Hyperpigmentation Causes and Treatment Options

Hyperpigmentation is an increase of melanin, the natural substance that gives skin its color and pigment, causing darkening of the skin. This is a good thing, as it helps to shade the skin from the sun, but it also is one of the biggest skin complaints out there.
When asked what a client’s biggest complaint about their skin is, or if there is anything they would like us to focus on….many times it’s “these dark spots” ” my sun-spots” “that dark blob on my forehead”
There are several different forms of Hyperpigmentation, each of which is caused and treated differently.  The Baby Boomer population has aged and their skin is showing the impacts of sun exposure without UV protection. More people are taking hormone replacement therapies and birth control pills. Environmental factors and increased stress all play a big role too. Now the damage is done, and we all want a solution! 

Hyperpigmentation appears in several different forms, and each form is treated differently.
A patchy brown discoloration that occurs on sun exposed areas of the face typically during pregnancy or as a result of other hormonal changes like birth control use.  If you can draw a line around the pigment’s borders, then it is likely Melasma.
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
Dark spots that are caused by skin inflammation due to acne, eczema, psoriasis, burns, or other inflamatory skin conditions, particularly in darker skin types.  This type of hyperpigmentation usually starts as a red patch after the initial inflammation subsides, and eventually turns brown.
Sun Damage
One of the most common forms of hyperpigmentation, this appears as darkness, and spots that resemble freckling due to overexposure to the sun.
Hyperpigmentation can be caused by both internal and external  factors.  Internal factors such as hormones, stress, nutrition and medical treatments and any other factor that changes the body’s natural regualtory functions can all result in excessive pigmentation.  External factors, such as harsh weather conditions, sun exposure and excessive exfoliation of the skin can all lead to hyperpigmentation.  Thus, anything from allergies to clothing, heat or chemicals can all have a negative impact on the skin’s pigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation and Managing Expectations. In an age where we want overnight results and instant gratification, hyperpigmentation can be a very frustrating thing.  Most hyperpigmentation is caused by years of damage, and it will not disappear overnight.  In fact, it can take around 24 weeks of routine treatment before seeing any real results.

There are several ways to treat hyperpigmentation both in the professional treatment room, as well as through at-home care.

The best way to “treat” hyperpigmentation is by preventing it in the first place.  Use great care when in the sun.  Always use sunscreen when in the sun, even for small periods of time.  90% of our sun damage occurs during day-to-day exposure such as driving, walking from the car to a building, etc. not when we are at the beach or on vacation.
If hormonal changes are to blame, possible consider consulting your doctor about different birth control or hormone replacement therapies.

Once the Pigmentation is there however, there are several options to treat it.
A good diagnostic facial to figure out causes and severity of hyperpigmentation is always a good starting point.  Many times, your esthetician will recommend a series of chemical peels to help exfoliate and turn over the skin, as well as lifting pigmentation.  These can have excellent results in lightening pigmentation, as well as preparing the skin for home-care treatments.
Retinoids, when used correctly and under the care of your physician or esthetician can work wonders to lighten pigmentation.  Vitamin A works by interupting melanin synthesis, as well as exfoliating the skin to help turn it over faster, and allow product ingredients to penetrate.  The down side is that it thins the skin, can be irritating to most people, and should only be used for limited amounts of time.
Vitamin C is a great ingredient that is in many skincare products.  It decreases melanin production, improves the skin’s collagen and fiber production, and is a protective antioxidant.
There are also amazing facial washes, toners, and moisturizers that have lightening and brightening ingredients in them to help treat the skin at an optimal level.
The best way to tackle your hyperpigmentation concerns is by making an appointment with your esthetician so that together, you  can form a treatment plan that is best for you!

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