Hyperpigmentation occurs when there is increased melanin production occurring in an area. Melanin is what gives color to the skin. Melanin is the pigment that provides color to your hair, eyes and skin. People with dark skin have more melanin. People with fair skin have less melanin. Melanin not only gives color to the skin but also serves to protect the skin from the sun.
Hyperpigmentation can occur from a number of causes: sun exposure, genetics, pregnancy, certain medications, and from injury to the skin(typically from acne).
There different types of hyperpigmentation:
Melasma-this occurs due to hormonal fluctuations and is very difficult to treat. This can occur from birth control pills, hormonal treatment, pregnancy or due to activity of the thyroid gland.
Lentigines-also called age spots or liver spots. These occur in 90% of people over the age of 60. These are due to sun damage.
Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)– this is due to skin injury from acne, psoriasis, or burns. These generally diminish naturally with time.
It’s best to make an appointment with your physician to determine what type of hyperpigmentation you have and how best to treat it. There are ingredients that might be prescribed together to get better results. The two main ingredients that are used are melanin blockers and exfoliators. There are some ingredients with questionable studies so, as always, do a little research.
Also, professional procedures can help with hyperpigmentation. Skin Peels, Intense Pulsed Light therapy, Lasers and Microdermabrasion(this can be done too often and cause issues, so allow your skin to heal between sessions) can all help in the process.
Lastly, is treating the hyperpigmentation with over the counter options. People often use products that contain ingredients like: Retinol or Alpha Hydroxy.
Also there are studies that indicate folate deficiency can cause hyperpigmentation , so eat your greens, oranges and whole grains.
There are tons of choices of over the counter options. Here are a few products to look into(Some contain melanin blockers so know what you are using and if that is what you want to do.):
Products that work on age spots or sun spots do so in one of two ways – skin brighteners and exfoliants. Skin brighteners generally have ingredients that change your skin to start producing less melanin. Hydroquinone, for example, is a well-known skin brightener which inhibits an enzyme called tyrosinase, which produces melanin. When you block that enzyme, your product is slowing your spots from getting darker and allows them to actually fade.
One thing to remember is that melanin is the body’s defense mechanism against radiation. So by using something with hydroquinone, or another melanin-blocking ingredient (like azelaic acid, for example), you are weakening your natural defenses against UV radiation.
To avoid the risk with melanin blockers you can use exfoliating creams to speed up cell regeneration. By exfoliating damaged skin cells, these dark spot corrector creams can help fade sun spots on face and hands, but they will take longer to show effects. Common exfoliating ingredients in dark spot correctors are alpha hydroxy acids, like salicylic and lactic acids; Bromelain, an exfoliating enzyme; and Retinol, known for stimulating cell turnover.