Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition where some areas or patches of skin become darker than the surrounding skin. This discolouration is a result of an excess production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin and hair colour.
There are different types of hyperpigmentation, including:
- Melasma: This type of hyperpigmentation is often referred to as ‘pregnancy mask’ because it frequently occurs in pregnant women due to hormonal changes, but it can affect anyone. Melasma appears as brown or grey-brown patches on the face, typically on the cheeks, forehead, chin, bridge of the nose and above the upper lip.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin. A common cause is acne, but it can also occur after certain skin treatments, or as a reaction to drugs. It typically presents as flat spots of discolouration.
- Age spots, sun spots, liver spots, brown spots, dark spots: These are small, dark areas on your skin. They vary in size and usually appear on areas exposed to the sun like the face, hands, shoulders and arms. They are very common in adults older than 50, but younger people can get them too, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun.
What are the symptoms of hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation manifests as areas of skin that become darker than the normal surrounding skin. This can occur in small patches, cover large areas, or affect the entire body. Here are the symptoms you might notice:
- Darkened patches or spots: These are the most noticeable symptom of hyperpigmentation. The colour can range from light brown to black, and the size can vary as well. These spots can appear anywhere on the body but are most common on the face and hands, or other areas frequently exposed to the sun.
- Changes in skin colour: Your skin might look uneven with some areas appearing darker than others. This could be due to melasma or age spots.
- Persistent discolouration: If a spot or area of your skin remains discoloured long after an injury or inflammation (like acne) has healed, it could be post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
It’s important to note that while hyperpigmentation is usually harmless, any changes in your skin should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. This is particularly true for any rapidly growing or changing spots, or spots that bleed, itch, or don’t heal, as these could be signs of skin cancer.
What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is caused by an excess production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the colour of our skin, hair, and eyes. This overproduction can be triggered by various factors:
- Sun Exposure: The most common cause of hyperpigmentation is sun exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun triggers the skin to produce more melanin as a protective response. Over time, this can result in spots or patches of hyperpigmentation, commonly known as age spots or sun spots.
- Skin Injuries or Inflammation: Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can occur after a skin injury or inflammation has healed. This can be a result of conditions such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis, or following certain skin treatments like chemical peels or laser therapy.
- Hormonal Changes: Certain hormonal changes can lead to a form of hyperpigmentation known as melasma, or the “mask of pregnancy”. This is common during pregnancy or among those taking contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy, due to the increase in hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
- Certain Medications: Some medicines, including certain antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, and chemotherapy drugs, can cause hyperpigmentation.
- Medical Conditions: Some medical conditions can cause hyperpigmentation, such as Addison’s disease, which affects the adrenal glands and can cause increased melanin production.
- Age: As we age, the distribution of melanin in our skin can become less controlled and more concentrated in certain areas, leading to age spots or liver spots.
It’s important to protect your skin from the sun and avoid picking at your skin to help prevent hyperpigmentation.
What treatments are available for hyperpigmentation?
There are a range of treatments available to manage hyperpigmentation, from home remedies and over-the-counter products to medical procedures carried out by professional skin care specialists. Here are some options:
- Topical Treatments: Over-the-counter creams, lotions, and serums that contain ingredients like retinoids, azelaic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, and liquorice extract can help to lighten dark spots. Prescription-strength versions of these products may also be available through a dermatologist.
- Medical Procedures: If topical treatments aren’t effective, a dermatologist may suggest professional skin treatments. These can include chemical peels or laser skin resurfacing. These procedures can help to remove the top layer of skin, promoting new skin growth and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
- Sun Protection: Regular use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher can prevent existing hyperpigmentation from darkening and new spots from forming.
- Micro-needling: Micro-needling is a procedure that involves creating tiny punctures in the skin to stimulate collagen production and skin renewal. When combined with topical treatments, it can enhance the absorption and effectiveness of the products.
- Oral Medications: In some cases, a healthcare provider may prescribe oral medications like tranexamic acid to help manage hyperpigmentation, particularly for melasma.
- Home Remedies: Some natural ingredients, like aloe vera, green tea, black tea water, and even certain types of fruit and vegetable juices, can have a mild lightening effect on the skin.
