Hyperpigmentation is a skincare concern affecting millions of people, which means people ask us for advice about treating hyperpigmentation all the time. Hyperpigmentation is an inconsistency of color. There are different types of hyperpigmentation: sun spots/solar lentigos, melasma, freckles, etc. Scars from acne or even injury (burns, cuts, abrasions) can cause hyperpigmentation as well. Today we’d like to discuss the different types of this skin issue and what it all means.
There are numerous common causes of hyperpigmentation, ranging from sun damage, pollution, ancestry, injury to the skin (no pimple picking please!), hormones, heat and even blue light from computers and tech gadgets.
THE TYPES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION
In order to better know where to begin when treating hyperpigmentation, it is important to understand and recognize the types of hyperpigmentation. So let’s review three types of hyperpigmentation in detail!
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the most common type of darkening of the skin. This can happen after any trauma to the skin, such as rubbing, burns, acne, eczema, rashes or any irritation to the skin. On the face, it may seen as the dark spots that remain after acne has resolved. Some consider it to be scarring, but a change in color of the skin is not a true scar unless there’s no change in texture along with it.
Treatment: The most important way to approach post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is to find and treat the underlying cause. It’s also important to be gentle to avoid further inflammation and the hyperpigmentation that goes with it. Over-the-counter options include ingredients such as niacinamide, retinoids, hypochlorous acid, vitamin C, licorice extract and glutathione.
Another very common form of hyperpigmentation is melasma. Melasma usually occurs on the face and is triggered by a combination of genetic factors, sun exposure, and hormones. It commonly appears as symmetric, patchy areas of darker skin on the forehead, cheeks and upper lip that typically appear or become darker right after sun exposure. The sun stimulates pigment production to go into overdrive, which leads to the hyperpigmentation.
Treatment: The many causes of melasma makes it particularly difficult to treat. The darkened areas often persist after childbirth or the discontinuation of hormone therapy. Topical skin lighteners such as glutathione, kojic acid, retinoids, and tranexamic acid can be very effective in treating it. In most cases, chronic intermittent treatment is often necessary to maintain the results.
FRECKLES AND SUNSPOTS/SOLAR LENTIGOS
Freckles often present on the cheeks, chest, and back. They can happen after a sunburn, usually in childhood, which is indicative of sun damage. They have irregular borders, and they can lighten and darken depending on the amount of sun exposure you get.
The word lentigo simply describes a patch of skin that contains a greater density of cells called melanocytes which produce a dark pigment called melanin. There are many different types of lentigo, but the most common are caused by the sun – solar lentigos. These are non-cancerous brown spots which are thought to develop in response to sun-exposure, especially in those with fairer skin. They can appear anywhere but tend to form on the face, neck, shoulders and forearms.
Unlike freckles they usually appear after the age of 30. The main difference between a freckle and a solar lentigo is that in a freckle only the amount of pigment being produced by melanocytes is increased, rather than the actual number of cells.
Solar lentigos are flat spots which vary in colour from yellow-brown to dark brown-black, depending on skin tone. They are generally much larger than freckles being >5mm in width. The number and size of solar lentigos often increases with age, and in comparison to freckles, they do not fade much during the winter months.
Treatment: The best treatment for both freckles and solar lentigos is prevention which starts with regular sunscreen use starting in childhood and continuing daily throughout adulthood. If you do develop dark spots from past sun exposure topical treatments like retinoids, niacinamide and vitamin C can be helpful as can professional treatments like gentle peels, laser and microneedling.
UNDERSTANDING THE TYPES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION
The key to any long-term and effective skincare treatment plan is understanding the underlying issue. Here at CONNECTED Health & Skin we combine natural skincare therapy with naturopathic medicine to get to the bottom of your skin concerns and issues.
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