure can also exacerbate dark spots from freckles, age spots, and post inflammatory hyper pigmentation.
  • Hormonal influences are the main cause of a particular kind of hyper pigmentation known as melasma or chloasma. It’s particularly common among women, evidence suggests that female hormones oestrogen and progesterone stimulate the overproduction of melanin when skin is exposed to the sun. Hyper pigmentation on the upper lip can occur due to the fluctuation in hormone.  Unfortunately it affects so many pregnant women that it is also known as “the mask of pregnancy”, hence the prevalence in woman that have had children.
  • Illnesses, some autoimmune and gastrointestinal diseases, metabolic disorders and vitamin deficiencies which can cause symptomatic hyper pigmentation. It is also know to be a side effect of certain hormone treatments, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, anti-malarials, and anti-seizure drugs.
How can we reduce it or prevent it?
  • First and foremost is wearing a good sunscreen with an adequate block, ideally  an SPF>45. We encourage our clients to use a sunscreen that has a good amount of zinc oxide.  For example, one with >10% of zinc oxide is more ideal.
  • Chemical peels involve applying an acidic solution to the face, hands or feet to remove the surface layers of the skin. These chemicals cause the skin to flake and eventually peel off, revealing new and evenly pigmented skin beneath. There are a number of different peels that we have at Luxe Appearance and it really depends on the severity of the pigmentation and the results ultimately desired.
  • Collagen Induction therapy/Microneedling, if hyperpigmentation resides in the in the upper part part of the skin, it responds well to microneedling and DMK Enzyme therapy.  If the pigmentation resides in the dermis, it maybe too deep for peels, but not to deep for microneedling. We would expect the skin to respond and show results after a number of treatments. At Luxe Appearance we advise on combining therapies microneedlingchemical peels and DMK Enzyme therapy to boost the effectiveness of the results.
Other options:

In recent years, a number of skincare products that claim to reduce hyper pigmentation have emerged. Most rely on one of the following active ingredients to decrease melanin production and reduce the appearance of dark spots.

These ingredients include and are not limited too: Vitamin C derivatives, Retinoid Acid, and Azelaic Acid. Other treatments – such as jojoba oil, lemon juice, or following a sugar-free diet – can also be effective against hyper pigmentation.

We have many options to suit the wants and needs of different people. We assess what you need and what works for you. 

We hope this answers some of your questions, and if you do have any more questions, please contact our team.

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