Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of the area of skin due to increased melanin production. This condition is harmless and characterized by patches of skin becoming darker in color compared to the surrounding skin which is normal in color. Hyperpigmentation can affect any skin of any race.
There are different types of hyperpigmentation. One type is age or liver spots. These spots are due to the damage caused by the sun. The small darkened patches are usually found in the hands, face and areas where there is frequent sun exposure. Medical professionals refer this type of hyperpigmentation as solar lentigines.
Another type of hyperpigmentation is melasma or chloasma. The appearance of the spots are usually like age spots but is caused by hormonal changes. Melasma happens in pregnancy when this state triggers overproduction of melanin that causes darkened areas of skin in the face, abdomen and other areas. This condition is also known as the "mask of pregnancy" because of hyperpigmentation prominence on the face. Women who take birth control pills may also experience hyperpigmentation because of hormonal changes. To stop hyperpigmentation, one should stop taking the pills.
UV light also stimulates melanin production. The UV light concentrates on the area of the skin that is exposed, leaving underexposed areas lighter than exposed ones.
Other Types of Hyperpigmentation
Changes of skin color also happen after skin injury.
Skin conditions may leave dark spots after the condition clears.
Freckles on the other hand is an inherited condition and not caused by outside sources such as the sun.
There are many available treatments for hyperpigmentation.
Prescription creams that contain hydroquinone are readily available. Bleaches are also effective in clearing dark spots.
Bleaching products have twice the amount of hydroquinone that will gradually fade dark spots and match normal skin.
There are also a number of laser treatments that are proved to be effective in eliminating hyperpigmented areas. Laser resurfacing is an example of laser treatments. Laser resurfacing works by eliminating damaged layers of skin and leaving behind a fresh evenly toned skin. Hydroquinone and mild chemical peels are recommended before starting this treatment. Another example is the intense pulse light that offers a similar mechanism to laser resurfacing but does not need hydroquinone and chemical peels before hand.
Tretinoine and cortisone cream may also be used. These physician formulas are more expensive than other treatments but they are highly effective. Tretinoin is only used in severe cases of hyperpigmentation as it can cause irritation sometimes.
The most important prevention for hyperpigmentation is the use of sunscreen when out in the sun. You also need to protect your skin by trying not to be exposed in the sun frequently. Over exposure to sun does not only cause hyperpigmentation but more severe conditions such as skin cancer.