Hyperpigmentation: What Is It and How Do I Treat It?
Hyperpigmentation: What Is It and How Do I Treat It?
If you are reading this, you most likely deal with hyperpigmentation or know someone that has. A quick search on Google can leave you confused as there’s multiples types of hyperpigmentation along with different ways to treat each kind. Ready to learn all you need to know about hyperpigmentation? Let's get started!
What is Hyperpigmentation?
A simple definition of hyperpigmentation is any darkened patch or spot on your skin. Hyperpigmentation is a very common skin condition and appears as skin discolorations that can range from light to dark. Hyperpigmentation can vary in size and color and occur when the skin overproduces melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color. Though most of the time hyperpigmentation is harmless and just a cosmetic issue, it can possibly indicate a more serious medical condition.
What are the Different Types of Hyperpigmentation?
A common type of hyperpigmentation that you are probably familiar with are freckles. Freckles are caused by exposure to the sun and can actually start appearing from the age of two. As the sun hits your skin, it causes the pigment of your skin to darken, causing little dark spots on your face, arms, and chest.
If you have been pregnant, you might have experienced melasma, which is typically caused by hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy. While melasma is most commonly associated with the hormonal changes due to pregnancy, it can also appear after taking birth control or after experiencing any change in hormones. An estimated six million people in the U.S. have melasma, so if you have it, you are not alone. These light to dark brown spots are most common in darker skin tones, but like freckles, can happen to anyone. Melasma usually appears on the cheeks, upper part of the nose, forehead and upper lip area and looks like splotchy areas of more pigmented skin.
Sunspots are another type of pigmentation that can appear on your skin. These are caused by you guessed it, the sun. Your grandmother may have referred to them as liver spots, these pigmented areas of the skin are usually light to dark brown and appear on areas of your body that are most exposed to the sun. With increased exposure to the sun, your skin is triggered to produce high volumes of melanin in concentrated areas, resulting in sunspots. If you have a lighter skin tone, you may be more likely to get sunspots.
The last type of hyperpigmentation we will cover is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, caused by acne or other traumas to the skin. Unlike other hyperpigmentation spots, these can appear pink or red as well as brown. These spots are like scars to your skin and appear wherever you have experienced trauma to the skin, most commonly seen the face but can also affect your chest and back.
Ways to Avoid Hyperpigmentation
If you want to be proactive and decrease your risk of developing or worsening hyperpigmentation, there are a couple of ways that you can do this.
First, avoid the sun. The sun is strongest from 10 am to 2 pm. If possible, stay indoors at during these times. This will help to decrease the likelihood that your skin will be stimulated to over produce melanin and cause hyperpigmentation.
If you have to be outside, make sure you wear sunscreen at all times! This is crucial as sunscreen is essential to protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Sunscreen has many benefits but in terms of hyperpigmentation, sunscreen will help prevent the pigment in your skin from darkening by blocking the triggers that come from the sun’s UVA ,UVB and high energy visible (HEV) light rays. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, you should wear a minimum of at least SPF 30 and reapply every two hours to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. If you want to stay ultra-protected, try Sunforgettable® Total Protection family of products which includes; Face Shield SPF 50, our Sport Stick SPF 50, Body Shield SPF 50 or and our Brush-on Shield SPF 50. These products feature our EnviroScreen™ Technology that not only provides unmatched protection from the sun’s UVA/UVB rays but also shields you from pollution, blue (HEV) light, and infrared radiation! What more could you ask for?
How to Treat Your Hyperpigmentation
If you already have hyperpigmentation and are looking to address it, there are different routes you can take, from nonprescription skin care to in-office medical treatments.
The simplest way to treat your hyperpigmentation would be to find non-prescription skin care products that target hyperpigmentation. Here are a few products you can consider adding to your routine.
Brightening Skincare Products
Lightening creams are a great option for those with melasma or age spots as these topical creams are applied usually once or twice a day to help lighten the skin over time. If you are looking for a brightening, some commonly found ingredients are licorice extract, N-acetylglucosamine, Vitamin C and vitamin B-3 (niacinamide).
Another great option to treat your hyperpigmentation would be to use a face acid, especially for those with fairer skin. Face acids assist in exfoliating the top layer of your skin and replace your old skin cells with new cells that help even your skin tone. These products can contain ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids, azelaic acid, kojic acid, salicylic acid, and vitamin C.
A tried-and-true method to treating hyperpigmentation are retinoids that penetrate deep into the skin and increase the production of collagen. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and increase cell turnover. If you have a darker skin tone, make sure to consult with a doctor first if you plan on using a retinoid to treat your hyperpigmentation for a significant amount of time.
