Have you noticed odd spots on your skin that appear a few shades darker than the rest? You may be dealing with hyperpigmentation. The good news is that this problem is usually harmless. The bad news is that it can be annoyingly difficult to treat unless you know how.
What Is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is, simply put, a darkening of the skin. It can occur in small spots, large patches, or across entire areas of your body. Hyperpigmentation can happen to people with all skin types, though it’s more obvious against lighter skin tones. It’s actually a really common problem, and many women simply cover it over with makeup.
Hyperpigmentation happens when you have a higher than normal concentration of melanocytes in your skin. These melanocytes produce melanin when exposed to sunlight, which is the reason we tan. But when too much melanin is produced in one area, it shows up as brown spots on your skin. Not actually harmful, but not pretty either.
There are three types of hyperpigmentation. Melasma, sometimes called “pregnancy mask”, is caused by hormone changes. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (or PIH) is caused by inflammation in the skin. This may be related to acne, cuts, or burns, but the discoloration can remain long after the initial inflammation is gone. Finally, solar lentigines, aka “age spots” or “liver spots”, are caused by sun exposure. These are most common on the hands or face.
How to Prevent Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation can happen to anyone at any age. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent dark spots, or at least minimize them.
The first and most important step is to limit your sun exposure. This will help prevent a great deal of visible aging. Wear sun protection when outdoors, rain or shine. When possible, try to avoid spending a lot of time in the sun during peak hours (typically 10 am to 3 pm). If you’re going to be in the sun for an extended period, wear a sun hat and cover exposed skin.
Next, avoid further inflammation of the skin. Picking at acne, scabs, or spots or trying to scrub them off is likely to exacerbate the problem. Instead, treat your skin with soothing ingredients such as aloe, or simply run cool water over any inflamed areas.
Right now, many people may experience chafing or irritation caused by facial masks. This can lead to PIH in some cases. To avoid the problem make sure your mask fits properly, switch to a cotton mask, and adjust your skincare routine to soothe skin and combat breakouts.
Finally, some medications can cause hyperpigmentation. If you begin to notice a darkening of the skin shortly after starting a new medication, talk to your doctor. You may need a different formulation or a different dosage.
While these steps likely won’t reverse any damage already done, they can help prevent dark spots from getting worse.
How to Get Rid of Hyperpigmentation
If you’ve begun to notice dark spots, you’ll want to treat them as soon as possible, before they get worse. There are a few types of hyperpigmentation treatment available. They range from simple topical creams to in-office cosmetic procedures from a plastic surgeon.
The easiest way to treat hyperpigmentation and make your skin look and feel great is to include anti-inflammatory ingredients and brightening agents in your skincare routine. Look for some of these ingredients when choosing products:
- Aloe — If you haven’t heard about the amazing benefits of aloe in your skincare routine, prepare to be amazed. This simple gel contains aloin, a compound that can lighten skin and soothe inflammation at the same time.
- Neem — This natural herb has been in use for centuries in India. It can reduce inflammation and help your skin retain vital moisture, protecting you from further damage.
- Peony — More than just a beautiful and fragrant flower, peony is a skincare powerhouse. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can help slow the signs of aging, including those stubborn age spots.
If you’re using topical treatments to get rid of hyperpigmentation, remember to avoid spot treatments. Apply the cream to your entire face and neck to ensure you’re including problem areas that are not yet visible.
More drastic options include options such as chemical peels and laser treatments. Be careful when going this route as sometimes these treatments can cause further inflammation, leading to more dark spots. It’s best to start with simpler, soothing treatments and then talk to a dermatologist if you find you need something stronger.