When you talk about your skin care concerns, the most important things that pops-up in your mind must include wrinkles, acne and period pimples. In fact, it happens with everyone that sometimes we become so engaged in dealing with blemishes and fine lines that we neglect dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
But this can be equally frustrating if you want to achieve flawless, glowing and insta-ready complexion.
Pigmentation is a type of skin trauma that can flare up overnight and is activated by several factors. Women of color are more prone to pigmentation because of the high level of melanin in their skin and this makes it very tough to treat.
Like every other woman, being a woman of color you also desire for more even skin-tone rather than a lighter and brighter one. With irregular dark and light patches in your skin, you end up shopping for make-up products putting more effort than it is worth.
Today you have enough solutions available in the market for discoloration but hold on, before we get to land on the tips on how to get rid of hyperpigmentation, let’s understand what exactly hyperpigmentation is and factors that cause hyperpigmentation in the first place.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is basically the discoloration of the skin that results in the development of dark spots or patches. The affected area looks darker than the rest of the skin. This gets worse with exposure to the sun.
Hyperpigmentation is a broad term that comprises skin discoloration caused by freckles turned into sunspots, acne blemishes, or darkening of the skin due to conditions like eczema and psoriasis and eczema.
All these skin problems improve the production of melanocytes that aggravates melanin production on your skin. This excessive melanin gets dumped into the deeper levels of skin that causes hyperpigmentation. These spots after getting exposed to sunlight worsen and flare up.
What are the common causes of Hyperpigmentation?
You cannot deny the fact that with the shift in seasons, your skin too shifts the nature but you should not underestimate the effect that hormonal and genetic changes can have on your complexions and skin tone.
Oestrogen and progesterone are two female hormones that play critical roles in overstimulating melanin in the women of color. This results in hyperpigmentation problems, usually known as chloasma or melisma.
An interesting point to note here is that darker skin-tones are just as prone to sun damage as their lighter counterparts. This is where applying a strong SPF (Sun Protection Factor) daily plays an important role. This helps to protect the skin from harmful rays like UVB and UVA rays and facilitates in fighting hyperpigmentation.
What are the Different Types of Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is basically divided into three main types:
This is a type of hyperpigmentation which is very common in women, especially with the women of color. This skin discoloration usually occurs on different parts of your face like the nose, forehead, cheeks, or just above the lips.
And this makes melasma difficult to treat. Your body tends to experience shifts in hormones during pregnancy or during hormonal therapies or while taking oral contraceptives, and this escalates when you go out in the sun. Also, it goes away when the hormones are back to normal.
Signs and symptoms
- Typically occurs on the face
- Dark patches on the skin
- Symmetrical patches
- Patches usually appear on the chin, forehead, cheeks, and bridge of the nose
- May also appear on the neck and forearms
Post- Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
This is a condition that results from skin inflammation or trauma such as eczema, psoriasis, and severe acne. These skin conditions increase the production of pigments that cause dark spots.
This type of hyperpigmentation can impact people of any skin type, but it is prevalent in those with darker skin tones.
Signs and Symptoms
- Such pigmentation patches usually appear in the area where the skin inflammation occurred.
- The pigments are visible after the injury or inflammation is healed.
- The lesions are usually light or black brown.
- The patches grow darker when exposed to sunlight.
Sun Damage or Sunspots
Excessive exposure to sun rays is the most common factor behind the development of hyperpigmentation. If you have developed hyperpigmentation when you are in the early 30s, remember that the process had already begun when you were in your teens.
Sunspots are usually light brown also called as freckles and appear mostly on the neck, face, chest, and hands, which are primarily exposed to UV rays.
Freckles are usually seen on the skin of the people who have light to medium skin tones and they turn darker with continuous exposure to the sun. People who have light to medium skin tones develop freckles, and they get darker with continuous sun exposure.
How to get rid of hyperpigmentation?
- Topical Medicine
Rundown: The most common way to get your skin back to its natural glowing complexion is by the use of products that contains hydroquinone which is a chemical lightening agent that is applied directly to the dark marks.
Hydroquinone works by blocking the action of the enzyme which is responsible for the production of the pigment melanin. By obstructing the formation of melanin, the dark area will lighten.
The prescription products of hydroquinone are stronger and hence more effective than the over-the-counter products. In either case, the hydroquinone product should be carefully applied to the dark spots, avoiding contact with normal-appearing skin once or twice a day.
Possible side effects: Irritation, Redness, and possible burning of the skin. There is also the possibility that your normal skin tone can become lighter in a ring around the dark discoloration. You should notice and monitor any of these side effects.
How long it takes to see the required results: Three to six months
Rundown: For people with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) related to pimples or acne, prescription retinoids are another commonly used treatment for both the PIH and acne. Retinoids include Differin, Retin-A, and Tazorac and are derivatives of vitamin A.
