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Hyperpigmentation On Skin: Types, Causes, Treatment & Myths

Hyperpigmentation is the discoloration of skin due to the excessive accumulation of a pigment called melanin. Hyperpigmentation appears in the form of brown or grey patches as melanin causes the skin to appear darker. Face pigmentation occurs when these patches appear on the face as a result of various causes.

  • Melasma: One of the most common types of hyperpigmentation, melasma, also known as chloasma is the pigmentation which occurs due to hormonal changes in the body. Due to this, pregnant women are highly susceptible to melasma. 
  • Sun spots: Sun spots or Age spots are discoloured spots that appear on the skin due to prolonged sun exposure. They commonly appear in areas which are most prone to sun exposure such as cheeks, nose, forehead etc.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH): This is the kind of hyperpigmentation that’s usually left after an injury or trauma to the skin. The most common causes for PIH acne, wound, chemical peels, laser treatments and acne medication.

Sunlight is a major factor causing hyperpigmentation. Upon exposure to sunlight, the melanocytes in the skin are triggered by the UV rays. As a natural response, the melanocytes produce melanin which causes the skin to appear darker. Hormonal change is another factor that contributes to hyperpigmentation. Hormonal imbalance can trigger an excessive production of melanin, which is why pregnant women often get hyperpigmentation. This is also the reason why women are more likely to experience hyperpigmentation as compared to men.

Prevention is definitely better than cure. Don’t worry we’ll be talking about the cure as well, but first let’s begin with how to prevent hyperpigmentation. 

  • Avoid sunlight at all costs, since that might be difficult, at least try avoiding sunlight when it’s at its strongest, i.e afternoon.
  • Don’t skip sunscreen, wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, every single day without fail.
  • Try to avoid medications which may cause hyperpigmentation.
  • Wear protective clothing to shield your skin from the sun every time you step out.

Hyperpigmentation can be treated using various skin lightening ingredients such as-

  • Hydroquinone: One of the most popular ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation, Hydroquinone works by reducing melanocytes present in the skin. A decrease in melanocytes means reduced production of melanin. Even though hydroquinone is an effective ingredient, its use is debated as it harms the skin cells.
  • AHAs: Alpha Hydroxy Acid such as Glycolic Acid, Malic Acid, and Lactic Acid can help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation by exfoliating the outermost layer of dead skin cells and increasing the cell turnover rate. 
  • Alpha Arbutin: Considered to be a safe alternative to hydroquinone, Alpha Arbutin acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor. Tyrosinase is the enzyme responsible for Melanogenesis (synthesis of melanin). Alpha Arbutin inhibits the production of melanin without harming melanocytes.
  • Kojic Acid: Derived from types of a fungi, Kojic Acid also works by inhibiting the action of tyrosinase. It’s considered to be an effective treatment for hyperpigmentation due to its lightning fast action in comparison to other ingredients on the market.  
  • Azelaic Acid: Another tyrosinase inhibitor, Azelaic Acid also stops the spreading of the discoloration. It is also anti-inflammatory and ant-microbial, which make it effective against acne.
  • Retinoid: Yes, you read that right, this popular anti-aging ingredient can also be effective against hyperpigmentation. Due to a small molecular size, retinoids have the capability to penetrate deeper into the skin. 

 

There are also many cosmetic procedures such as Chemical Peels, Dermabrasion and Microdermabrasion that exfoliate the skin to provide an instant brightness, and have been gaining traction due to their efficacy in treating hyperpigmentation. Over time, these help in fading hyperpigmentation.

  • Myth- Pigmentation is permanent.

While pigmentation may be chronic in some cases, there are various kinds of pigmentation which are treatable and some even go away on their own. It’s important to determine the kind of pigmentation you have and treat it accordingly.

  • Myth- Face pigmentation is genetic.

Not all types of pigmentation are genetic. Genes may play a contributing factor to pigmentation but certain types of face pigmentation like PIH have nothing to do with genes.

  • Myth- Pigmentation does not occur for those with darker skin.

People with darker skin are dark because of excess melanin in their skins. Due to this, pigmentation may not be easily visible in the skins of those with color but it doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer through hyperpigmentation. All skin types, regardless of type or color could have hyperpigmentation. Some skin types are just more susceptible to it.

  • Myth- Cosmetic procedures are the only way to treat face pigmentation.

Cosmetic procedures such as laser treatment is a great option to treat hyperpigmentation, but it isn’t the only option. At-home remedies include using OTC treatments with skin lightening ingredients such as Hydroquinone, Alpha Arbutin and Kojic Acid etc. 

  • Myth- Staying indoors will treat hyperpigmentation without the use of sunscreen.

Staying indoors avoids the risk of direct exposure to sun but it doesn’t mean you don’t need to apply sunscreen. You could be exposed to the UV radiation in sunlight even while staying indoors, which is why wearing sunscreen everyday is a must regardless of the weather or whether or you’re staying indoors. 

  • Myth- Exfoliating will remove face pigmentation.

Exfoliating involves removal of dead skin cells from the top most layer of the skin using chemical or physical exfoliants. During exfoliation, the pigmented cells from the epidermal layer may be sloughed off from the skin, causing the skin to appear brighter. Exfoliation is just one way to minimise the appearance of hyperpigmentation, without proper care and treatment, the cells from the lower layers of the skin could keep producing melanin leading to hyperpigmentation.

This serum is not only effective in treating hyperpigmentation and tanning, it can also tackle other skin problems like uneven skin texture, dryness, fine lines and dullness. Best part? It can be used by all skin types!

With 0.3% of Alpha Arbutin, this serum is another great option for getting rid of hyperpigmentation. 10% Niacinamide helps soothe the skin while moisturising it. 

This unique exfoliating serum with a potent combination of 18% AHA and 2% BHA can help tackle multiple skin concerns. The AHA exfoliates the dead skin cells away leaving behind a bright complexion, while the BHA unclogs the pores and purifies the skin deeply.

While hyperpigmentation can be challenging to deal with, using the right ingredients can help you get rid of it effectively. The best way to treat hyperpigmentation and to avoid having to deal with it is, avoiding exposure to sunlight. Always remember to use a good sunscreen before stepping out, use an umbrella, try avoiding direct sunlight as much as possible and you’re good to go.

  • Why does pigmentation occur on the face?

Face pigmentation occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to sunlight. The skin cells produce melanin when they come in contact with the UV rays in sunlight. Since, the body is mostly covered with clothing and the face is bare, pigmentation can usually be seen on the face. 

  • How to get rid of hyperpigmentation?

Skin lightening ingredients such as AHAs, Alpha Arbutin, Kojic Acid etc. can be used to get rid of pigmentation. It’s also important to use sunscreen to tackle and prevent hyperpigmentation.

  • How long does it take for hyperpigmentation to fade?

The answer to this really depends on the skin type and the kind of hyperpigmentation. It can take anywhere between 12 weeks to 12 months to see improvement. 

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