Hyperpigmentation is a term used to describe skin that appears darker. It can cover large areas, occur in small patches, or affect the entire body. While hyperpigmentation is not usually harmful to your health, it can be a symptom of another health condition.
There are a number of different types of hyperpigmentation, the most common including:
- Sunspots (also known as liver spots): Are caused by an excessive amount of sun exposure over time. They usually appear as spots on areas that have been in the sun, such as the face and hands.
- Melasma: This condition is thought to be caused by hormonal changes, as it may develop during pregnancy. Areas of hyperpigmentation may appear on any area of the body, but are most common on the face and stomach.
- Post-inflammatory Pigmentation: This type of hyperpigmentation is caused by an injury or inflammation to the skin. A common example of this is acne.
In order to best diagnose and treat hyperpigmentation, a physical exam at our office is needed. There are a number of treatment options available, with some of the most common including:
Some cases of hyperpigmentation can be treated with prescription medications that usually contain hydroquinone, which lightens the skin. However, prolonged use of topical hydroquinone can cause darkening of the skin, so it is important to follow your dermatologist’s specific instructions regarding how to properly use this medication. Topical retinoids may also be used to lighten dark spots.
Taking certain precautions at home may also help to improve your hyperpigmentation. This includes using sunscreen daily that is at least an SPF of 30-50 with broad spectrum coverage. Also, be sure to cover your skin if you are spending time outdoors during peak hours of the sun, between 10 am and 4 pm.
Individuals who are bothered with the appearance of their hyperpigmentation can benefit from treatment. In some cases, dark areas will fade on their own with good sun protection. However, if you have stubborn areas of hyperpigmentation, more aggressive treatments may be required. The best way to determine if you are a good candidate for hyperpigmentation treatment is through a consultation with one of our dermatologists. During this meeting, an assessment of your skin will allow for a proper diagnosis, and a treatment plan can be created.