Sunburn or age spots are not the only causes for your blotchy skin or inexplicable dark spots. Hyperpigmentation could be one such lesser known cause of skin discoloration. Read on to learn more about the causes for hyperpigmentation and ways to remove hyperpigmentation.
What is hyperpigmentation?
This particular kind of skin discoloration is characterized by parts of the skin turning darker in color than its surrounding areas. These dark patches are generally seen on the face, hands, shoulders, or the neck area of an individual. These spots are usually referred to as liver spots, solar lentigines, pregnancy mask or freckles. Some kinds of hyperpigmentation spots could turn cancerous if not treated appropriately. A dermatologist could help distinguish Hyperpigmentation from regular tanning or sunburn and provide effective treatment.
Cause for hyperpigmentation
Melanocytes present in the skin's epidermis produce melanin which is the pigment responsible for the color of skin, eye and hair of an individual. Any hormonal, physical changes or environmental factors trigger melanocytes to produce excessive melanin. This imbalance in production also affects the melanocyte's ability to distribute melanin evenly across the skin's epidermis. Therefore the excess melanin usually forms clusters and the skin tends to appear darker in the melanin concentrated areas, leading to uneven skin tone and darker areas. This condition is called hyperpigmentation
Factors which trigger Hyperpigmentation
The several factors which drive melanocytes into excessive production are listed below:
Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes occurring in the body during pregnancy or menopause can trigger production of excessive melanin
Diet: Any changes to dietary patterns, which include excess consumption of iron, or nutritional deficiencies in vitamins like A, D and E directly contribute to hyperpigmentation.
Diseases: Persons suffering from diseases like Addison', celiac, hypothyroidism, acne are prone to Hyperpigmentation as these diseases directly influence the melanocyte stimulating hormones.
Environmental Factors: Constant exposure to the sun without using a sun block or sunscreen causes the UV rays of the sun to interfere with melanin production
Cosmetics: Any application of creams or using fragrances which contain mercury or large amounts of alcohol can trigger hyperpigmentation
Prescription Medicines: Some medicines which are used to treat conditions such as insomnia, infertility, high blood pressure and oral contraceptives have a history of causing hyperpigmentation as potential side effects.
Injuries: Injuries which lead to the inflammation of the epidermis cause hyperpigmentation. These injuries could be of any kind including exposure to severe heat, reaction to wax or bleach on skin, insect bits, wounds or sores.
Uses of creams and lotions: Depending on the severity of the condition, dermatologists usually recommend application of lotions or creams on the affected area. These creams contain Hydroquinone, alpha Hydroxyl acid, licorice, green tea extracts or Retinol.
Skin Dermabrasion: Dermabrasion for hyperpigmentation works by replacing the layer of skin affected with hyperpigmentation by freezing the skin and thoroughly polishing away the affected layer with the help of micro crystals. This is considered safe for treating this condition without any side effects.
Chemical peels: The affected layer of the skin is induced to shrivel and slough off by application of certain chemicals. The unaffected healthy layer comes to the surface therefore making the skin tone even.
Laser Surgery: This procedure should be undertaken only after consultation with the dermatologist and careful consideration of several factors as laser surgery could have possible side effects. The laser light is screened towards the affected pigmented area; the high energy of the light reduces the melanin pigments to disappear.
Home remedies for removal of hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation can be faded to a certain extent by using natural ingredients at home. However please note that these natural ingredients only fade the darkening, but cannot alter the cycle of melanin production. The time taken for the hyperpigmentation to fade may vary based on the severity of the condition. However they might be safer than using bleaching creams available over the counter.
Situations like hormonal fluctuations, injuries, pregnancies, diseases are beyond our control hence hyperpigmentation cannot be prevented during these phases. However the tips below can be followed to prevent hyperpigmentation.
Protect your skin from sun: The onset of hyperpigmentation induced by sunlight and harmful UVA rays can be avoided by not exposing the skin to harsh sunlight between morning to noon. Always use a sunblock/sunscreen with and SPF value of greater than 30, half an hour before going out in the sun. Always use hats, umbrellas, long sleeved clothes and keep your skin covered at most times to protect it from the harsh rays of the sun thus avoid skin hyperpigmentation.