Hyper-pigmentation is a skin condition that causes discoloration of the skin, or appearance of patches on the skin that are darker than the surrounding areas of the skin.
There are different types of hyper-pigmentation and they include age spots, post- inflammatory hyper-pigmentation, and melasma. And for each of these types, there are different causes and a couple of treatments and products for them.
In this article, you will learn all the basic things you need to know about hyper-pigmentation.
Hyper pigmentation is the name that healthcare professionals give to patches of skin that become darker than surrounding areas of skin.
What is Hyper-Pigmentation?
Hyper-pigmentation is the appearance of dark patches on your skin. These patches are usually darker than your normal skin color. Hyper-pigmentation occurs when your skin produces excess melanin (the pigment responsible for giving your skin its color). When this happens, spots and patches of skin darker than your normal skin color start to appear in areas around your skin.
This skin condition is very common and can affect all skin types.
Different forms of hyper-pigmentation affect different areas in your body, like melasma and sun spots affect areas of the skin that are more open to sun exposure, like your face, neck, arms and legs.
Other types of hyper-pigmentation form after an injury or skin inflammation, such as cuts, burns, acne, or lupus. These can occur anywhere on the body.
Though having an extra pigment in some areas of your skin can be very harmless, you should try not to ignore it as it can indicate another medical condition.
Causes of hyper-pigmentation
As there are different types of hyper-pigmentation, so are their causes. Each cause depends on the type of hyper-pigmentation. However, there are very common causes and they are:
When you constantly expose yourself to sunlight, your body produces more melanin to protect your skin. This melanin produced can cause dark spots and patches on your skin. They are called age spots or sun spots.
Some areas of your skin can darken after you have had inflammation of the skin. Inflammation from skin conditions like acne, eczema, lupus, or any serious injury to the skin. People with darker skin are more prone to develop post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation.
Darker patches of skin can form when people experience hormonal changes. This type of hyperpigmentation is common during pregnancy.
Reactions to drug use
Certain medications, such as antimalarial drugs and tricyclic antidepressants, can cause hyper-pigmentation. In these cases, patches of skin may turn gray. Chemicals in topical treatments can also sometimes cause hyperpigmentation.
There are medical conditions that can cause hyper-pigmentation. Medical conditions like Addison’s disease and hemochromatosis.
Addison’s disease affects your adrenal glands. It can cause hyper-pigmentation in areas like
• Folds of skin
• Elbows and knees
• Inside of the cheek
Some of the symptoms of Addison’s disease include:
• Fatigue and weak muscles
• Vomiting and diarrhea
• Weight loss
• Stomach pain
If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t be quick to self-medicate, run to your doctor.
Hemochromatosis is a genetic condition that causes the body to contain too much iron. It can cause hyper-pigmentation, making the skin appear darker or tanned.
Make sure you see your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
• Stomach pain
• Joint pain
• Weight loss
How to get rid of hyperpigmentation
It is true hyper-pigmentation is very harmless; there are people who don’t like and want to get rid of it. Thankfully, there are a myriad of treatment and home remedies that can help you do that.
To prevent hyper-pigmentation, or to stop it becoming more pronounced, here are a few things you need to do
• Avoid exposure to the sun. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect the skin and stop hyper-pigmentation from becoming darker.
• Avoid picking at the skin. To prevent hyperpigmentation from forming after an injury, avoid picking at spots, scabs, and acne.
You can also try the following treatments to get rid of hyper-pigmentation
Many people use topical treatments to treat hyperpigmentation. Topical treatments will include ingredients that lighten the skin, such as:
• Azelaic acid
• Kojic acid
• Retinoids, such as tretinoin
• Vitamin C
• Cosmetic procedures
Some cosmetic procedures can also lighten areas of skin to reduce the appearance of hyper-pigmentation.
Cosmetic procedures for hyper-pigmentation include:
• Laser therapy
• Intense pulsed light
• Chemical peels
People who are considering undergoing one of these procedures should discuss the process and possible side effects with a skin care specialist, or dermatologist.
Natural Remedies for Hyper-pigmentation
It may also be possible to lighten areas of hyperpigmentation using natural remedies. However, there are no large-scale studies in humans to confirm that any of these remedies are effective.
If a person wishes to try a new treatment or natural remedy, they should always try the product on a small patch of skin first and stop using it if it irritates the skin.
Studies show that the following natural treatments may be able to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation:
Aloesin, a compound that is present in aloe vera, may lighten hyper-pigmentation. Aloesin works by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin.
One study suggests that taking aloe vera capsules can relieve melasma in pregnant women.
You can apply aloe vera gel from the plant directly to the skin daily.
Licorice extracts may lighten hyperpigmentation. Research suggests that a licorice extract called glabridin can have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and skin-whitening effects.
You can also use other creams containing glabridin on areas of hyperpigmentation. Products containing glabridin are available at drug stores and online.
Green tea extracts may improve hyperpigmentation. Researchers have long studied green tea for its potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
There is very limited research suggesting that green tea extracts can improve melasma and reduce sunburn. More research is needed before scientists can fully understand whether or not green tea can actually improve symptoms.
If you notice other symptoms alongside hyperpigmentation, then you should seek advice from their doctor.