Chemical Peel treatment for Hyperpigmentation
Chemical peels can be an effective treatment for hyperpigmentation, working by accelerating the skin’s natural exfoliation process to shed pigmented skin cells more rapidly. Here’s a bit more detail about how it works:
- Consultation: Your skincare specialist will first examine your skin and discuss your concerns to determine which type of peel would be most beneficial for you. This could be a superficial (light), medium, or deep peel. Superficial peels are usually suitable for all skin types and have little to no downtime, while medium and deep peels penetrate more deeply, can offer more dramatic results, but may require more recovery time.
- Peel Application: The chosen peel solution is then applied to your skin. This process usually takes around 20 minutes. You may feel a mild stinging or tingling sensation, which is normal.
- Exfoliation: The peel solution works by breaking down the top layer of your skin, causing it to exfoliate and peel off over the following days. This reveals the fresh, less pigmented skin underneath and promotes the production of new skin cells.
- Recovery: After a peel, your skin may be red, and the pigmented areas could appear darker at first. This is a normal part of the process and these areas will lighten as your skin heals and regenerates.
- Repeat Treatments: As you mentioned, a series of peels is usually recommended to achieve the best results. Your skincare specialist can guide you on the optimal number and frequency of treatments based on your individual needs.
- Maintenance: Between treatments and after your peel series is complete, it’s essential to protect your skin from sun exposure, as it can cause hyperpigmentation to reappear. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily and consider using a daily skincare regimen recommended by your skincare specialist to maintain the results.
Laser Skin Resurfacing for Hyperpigmentation
Laser Skin Resurfacing is a powerful technique to combat hyperpigmentation, including age spots, sun damage, and uneven skin tone. It works by delivering concentrated pulses of light energy to target the melanin that’s causing the discolouration. Here are the key points:
- Consultation: Before you start, a specialist will examine your skin and discuss your skin goals to determine the best type of laser treatment for you. There are several types, including ablative (more intense, with more downtime), non-ablative (less intense, with less downtime), and fractional (a combination of both).
- Laser Treatment: During the procedure, the laser device is passed over the skin, sending light energy into the pigmented areas. The energy breaks down the pigment, which your body then naturally eliminates over time. This process also stimulates the production of new collagen, helping to smooth the skin and reduce the appearance of scars or other textural irregularities. The session may take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the area being treated.
- Recovery: Following the treatment, your skin will need time to heal. It’s normal to experience redness, swelling, and a sensation similar to sunburn in the treated area. The healing process involves the skin forming a natural protective dressing, which peels off after about 3-5 days, revealing the new skin underneath.
- Results: The results from Laser Skin Resurfacing are both immediate and progressive. Some improvements will be visible right away, but the skin will continue to improve over the next six months as new collagen is produced. Most people see the best results after a series of treatments.
- Aftercare: It’s important to protect your skin from the sun after laser resurfacing, as it can be more sensitive to UV rays. A good skincare regimen including sun protection is crucial to maintaining the results.
Hyperpigmentation Treatments at Centre for Surgery
At Centre for Surgery, we understand how hyperpigmentation can impact your self-esteem and we are committed to helping you regain confidence in your skin. Whether it’s age spots, freckles, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, our skin experts at our Baker Street clinic are here to help.
Expert Assessment: Our team of skincare experts have extensive experience and training in treating hyperpigmentation. They will undertake a comprehensive assessment of your skin, discuss your concerns, and provide you with a personalized treatment plan that suits your skin type and addresses your specific needs.
Advanced Treatments: We offer a range of treatments for hyperpigmentation, including chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing, and medical-grade skincare products. Our experts will guide you through the benefits and considerations of each treatment to help you make an informed decision.
Patient Care: Patient care is at the heart of what we do. We strive to provide a supportive and comfortable environment, ensuring you feel at ease throughout your treatment journey.
Follow-up Support: Our care for you doesn’t stop after your treatment. We offer follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and are always available to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Take the first step towards clearer, brighter skin by contacting Centre for Surgery. Call us at 0207 993 4849, or fill out our hyperpigmentation online contact form to schedule a consultation with one of our skin experts. We look forward to helping you achieve your skin goals.