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Hyperpigmentation is characterized by a darkening of an area of skin caused by the overproduction of a pigment in the skin known as melanin. Melanin acts as a natural protection for the skin against UV rays; however, excessive sun exposure causes the skin to produce more melanin and darken.
The causes of Hyperpigmentation can be linked to a variety of factors such as genetic factors, age, hormonal influences, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics and other medications, but the primary causes are skin injuries or inflammation from sun exposure.
Skin pigmentation conditions can be a problem for all women (and men) with rich complexions – people of Asian, African, Latin or Native American background. While the natural pigmentation in brown skin provides many advantages—sun protection and slowed signs of aging—it is also more highly susceptible to skin discolorations, which can cause distress in social situations, as well as psychological stress.
CAUSES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION
There are three main types of hyperpigmentation, each of which is categorized by their cause.
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is an acquired condition in which excessive melanin deposition occurs at sites of skin inflammation or injury. Although it can be seen in all skin types, it more frequently affects darker Fitzpatrick skin types (IV, V, and VI.). PIH may also result from hypersensitivity reactions to medications, cutaneous injury from irritants, burns, or cosmetic procedures. Highly common causes of PIH are acne vulgaris, atopic dermatitis, and impetigo. The management of PIH begins with addressing the underlying inflammatory condition. Initiating treatment early for PIH may help hasten its resolution and prevent further darkening. This is particularly true for those with higher Fitzpatrick skin types who may not typically normally wear sunscreen or realize the darkening effects UV irradiation has on hyperpigmentation.
Ordinary conditions such as acne or pimples are a very common cause of PIH in individuals with brown skin. PIH can also be caused by injury to the skin resulting from sunburns, surgery or cosmetic procedures such as chemical peels, dermabrasion, lasers and cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen treatments).
Lentigines: Some of these develop when you are very young and some as you get older. Solar lentigines are not directly caused by the aging process but are rather caused by excessive exposure to the sun. They are not directly caused by the aging process but are rather lentigines that are related to UV exposure.
Melasma: This is caused by hormonal fluctuations, for example, during pregnancy, with thyroid dysfunction, and through use of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. It affects an estimated five to six million women in the United States alone and can often be difficult to treat. It is often aggravated by thyroid complaints. It is more prevalent and tends to persist for longer in people with darker skin, and is sometimes experienced by dark-skinned men.
Preventive care and maintenance is the best solution
- Wearing a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 daily and avoiding sun exposure is crucial in preventing hyperpigmentation.
Benefits of sunscreen
- Sunscreen lotions are extremely safe and effective and daily use of sunscreens help to minimize the harmful effects of UVB and UVA on DNA.
- They help shield important proteins like collagen, elastin, and keratin which keep skin smooth and firm.
- They help to stop or even reverse some signs of aging.
- Sunscreen use can help prevent melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, two types of skin cancer.
- They also minimize UV damage and it is important for children and those who have sun sensitivity for medical reasons.
2. Be mindful that discoloration is also in dead surface cells so it is imperative to exfoliate regularly to slough off the build-up, which will help minimize hyperpigmentation.
3. If you have 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.
TREATMENT FOR HYPERPIGMENTATION
There are many ways to address hyperpigmentation, and some work much faster than others and each choice of treatment require daily usage of a broad spectrum sunscreen to help ensure that symptoms of hyperpigmentation don’t return. Nothing provides an absolute guarantee that hyperpigmentation won’t reoccur, but being smart about shielding your skin from the sun (even on cloudy days) is your best line of defense. Daily use of a broad spectrum is an essential part of any therapeutic regimen.
Topical treatments have been used to treat epidermal post inflammatory hyperpigmentation with varying degrees of success. These agents include:
Hydroquinone: This bleaching agent blocks melanin, which are the pigment cells that give our skin color. These products can be obtained over the counter in weak strengths or by prescription in higher doses. Sometimes they are combined with other products such as Retin-A to achieve the desired effects. Risks may include irritation, permanent hypopigmentation (diminished pigmentation), increased pigmentation if you do not use sunscreen, and ochronosis (black speckles or discolorations) if a high dosage is used for long periods of time.
Retin-A: is derived from Vitamin A that exfoliates skin and speeds up new skin cell growth, diminishing dark, uneven skin patches along the way. It is available in several strengths and is often prescribed in a step-up fashion. It may be prescribed with hydroquinone or another bleaching agent.
Lumixyl is a new brightening cream that can help reduce age spots and hyperpigmentation. An alternative to hydroquinone, Lumixyl is based on a series of naturally-occurring peptides. It is applied topically and sold in physicians’ offices. It works by reducing melanin, but does so without the irritation or other side effects associated with Hydroquinone or Retin-A.
Elure: is the latest player in the hyperpigmentation treatment arena. The active ingredient, Melanozyme, is based on the naturally occurring enzyme lignin peroxidase. The Elure trio includes a foaming facial wash, lotion and night cream that temporarily reduce melanin, the pigment responsible for dark and uneven skin tone. Results are visible within one month, and there is low risk for skin irritation. Elure is available exclusively at physicians’ offices.
Lightening of hyperpigmented areas may be achieved with all the topical agents listed above and combination of topical creams and gels, chemical peels, and sunscreens may be necessary for significant improvement.
Chemical Peels – Chemical peels can be very effective in reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation located close to the skin’s surface, which allows for customize treatment to the patient’s specific needs and skin type. Example includes:
Alpha hydroxy acids: such as 8 percent glycolic acid, are exfoliants and can help remove hyperpigmentation.
Beta hydroxy acids: such as salicylic acids, are also exfoliants that can help address hyperpigmentation.
Laser Treatments: it is a customize wavelengths which is used to address many different skin concerns. Laser therapy is effective for treating hyperpigmentation below the skin’s surface, since concentrated laser energy can penetrate the surface of the skin without damaging surrounding skin and tissue. It’s also used to address dermal pigment deposition.
It does not matter if an individual chooses corrective treatment for hyperpigmentation, pigmentation issues will never get better WITHOUT the use of sunscreen. To maintain the attractiveness now of even non-hyperpimented skin and further, use your broad spectrum sunscreen daily.