All retinoids are beneficial in the treatment of acne. Retinoids are to be used carefully on brown skin. A small amount of retinoid is enough to cover the entire face.
Possible side effects: Dryness, irritation, and peeling of the skin. Consequently, it is important to start treatment only under the direction of your dermatologist and closely watch the appearance on the skin while using these products.
How long it takes to see the required results: Up to 40 weeks
Rundown: Azelaic acid is another prescription treatment for both PIH and acne. It contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and skin-lightening properties. It is specifically useful for individuals who are intolerant to hydroquinone products.
Possible side effects: Itching, skin irritation, burning, and redness.
How long it takes to see results: After six months
Rundown: These products work by exfoliating the upper-most layer of the skin gently and the dark marks with it. There are many products available that contain glycolic acid.
These include lotions, cleansers, gels, creams, and toners. The concentration of glycolic acid contained in the products range from 5 to 20 percent.
Products with the lower concentrations of glycolic acid can be purchased in drugstores, but products that contain higher concentrations must be obtained by the prescription of dermatologists.
Possible side effects: Skin irritation.
How long it takes to see the required results: Three to six months
Even in clinical trials, chemical peels have shown promising results in treating hyperpigmentation. Of all the chemical peels, glycolic peels are the safest and most effective in eliminating spots. Even salicylic acid and lactic acid peels work well in treating hyperpigmentation.
There are several facial procedures that the dermatologist can perform on your skin to treat hyperpigmentation. Depending on the severity of your spots, you may need multiple sessions. The most common procedures are:
- Other Treatment Options
Microdermabrasion is one of the best treatment options for hyperpigmentation. This is a procedure in which the topmost layer of your skin is removed by exfoliation and suction by using a device. You will need several sessions to see the required results.
Laser treatment is also known as laser resurfacing treatment. This procedure of hyperpigmentation treatment uses light beams to peel or remove the top surface of the skin. Laser treatment can be ablative that uses an intense laser to remove skin layers or non-ablative or tightens the skin and improves collagen development.
Ablative lasers are a bit powerful and can cause side effects. It is advisable that you should consult your doctor before considering laser treatment. It is the type of treatment that suits your skin type and the degree of discoloration.
- Over-The-Counter Treatments
There are lots of OTC creams available to help lighten your hyperpigmentation. However, there are some creams that are a bit stronger, and there is a need for a doctor’s prescription to get them. But there are many other creams that are usually mild and will not need any prescription.
These are generally seen in gel or cream form and can be applied on the marks once or twice daily (or as suggested by the doctor) for desirable results. The most common over the counter creams/gels include:
- Niacinamide or vitamin B3
- Licorice extracts
These creams are easily available and affordable as compared to other professional treatments. However, you must keep this in mind that these creams or gels take a lot of time to show the required results and work slower than other treatment options.
There is one saying ‘prevention is better than which is very true in this case. Hyperpigmentation starts early from the deepest layers of your skin and does not show up until it worsens.
Here are few other tips to keep your skin away from pigmentation
Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen
Always use sunscreen that has the highest SPF and offers both UVA and UVB protection. You must use it every day before going out into the sun and applying it on all exposed parts of your body is very important.
Avoid the Sun, if you can
You have umbrellas, hats, and sunglasses, use them to prevent your skin from hitting by the sun rays. Try to stay inside when the sun is the strongest.
Follow a Good Skin Care Routine
Following a good skin care routine helps your skin to heal the abuse like pollution and other environmental impacts, it undergoes every day. Also, if you have an inflammatory condition such as eczema or acne, you must use anti-inflammatory skin care agents daily.
Most of the times, these conditions contribute towards initiating pigmentation, which becomes even more grave if not dealt with properly.
You must use brightening agents immediately once you have a breakout and it heals. You must remember, “a stitch in time saves nine,” so you need to act fast. There is a huge possibility of a seemingly harmless pimple mark or acne spot or pimple mark flaring up anytime and this can worsen the skin even more.
If you are battling hyperpigmentation since long, it is always advisable to consult a dermatologist to figure out the gravity of your condition and the treatment method that can work best for you.
What You Should Stay Away From?
You should stay away from buying chemical peels over the internet as they can be too strong for use at home. You should also stay away from using bleaching creams that contain cortisone (skin bleachers).
Avoid applying creams inappropriately to the skin as this can lead to damaging and bad side effects. The side effects include permanent redness of the skin from overgrowth of blood vessels, permanent thinning of the skin, and uncontrollable outbreaks of pimples and the appearance of rashes on the skin.
We hope the information provided in this blog has helped you gain a better understanding of hyperpigmentation and the ways to deal with it. If you have any doubts, post a comment below.