Skin hyperpigmentation can occur in people of various different skin colours, types and textures. Those suffering from hyperpigmentation are often concerned about the appearance of their skin, and search endlessly for the most effective treatment methods. Distinguished dermatologist, Dr Ariel Haus provides an in-depth guide to the causes and treatment methods for hyperpigmentation.
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation can be defined as a darkening of the skin from its regular colour. It can occur either as dark spots, dark patches, or as diffuse hyperpigmentation, where there is generalised darkening of the skin tone.
A sun tan serves as an example of generalised hyperpigmentation. Nonetheless, the very process responsible for creating a desirable overall change in skin colour due to sun exposure is also implicated in generating undesirable localised hyperpigmentation, such as blemishes, freckles, and other skin imperfections.
Causes and types of hyperpigmentation
The causes of hyperpigmentation are essentially, the sun, along with some other predisposing factors. Melanin is the skin’s pigment (brown in colour), which is typically produced in response to the sun’s UV rays to protect against sun damage.
Melanin and pigmentation
When hyperpigmentation occurs, there's an excessive surge in melanin production, resulting in irregular deposits within the skin, giving the appearance of brown patches or dark spots. This irregularity manifests as brown patches or dark spots.
This surplus melanin production can be prompted by previous sun damage, acne, or other skin injuries, as well as inflammation persisting from prior eczema or psoriasis flare-ups, a condition referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
If dark spots appear on the skin unexpectedly, it's highly likely that they stem from hyperpigmentation triggered by melanin and prior extended sun exposure.
Melasma is associated with hormonal changes rather than sun exposure. It is extremely common, impacting mainly women, particularly pregnant women. It normally arises on the forehead, nose, cheeks, chin and upper lip.
What are some other causes of hyperpigmentation?
In some cases, hyperpigmentation can take place due to minor leakage from weak blood vessels, often appearing on the lower limbs. These lesions are known as pigmented purpuric dermatoses.
How to get rid of hyperpigmentation
At Dr Haus Dermatology, we offer a number of professional treatments to get rid of hyperpigmentation.The majority of skin pigmentation issues can be resolved in a fast and effective way, including skin which has previously been exposed to the sun, and as a result of harmful rays, has produced darkened skin spots and patches.
However, an exception to this is melasma which, despite being classified as a chronic condition, can be effectively managed over time. Melasma which has been triggered by pregnancy often appears at the end of pregnancy.
Topical treatments for different skin types
The first line of treatment recommended by most dermatologists is to apply sun protection on the affected areas every day. The best option for this is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher.
Additionally, the dermatologist may prescribe the following:
- azelaic acid
- ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
These can vary from topical creams to oral medications.
Another treatment option for hyperpigmentation is a chemical peel. The strength, peeling and downtime between each treatment varies.
Laser treatments for any skin tone
Hyperpigmentation laser treatment is frequently used to effectively address hyperpigmentation, producing positive results. Laser therapy can be applied to all skin types, including darker skin tones.
Our clinic was the first practice in the UK to offer patients ‘elos’ technology, a state-of-the-art platform that delivers laser, light and radio frequencies as a treatment method for hyperpigmentation. Erbium and Fraxel modalities can also be used to treat hyperpigmentation.
Another treatment option for hyperpigmentation that we use at Dr Haus Dermatology is the Smart PICO Laser system, which has the power to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation caused by melasma, while also mitigating the risk of post-inflammatory conditions. This technology works to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and allows us to treat conditions such as melasma and PIH in darker skin types, while still reducing undesirable side effects and downtime.
The SmartPICO laser system produces targeted pulses, which have the ability to reach the precise layers of skin tissue, which then promotes the natural generation of collagen. After completion of just one session, the skin appears is smooth and radiant. It uses the most advanced picosecond technology on the market, and is the first choice of treatment for dermatologists, and can be used on every skin type, and almost all pigmented conditions.
What are the treatment options for darker pigmentation?
Microneedling and drug delivery, with the application of special serum can also be applied to treat unwanted pigmentation.
How will my hyperpigmentation be diagnosed?
In order to diagnose hyperpigmentation, your dermatologist will ask about your medical history and lifestyle, to determine if these are contributing factors to excess pigmentation.
If you have a history of medical conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, the dark spots or patches of darker skin you're experiencing may be a result of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, rather than being caused by sun exposure.
The dermatologist may use a hand-held microscope, known as a dermascope (or dermatoscope) as a method of diagnosis, or use diagnostic techniques such as digital imaging platforms, which provide an instant, pain-free and non-invasive view beneath the skin’s surface.
Digital imaging surfaces allow the dermatologist to have a ‘behind the scenes’ picture of the darker skin to help them understand the causes of the pigmentation in an effective and efficient manner.
If you would like to book a consultation with Dr Haus, do not hesitate to do so by visiting his Top Doctors profile today.