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WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION?
When your skin, or large portions of it turns an unusual darker shade than your natural pigmentation.
WHAT CAUSES HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Skin color is influenced by the amount of pigment, or melanin, that is produced by the skin. Natural pigmentation is nature’s way of protecting itself from ultraviolet light, and thus most discoloration is in some way associated with sun exposure. However, sun exposure is not the sole cause of discoloration, and rashes, acne spots, injury, medication, hormones and genetics may also contribute to discoloration.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION?
- Sun Spots – Also called Lentigos (commonly referred to as liver spots or age spots), are a product of cumulative sun exposure, not directly related to sunburn from a single day. Commonly affected areas are: face, neck, upper chest and arms.
- Freckles – Medically names ephildes, freckles develop in fair skin individuals as a skin’s natural defense to protect itself from sun exposure. Freckles will often fade when skin has proper protection from UV light. They are most common in children and young people.
- Post Inflammatory – A common occurrence after injury to skin, or severe irritation that may be a result of acne, bad chemical peels, rashes or laser surgery.
- Melasma – The darkening of the skin’s pigmentation, caused by the female hormone estrogen. Normal in pregnancy (pregnancy mask), this brownish discoloration of the face can also be caused by birth control pills.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Though there is no cure for discoloration or hyperpigmentation, there are several effective methods to treat it. Many people have success combating abnormal pigmentation with Acid or Chemical Peels, photo facials, Vibrafusion or Microdermabrasion treatments.
We have recently added a state-of-the-art laser technology (combined wavelengths of 532nm KTP, 755nm Alexandrite, 1064nm long pulse Nd:Yag) for specific spot treatments, when there are singular or scattered spots that require precisely targeted treatment. Our laser works by generating an intense beam of light aimed at the exact location of the lesion. The melanin absorbs this light, creating sufficient heat to destroy the lesion, leaving surrounding healthy skin unharmed.
This laser is appropriate for flat brown spots from sun exposure, keratoses, freckles or the very small black spots common to Asian or African-American skin.
IS SUNSCREEN NECESSARY FOR HYPERPIGMENTED SKIN?
The environment, ozone layer and sun today are not like they used to be. The sun has become dangerous. If you are trying to avoid or fade your sun damage, a sunscreen with an SPF 30 is a must. Make sure it provides broad spectrum protection so that it will protect you from 99% of the sun’s harmful rays.
DOES THE “PILL” CAUSE HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Oral contraceptives are not a cause of discoloration; however, some forms of discoloration are triggered by extreme hormonal changes, such as being on the pill, or pregnancy. The sudden change in hormone balance may make skin more sensitive to light, and increase the chance of melasma.
ARE THERE ANY MEDICATIONS THAT CAUSE HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Though medications by themselves do not generally cause discoloration, some medications (including anti-malarial and anti-seizure drugs and antibiotic minocycline used to treat acne) may increase your sensitivity to light, and cause sudden skin pigmentation. To avoid this from happening make sure to wear sunscreen, and protect skin with hats and clothing.
IS HYPERPIGMENTATION PERMANENT?
Most discoloration will fade if you remove the trigger. For example, if you have pregnancy induced Melasma, it will often fade following child birth. Also in the instance of freckles – skin’s effort to give itself protection against ultraviolet light – if skin is properly protected the freckles will fade. However, even though a trigger is removed discoloration does not always fade on its own.
IS HYPERPIGMENTATION HARMFUL?
Though discoloration itself does not have any side effects, other than cosmetic appearance, it is often a sign of sun damage, and thus you may want to see a dermatologist to ensure it is not cancerous.