Hyperpigmentation is a common problem among people with medium to dark skin. The phenomenon refers to areas of the skin that have too much melanin pigment and are darker than others, causing an uneven, patchy appearance. But why does this occur, and what can be done in regards to prevention and treatment?
Who Does It Affect?
Hyperpigmentation can affect anyone, but it is most common in people with medium to dark skin. The problem is especially prevalent among people of South Asian descent. People with dry, sensitive skin are at greater risk for developing hyperpigmentation as well. Here are some of the factors that can trigger hyperpigmentation:
UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun can not only increase the odds for getting skin cancer, it can also age the skin and trigger additional melanin production in the skin. Sun exposure is the most common cause for skin hyperpigmentation. The best way to prevent this is to be diligent about sunscreen use and to wear protective clothing when possible.
Pregnancy and Hormonal Changes
Melasama, also known as "the mask of pregnancy" is hyperpigmentation that occurs due to hormonal changes in the body. Other changes in hormones can also have similar effects. Unfortunately, prevention is difficult in these cases, as the causes are internal and related to normal functions of the body.
Inflammation From Acne
Unfortunately, people with darker skin can be prone to inflammatory acne. The effects of this kind of acne are sometimes more severe after the acne itself has gone away, as inflammatory acne can trigger hyperpigmentation due to increased melanin production. These patches can take a long time to fade, and may never go away on their own.
Unfortunately, hyperpigmentation can run in families, so if your family is prone to the problem, it is highly likely that you will struggle with it as well. The best you can do is to prevent as much damage as you can, and seek treatment if your hyperpigmentation is affecting your life or self-esteem.
Solutions for Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation can be very distressing, but fortunately, there are several methods for treating the problem, ranging from procedures that are completely non-invasive to others requiring a week or two of recovery time. If you are struggling with hyperpigmentation, here are some possible options for treatment that may help:
Professional Skincare Products
The most non-invasive option, professional skincare products, such as the ZO Skin Care System, developed by Dr. ZeinObagi, can be helpful in beginning the hyperpigmentation treatment process. The ZO system is a great option for those who would like to try a gentle approach to hyperpigmentation. ZO contains skin-lightening agents and products to nourish the skin both internally and externally. These products are prescription only, and the system will be tailored to your specific needs.
Chemical peels range in depth and effectiveness, depending on the needs of the patient. Peels use chemicals to remove layers of skin and encourage the formation of new skin growth. Light peels require little to no downtime, while deeper peels can require several days of recovery. Only a plastic surgeon can determine which type and depth of peel is right for you. Peels are often a great starting point for hyperpigmentation treatment. You should not try DIY chemical peel kits, as these can worsen hyperpigmentation and damage your skin.
"Intense Pulsed Light" (IPL) treatments can be effective for people of all ethnicities. IPL treatments are generally less invasive than resurfacing methods, and can yield good results for some patients.
Portrait Plasma Skin Resurfacing
An alternative facial resurfacing treatment to the more well-known laser resurfacing, plasma treatments are a great option for hyperpigmentation in lighter-skinned patients. Nitrogen gas is used to target unwanted dark patches of skin and rejuvenate the facial skin.
The most in-depth type of skin resurfacing for hyperpigmentation, laser treatments use light and heat to target specific areas of the skin and destroy skin cells with hyperpigmentation. The treatment also helps rejuvenate the skin and improve wrinkles and scars. Laser resurfacing can involve a week or two of recovery following treatment. It works best for lighter-skinned patients.
The Most Important Factor
The doctor you choose will be your knowledge base in planning your treatment and a major factor in your eventual success. No matter what hyperpigmentation treatment option you decide to pursue, you should always seek help from a board certified facial plastic surgeon. Only a professional with experience in treating hyperpigmentation should be advising you on your best course of action and administering your procedures. If you are looking for advice in the Boston area, then come to Bentkover Facial Plastic Surgery & Laser Center in Worcester (508-363-6500) or Stoneham (617-247-0033), MA. Dr. Bentkover is a highly skilled and certified surgeon, with a great deal of experience in cosmetic skin issues and treatments. Call today to schedule a consultation!