Hyperpigmentation can cause dark spots on the skin that are not only annoying but also harmless.
Hyperpigmentation is what? Hyperpigmentation is any skin patch that appears darker than your normal skin tone due to the overproduction of brown pigment melanin. Hyperpigmentation is found in liver spots, age spots, and sunspots, as the Cleveland Clinic notes.
Factors that Can cause hyperpigmentation.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, these are the most common causes of hyperpigmentation. They can affect all skin types to varying degrees.
Inflammation can be caused by skin trauma, such as acne, eczema, and bug bites—cuts, scrapes, scratching, friction, or even vigorous rubbing. Inflammation can cause pigment-producing cells to go into overdrive, leaving behind dark spots after an injury has healed. It is also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
The Mayo Clinic states that the sun’s UV rays can trigger melanin production to protect your skin. This extra melanin gives you a tan. Sunburns can occur when you are exposed to too much or too little sun. According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, sunspots do not cause cancer. However, sun-exposed skin can develop precancerous lesions that may look like sunspots. Your skin must be examined by a dermatologist every year.
Melasma, also known as the “mask” of pregnancy, is characterized by brown patches. It occurs when women have fluctuating hormone levels, such as during pregnancy. Although most common in women, hyperpigmentation can also occur in men. Experts at the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology believe it is caused by genetics, sun exposure, and hormonal changes. According to the Cleveland Clinic, other hormonal medications used in birth control or menopause symptoms can cause melasma.
- Med Conditions and Medication
Addison’s disorder, which can cause hyperpigmentation, is an adrenal gland disorder that can lead to increased melanin production. According to a book published in July 2022 by StatPearls, certain drugs, such as antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antimalarials, can increase the risk for hyperpigmentation. According to the advocacy group cancer Connect, some chemotherapy drugs can cause temporary hyperpigmentation. As new skin cells replace the old ones, darkened areas associated with chemotherapy drugs usually disappear within 10-12 weeks.
How to Prevent and Treat Future Hyperpigmentation
Many dark-spot correctors are available today, but it is equally important to address them preventively. These scientifically-proven steps can help.
To increase cell turnover, keep skin moist.
Although your main goal in hyperpigmentation treatment is to reduce the appearance of dark spots, a good OTC moisturizer should also contain beneficial ingredients for the skin. Doris J. says that a good product will not only address pigment issues but also have moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acids, as well as retinol, to increase cell turnover. Day, MD, is a clinical assistant professor of skin care at NYU Medical School in New York City. She is also the author of Beyond Beautiful: Using Your Mind and Aesthetic breakthroughs to look naturally young and radiant. These inactive ingredients make active brighteners more effective.
The University of Tennessee Medical Center notes that a good moisturizer can also help to restore the skin’s fat or lipid barrier. This allows new skin cells to remain healthy as they rise to the surface.
Avoid Injuries Like Blackheads and Bug Bites
It may seem tempting to rub a bug bite on a stubborn blackhead or scratch it, but remember your mother’s warning: “Don’t pick!” Follow that advice. “Scratching or picking at a spot can only increase inflammation responsible for skin discoloration,” states Jeanine Downie, MD, a Montclair dermatologist and director of Image Dermatology. It’s worse if you don’t take care of it now.
OTC Whitening Options
Hyperpigmentation is easier to treat if you act quickly. Dr. Downie explained that brown spots could become more profound in the skin over time.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association says several spot-eradicating ingredients you should look out for in OTC treatments. These include azelaic, glycolic, vitamin B, and retinoids.
“Treatments that contain ingredients such as vitamin C, licorice root, and kojic acids help reduce hyperpigmentation, inhibiting tyrosinase (an enzyme responsible for the production of skin-darkening pigment melanin),” says Ni’Kita Wilson, New York City’s cosmetic chemist. The research was published in 2017 in the Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemicals. It supports Wilson’s advice.
OTC ingredients can have bleaching effects on dark spots. However, the AAD warns against using liquid bleach on your skin. As some imported skin-lightening products can be contaminated by mercury, steroids, and other harmful substances, the group recommends that you stick with American-made products.
For stubborn skin discoloration, consider an Rx.
OTC remedies may not be effective. It’s time for professionals. Because it slows down pigment production, dermatologists recommend products with hydroquinone as a standard treatment for dark spots. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are available on prescription. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).