Excessive production of melanin by the body can cause a skin condition called hyperpigmentation. The areas on the skin that this condition affects make its colour look uneven.
Hyperpigmentation is easy to spot, but they may look similar to each other. It is important that patients seek professional advice from dermatologists in order to get a proper diagnosis of their condition. A proper diagnosis improves the chance of treating the case of hyperpigmentation with accuracy and the right methods.
A safety precaution by Dr David from Singapore’s One Face Skin & Aesthetics Clinic: do not attempt to treat hyperpigmentation without the proper guidance of a dermatologist as it can only make your condition worse.
This article is only meant to serve as a guide for you to know about the types, causes, and treatments that can help you manage your skin’s hyperpigmentation.
- What is hyperpigmentation?
- What types of skin have a higher risk to develop hyperpigmentation?
- What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?
- What are the ways to diagnose hyperpigmentation?
- What are the different types of hyperpigmentation?
- What are the treatments available for hyperpigmentation?
- Can hyperpigmentation be prevented?
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition wherein small portions or spots of the skin turn darker than their natural colour. It is caused by an overproduction of melanin, which is responsible for giving the colour to the skin’s pigment. Hyperpigmentation is generally harmless and is characterised by light to dark brown spots in different shapes and sizes.
What types of skin have a higher risk to develop hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation can affect any type of skin colour, but the risks are higher for people with darker skin colour.
What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?
Extreme sun exposure without proper sun protection and skin inflammation are the major causes of hyperpigmentation. Other factors also include use of certain medications, pregnancy, hormonal changes, and diseases (e.g. Addison’s disease).
What are the signs and symptoms of hyperpigmentation?
A change in skin colour that appears darker than its usual pigment is a major sign of hyperpigmentation. Spots or patches of this skin discolouration can develop on the different parts of the body. They can also differ in sizes.
What parts of the body are usually affected by hyperpigmentation?
Any part of the body can be affected by hyperpigmentation, but some parts are more prone to its development due to their exposure to sun or UV light. These include:
What are the ways to diagnose hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation can be diagnosed by a dermatologist using by assessing a patient’s medical history, performing physical tests, or doing a skin biopsy to find out the actual cause of the skin condition.
What are the different types of hyperpigmentation?
The most common types of hyperpigmentation are:
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Solar Lentigos
Melasma appears as a light to dark coloured irregular patches on the skin. This type of hyperpigmentation is usually seen on the face and may develop on the stomach. Melasma is believed to be caused by hormonal changes. Other causes are age, genes, and sun exposure. It is commonly observed in middle-aged individuals and pregnant women.
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) can develop on the face or other parts of the body. This can be caused by eczema, allergic reaction to skincare, and damage to the skin, such as inflammations, infections or wounds. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can appear as dark spots or patches on the skin. Individuals with darker skin colour have a high risk of getting this type of skin condition.
Solar Lentigos, or liver spots, are caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays. They are usually found on areas of the body that are often exposed to the sun, like the arms, face, hands, and shoulders. People who have fair skin and are above 40 years in age are prone to developing solar lentigos.
What are the treatments available for hyperpigmentation?
There are several ways to treat each type of hyperpigmentation:
- Melasma – chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser treatments, medical-grade creams, microdermabrasion, topical tranexamic acid.
- Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation – chemical peels, oral medications, laser treatments, topical creams.
- Solar Lentigos – bleaching creams containing hydroquinone or retinoids, chemical peels, intense pulse light (IPL) therapy, laser treatments.
Is it possible for hyperpigmentation to return after a successful treatment?
Recurrence after a successful hyperpigmentation treatment will depend on the type that a patient was diagnosed with. Melasma, solar lentigos, and other skin pigmentation disorders that are usually set off by exposure to the sun are most likely to make a comeback if the skin is not treated with proper care and protection.
On the other hand, two types of hyperpigmentation, Hori’s naevus and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) are considered as outliers. Hori’s naevus does not return once it is successfully removed from the skin. The same goes for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, although there might be a chance for it to develop once the skin is damaged again.
Can hyperpigmentation be prevented?
Hyperpigmentation cannot be fully prevented, but there are ways to lower your risk of developing this skin condition. Here are some tips:
- Apply sunscreen on your skin regularly (at least SPF 30).
- Avoid extensive sun exposure, especially during its peak time in the day.
- Use sun protection, such as hats, umbrellas, or clothing that prevents high-risk areas of the body from being exposed to the sun.