‘Hyperpigmentation’ is a term used to describe an area of skin significantly darker than your natural pigmentation. Although this condition affects men and women equally, it is more common in those with darker skin tones, especially with excessive sun exposure.
There are many different causes of hyperpigmentation, however, the underlying biological changes remain similar. The primary triggers of hyperpigmentation can be categorised into four camps:
1-Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation which is generally caused by inflammation or trauma, and is characterised by flat, tan, brown spots on the skin. This can occur on any area of the body.
2-Age, liver, and sun spots which are caused by sunlight exposure or pollution, can spontaneously initiate the formation of hyperpigmentation. These types of hyperpigmentation are often referred to as ‘age spots’.
3-Melasma (sometimes called ‘the mask of pregnancy) is a form of hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal imbalance. After hormones return to normal levels, the condition usually subsides. Common causes of melasma include pregnancy, hormonal birth control, thyroid disorders and other endocrine conditions. Tendency to melasma is worsened by sun exposure and fragranced cosmetics.
4-Freckles and moles; common causes of freckles and moles include sun exposure and genetics.
Hyperpigmentation can be diffuse or focal, and melanin production can be affected by your health, well-being, and lifestyle. Strict sun protection including the application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing zinc and titanium dioxide are essential since UVA light is highly implicated in the progression of melasma.
There are a wide range of depigmenting treatments used for hyperpigmentation which vary in their efficacy and safety such as; azelaic acid, kojic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid, ascorbic acid, arbutin, niacinamide and retinoids.
Chemical peels and laser therapy can also be used to treat this condition. Specific lasers with specific settings need to be used by a trained doctor to avoid further complications or worsening of the condition.