Non-Hydroquinone Topical Treatment Products
Colorescience’s Even Up® Hyperpigmentation Regimen includes products with powerfully effective ingredients that target hyperpigmentation, without causing irritation or adverse side effects. Our easy-to-use Even Up® Hyperpigmentation Regimen consists of three powerful products: the Even Up® Multi-Correction Serum, the Even Up® Clinical Pigment Perfector® SPF 50 and the Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50. Featuring the patented, clinically proven Lumira brightening complex to minimize the appearance of discoloration while hydrating and smoothing your skin, the products complement one another to make a complete hyperpigmentation regimen. In a 12-week clinical study on our Even Up® Hyperpigmentation Regimen, 94% of all subjects reported their discoloration and dark spots were improved, experienced increased hydration and softer, smoother texture.
Cosmetic Director at Cascade Eye & Skin Centers and clinical study coordinator Tiffany Ramberg shares, “Our patients love the Even Up® Hyperpigmentation Regimen for a few reasons. First, results matter and patients who have hyperpigmentation often have underlying redness. Our patients see improvements in their hyperpigmentation and their redness. What is especially impressive, is that the patients who add the regimen to their existing advanced skin care routine also see a boost of improvement in their results. Patients find the Regimen easy to use and the products looked and felt good on their skin.”
Dr. Kimberly Wenner, board certified dermatologist at Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, and lead investigator in the Even Up Hyperpigmentation Regimen clinical study commented, “The results at each time point starting as early as 2 weeks through the 12 weeks, patients showed progressive improvement in their MASI (Melasma Area and Severity Index) score as well as improvement in the appearance of dark spots, even skin tone, texture and hydration. The product was very well tolerated, and no adverse events were observed nor reported. I am very excited to have the product commercially available as a safe and effective non-hydroquinone option for my patients.”
The Even Up® Hyperpigmentation regimen is free from hydroquinone, a skin lightening ingredient that is sometimes recommended for short-term use, and that dermatologists may have patients cycle on/off to reduce risks of side effects. The Even Up® products can be used daily and continuously to safely and effectively target hyperpigmentation.
If you want to explore which medical treatments are commonly recommended to treat hyperpigmentation, below are a few options. Always consult with a board-certified dermatologist or medically trained skin health professional to determine what treatments are best for you.
Chemical peels are one option for those with age spots, sun damage, melasma or blotchy skin. Chemical acids help reduce your hyperpigmentation by removing the epidermis, the top layer of your skin but stronger chemical peels can even seek deep into the middle layer of your skin, the dermis, for those dealing with more severe hyperpigmentation issues. If you are considering a chemical peel, you may want to choose to start a series in the winter months when you’re most likely to be out of the sun. Depending on the type of peel you have, there may be some downtime associated with your recovery. Because chemical peels remove the superficial to deeper layers of skin, your skin will be extremely sensitive to the sun’s rays right after your treatment be sure to use protect your skin with a broad spectrum, PA rated sunscreen and always reapply.
There are different lasers that can be used to treat your hyperpigmentation. Lasers use beams of light that are targeted to specific characteristics of the skin, such as pigment, redness, or water. Ablative lasers go deeper, targeting the water in the skin to remove the upper layers and can heat the underlying skin called the dermis. These lasers are recommended for those who are trying to address wrinkles, fine lines, and deeper pigmentation. Non-ablative lasers target the upper layers of the skin to encourage collagen growth, improve texture and address the skin’s brown and red discolorations. A popular non-ablative treatment is intense pulse light therapy also known as IPL. IPL targets the melanin pigment produced in the skin and redness to remove and reduce their appearance. IPL typically requires multiple treatment sessions. Not only can it be a safe and effective way to reduce your hyperpigmentation, but it can also stimulate collagen growth which can help with fine lines and skin texture. Because there are different types of laser devices available, and it is not a one size fits all approach, a consultation with a trained skin health professional is essential to identify your best treatment options.
If you have light, superficial hyperpigmentation, you might want to try microdermabrasion, a gentle form of exfoliation. During a microdermabrasion treatment, a trained skin health professional uses a handheld device to exfoliate the most superficial, outer layer of your skin. As your epidermis is exfoliated, cell turnover increases, and the pigmentation can fade. Some microdermabrasion devices can infuse skin care ingredients into the skin which are formulated to help address hyperpigmentation.
Microneedling uses a needle instrument that creates microscopic, controlled superficial punctures into your skin. This can help with hyperpigmentation. The needles essentially create minor injuries to the skin, causing the skin to heal, break up the pigment below the skin’s surface and produce new skin cells for a smoother and more even complexion. This treatment has been shown to be safe and effective for all skin tones. Pigment improving ingredients that are safe to apply immediately after microneedling may also be recommended by your dermatologist or medical skin health professional.
Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition, ranging from freckles, to post inflammatory hyperpigmentation to sunspots or melasma. You can reduce your risk of hyperpigmentation and help to prevent worsening by limiting your time in the sun and by faithfully using minimum SPF 30, broad-spectrum sunscreen every day and reapplying every two hours. If you are already dealing with hyperpigmentation, do not worry. There are plenty of products and treatments to help address your concerns. Be sure to consult with your board-certified dermatologist or medically trained skin health professional to determine the best treatment plan for you.
This blog post was written by Olivia Li.