Hyperpigmentation: How to Attack It, One Ingredient at a Time
What Is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation may sound a lot scarier than it actually is, but that does not mean it should be forgotten. Chances are you have probably experienced this condition. Hyperpigmentation is a common and typically harmless skin condition in which patches of your skin become darker than your original skin tone.
Hyperpigmentation is more of a general term that is used to refer to a variety of skin conditions. These conditions come in more commonly heard names such as age or liver spots, melasma, and even freckles. These, more extreme, pigmentation effects can occur on any skin type, tone, or color. In some cases, like freckles, pigmentation is inherited. However, in most other cases, pigmentation is the result of exposing your skin to harmful UV radiation for a prolonged amount of time. By repeatedly exposing your unprotected skin to UV rays longer than it can handle, your body will begin to produce excessive amounts of melanin that will eventually lead to dark spots.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is pretty recognizable and for the most part you are able to see if you have a variation of this skin condition. However, what is not always easy to determine is the root cause of your condition. Pigmentation can happen because of a number of different factors.
One of the most common factors is too much sun exposure with an inadequate amount of protection. The sun has long been known to harm our skin and causes anything from mild sunburn to the more severe skin cancer. The UV rays from the sun can also cause hyperpigmentation conditions. When skin is exposed to UV rays for a prolonged period of time, they trigger an inflammatory response that produces hormones which activate melanocyte responses. Melanocytes are the skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Uneven production of melanin becomes evident as dark, discolored spots on your skin: areas of hyper-pigmentation. There are other circumstances such as cuts, scarring, and allergic reactions that may also cause excess melanin to be produced. All of which could, in turn, cause uneven pigmentation.
How Long Can It Last?
Since hyperpigmentation is the result of inflammatory conditions, your skin could start to improve slightly as soon as the inflammation has resolved. However, in most cases the discoloration has a wide range for when it may disappear, if at all. It is pretty common to see fading, or even for it to be permanently resolved, in the range of 3 to 24 months. There are unfortunately still cases where the time period is longer. This depends on the individual and the severity of the pigmentation. Generally, the darker the spot compared to your natural skin tone; the longer it will take to fade.
Hyperpigmentation occurs deep in the skin and takes a fair amount of time to reach the surface and show visible discoloration. It should be understood that because hyperpigmentation does not occur overnight, neither will the healing process. Reversing the damage your skin endured is a lengthy process.
How to Attack Hyperpigmentation
Not every case of hyperpigmentation turns into a permanent discoloration. So, thankfully, there are a handful of at home remedies, over-the-counter products, prescription products, and treatments you can look to if waiting for it to resolve on its own is not your forte. A common ingredient found in topical creams used in treating hyperpigmentation is hydroquinone. It is typically prescribed in a 4% cream by dermatologists, but can also be bought as a lesser, 2%, over-the-counter form. It is said to be one of the most effective and strongest brightening ingredients available for treatments. However, hydroquinone can eventually cause irritation in the skin as well as increase the pigmentation. If you are using a hydroquinone cream, it is recommended to use it off and on. The off cycles allow your skin to normalize and reduce the chance of irritation. Kojic acid is another highly effective ingredient used to combat dark spots. It works in the same ways that hydroquinone does except without many of the risks. You are able to use a kojic acid product continuously, rather than shuffling your treatments around as with hydroquinone. Since there are no side effects to put your skin at risk you may want to choose this option before requesting a strong prescription like hydroquinone, or other steroids which a dermatologist may provide. However, it is always best to first consult with your doctors if you are unsure of which direction is best for you.
Vitamin C is another widely popular ingredient for treating pigmentation issues. Vitamin C brightens your skin naturally and can eventually, over time, fade out the hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C doubles as an antioxidant and brightens your skin. It also encourages tyrosinase inhibitors to help prevent your body from creating too much melanin, which might in turn cause uneven pigmentation. Vitamin C helps make sure your melanin levels are in check and keeps your skin glowing.