If you tend to stay out under direct sunlight for a long time or do a lot of outdoor sports and are not habitually using Sunscreen, then have a look at the mirror. Check if your skin has dark patches, regions which look darker than the rest of your skin. If the answer is yes, then there is a high chance you are suffering from Hyperpigmentation.
It is a condition in which your skin cells produce excess melanin than usual. This excess melanin makes your skin look darker. If you are fair, you can clearly observe specific dark patches that arise on localized regions where the excess melanin is produced. This occurs not just on your face but might even affect other body parts as well. Though it is not harmful as such, it does have an aesthetic impact as it makes your skin look dull.
What causes hyperpigmentation?
While Hyperpigmentation is directly caused by an excess melanin production, there are factors that induce this excess melanin production.
- Prolonged exposure to sun rays, particularly the UV-A and UV-B, can stimulate your skin cells to produce excess melanin.
- Superficial burns due to sun rays can also induce Hyperpigmentation.
- Another primes causative agent is inflammation. This skin inflammation might occur due to your body’s immune response to some infection or allergic reaction.
- Acne or pimples also often leave dark spots after they vanish. This is because acne generates an inflammatory response in the affected region, and this dark spot can take up to 24 months to lighten.
Type of hyperpigmentation
Depending on the causes as to why your body is suddenly producing excess melanin, Hyperpigmentation can be further divided into types, which call for specific treatment methods.
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
This is the type which occurs after you’ve had bad acne or even a pimple. Once there’s acne or pimple on your skin, your body initiates an inflammatory response which will induce your melanocytes, melanin-producing cells, to produce more melanin. And once the acne or pimple disappears, you will be able to clearly see the dark spot. This occurs even after a skin injury due to a scratch or even as simple as insect bite which you have scratched.
Not necessarily dark brown, some hyperpigmentation looks dull grey. These typically occur on your face and are caused due to hormonal disbalance. It is a chronic condition which usually affects pregnant women or women who frequently take contraceptive pills. While the pigmentation subsides once the pregnancy term is over or after ceasing from consuming the birth control pills, the pigmentation might persist in some people.
This occurs due to prolonged exposure to the sun, whose results you see later in your life. Typically, people in their late 30’s or early 40’s will be able to notice that their skin gradually starts becoming darker. This is the effect of photoaging, i.e. the sun has already caused enough damage to your skin that once your body starts ageing, it will begin to form these dark pigments.
Hyperpigmentation is very difficult to get rid of, and even though there are methods by which you can treat it, it takes quite some time and effort to finally see some visible results. So, patience is the key to treating this skin condition.
OTC or over the counter treatment methods include the use of drugs or medicine which can be applied topically to cure this.
- Azelaic Acid – Studies have reported that the use of azelaic acid-containing gels can reduce Hyperpigmentation caused by acne. This is particularly useful for those who are sensitive to retinol-based creams.
- Corticosteroids – This is best for post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. When used with hydroquinone, these can significantly reduce scarring and also reduces irritation, thus reducing the risk of Hyperpigmentation.
- Hydroquinone– This has been proven for its skin lightening benefits. It is perfect for tackling Hyperpigmentation, and thus many dermatologists also recommend the use of hydroquinone-based creams
- Retinol – Retinol induces skin growth which is important for healing as well as lightening your skin.
- Vitamin C– Due to its free radicals fighting ability, vitamin C based serums can assist in providing adequate sun protection which is known as the primary cause for free radical generation in the skin.
- Kojic acid – This acid is highly potent towards treating Hyperpigmentation. It restricts the activity of tyrosinase in the synthesis of melanin.
While the OTC methods assist in treating Hyperpigmentation, there are certain home remedies that you can follow to prevent as well and treat this skin condition.
- Aloe vera – The natural gel, when extracted properly, has multiple benefits which include melanin reduction. Rubbing this on your skin will lighten your skin while making the skin smoother. Apply this before going to bed.
- Lemon Juice – Abundant of Vitamin C, when this juice is diluted in honey or rose water toner, it can assist in both treating and preventing Hyperpigmentation. Apply a serum or a moisturizer after this for best results
- Green tea extract – If you dip a cotton ball in green tea extract and apply the same on the darkened area, the antioxidants present in it can induce the skin to reduce free radicals on the skin. Though, results will be visible only after months of regular application.
- Red lentils – Also known as masoor dal, applying a paste of this on the affected area can reduce darkening as this pulse is also rich in antioxidants. But it is best you perform a patch test first to observe for potential allergic reactions.
There are other methods which people who suffer from Hyperpigmentation can take, but only after they have consulted with their dermatologist. These are cosmetic procedures which incur both time and money. These include laser therapy, pulsed light treatment, chemical peels and microdermabrasion. While the first two make use of light energy to lighten your skin, the later two make use of harsh chemicals. Both have a range of side effects, and thus, this should be performed only by a specialist.
Hyperpigmentation is a severe skin condition, and while it doesn’t cause any further damage, it is very much treatable. It is better to visit a dermatologist if you feel you are suffering from this and find the best route of treatment for yourself soon.