how to treat hyperpigmentation at home
Hyperpigmentation (or dark spots) is an incredibly common skincare struggle. If you’re someone who deals with skin discolouration you know just how frustrating it can be to cover up and treat. Keep reading to find out how we treat dark spots of all sorts and origins.
what causes dark spots?
Hyperpigmentation happens when your skin overproduces melanin (your skin’s natural pigment) following inflammation or external stimulation seen with UV exposure. This is where it gets tricky, because there are several underlying causes of inflammation in the skin, including hormones, the sun, age and acne.
typical causes of hyperpigmentation include:
- excess sun exposure or UV damage
When the skin is exposed to the sun, melanin or pigment is produced to provide natural protection against UV rays. If we over-expose or burn the skin, there is an overproduction and deposit of melanin which can lead to hyperpigmentation. These may develop as freckles, age spots, liver spots, solar keratosis (flat or raised lesions) or dark non confluent patches (dark patches that have not merged together) or dark confluent patches, that are typically larger than freckles.
- hormonal changes
Hormonal fluctuations, especially increases in oestrogen and progesterone that can occur with pregnancy or the contraceptive pill, can lead to an overstimulation of pigment formation. This is often referred to as melasma or chloasma (the mask of pregnancy). Melasma generally appears as large, dark brown confluent patches above the lips, on the cheeks and forehead.
- inflammatory skin conditions
Inflammation tends to produce a healing response within the skin. When we experience a burn, an acne lesion, or a rash, the skin and inflammatory cells released to aid the healing of the skin tend to also trigger the pigment producing cells or melanocytes. This results in a dark patch or area that remains for a period after the initial inflammatory lesion has healed and disappeared. Occasionally it may remain permanently and will require treatment to lighten or resolve the dark pigmentation left behind.
- skin treatments or trauma
Trauma such as a cut or laceration has a similar response to inflammatory skin conditions. This does not happen every time, but in some of us we will experience a deposit of pigment where the cut or laceration took place.
Similarly, skin treatments such as lasers; medium or deep chemical peels, Dermapen rarely, and even dermal fillers, can cause an overstimulation of the pigment producing cells which leads to hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation can be induced by a wide variety of medication, the most common of which includes: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aspirin, Voltaren, Ibuprofen; antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine; epilepsy treatments such as phenytoin; certain antipsychotic drugs; antibiotics such as tetracyclines; and heavy metals.
Read a more in depth article on hyperpigmentation here.
how to treat dark spots
Fortunately, there are magic ingredients that can help lighten hyperpigmentation and brighten your complexion. Although there is an overlap in treatment plans, the right plan for your skin will depend on the causative factors. That’s why we want to remind you that the first step on a new skincare journey should always be to talk to your aesthetic medical doctor, skincare therapist or dermatologist.
but first, sunscreen
Because it’s so easy for hyperpigmentation to recur, the initial step is to avoid direct sun exposure and always wear a sunblock of SPF 30 or higher. Our favourite types of sunscreen are mineral-based, which means they contain ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide.
glycolic and salicylic acid
Gentle chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid and salicylic acid lift away dead cells on the skin’s surface, helping to revitalise the appearance of dull skin so that it reflects light better and appears to glow from within. Over time these can stimulate collagen production and speed up the rate of skin cell renewal. In particular glycolic acid has shown to be very effective in removing pigmentation from the superficial layer of the skin and is often the first treatment choice with more stubborn hyperpigmentation like Melasma.
Retinol is one of the most effective resurfacing treatments for keeping hyperpigmentation to a minimum. A regimen of retinol helps even out pigment cells to lessen the appearance of hyperpigmentation, giving a youthful glow.