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Hyperpigmentation: Causes and Treatments.

1 Heart it! Rana Tarakji 50
September 18, 2018
Rana Tarakji
1 Heart it! 50

The skin, just like the rest of the body, changes in response to the environment or to certain significant chemical events happening in a person. Some of these changes can be used as an indication that something has gone wrong and that a certain level of concern might be needed.

One such change is hyperpigmentation – a condition simply characterized as the formation of unusually darker, uneven spots in the skin as a result of excessive production of the pigment melanin. Read on to learn about its causes and treatments such as hydroquinone, tretinoin, cysteamine cream, and glycolic acid.

Hyperpigmentation Cause: Sun Exposure

This skin condition may have several causes. One of these is too much exposure to the sun. You see, while you’re getting your daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun, the skin produces melanin to act as a natural sunscreen – protecting you from harmful UV rays that unfortunately come with sunlight. A significant increase in the amount of pigment in your skin leads to a general darkening effect you often refer to as tanning. This is still normal. Just get out of the sun for a while to stop the whole process.

However, if you insist on exposing yourself excess UV exposure can cause your skin to overproduce melanin which leads to hyperpigmentation. These resulting dark spots are called age spots because they resemble the spots typically found in older people (probably because of accumulated years of exposure to sunlight as well).

Hyperpigmentation Cause: Hormonal Changes 

Another name for hyperpigmentation is melasma and is also often associated with hormonal changes such as during pregnancy or while taking birth control pills. The hormonal changes in pregnancy trigger overproduction of melanin, leading to darkening of some body parts such as the abdomen, face, neck, and skin creases.

Hyperpigmentation Cause: Other Skin Conditions

Discoloration of the skin may also result from other existing skin conditions including injuries to the skin, acne, dermatitis, and freckles. No matter the condition, sun exposure often makes the discoloration worse – hyperpigmented areas are darkened further when exposed to the sun.

Hyperpigmentation Cause: Cosmetic Products

Hearing stories of skin damage from cosmetic products is not new. Sometimes, a cosmetic product or two may not agree well with your skin and this may lead to hyperpigmentation. To avoid this, make sure to test any cosmetic product on a small area of your skin before using it and to read the labels of any product before buying it.

Hyperpigmentation Treatment: Hydroquinone

One of the most popular treatments for hyperpigmentation is hydroquinone. A common ingredient in many whitening products, hydroquinone is popularly known for its skin lightening properties. This is available as a topical cream, usually in 4% and 2% strengths. However, in recent years, the use of hydroquinone has grown less popular because of health risks such as its carcinogenic effects. Nevertheless, it is still being used for a wide variety of conditions. Just make sure to consult your doctor before using any hydroquinone cream.

Hyperpigmentation Treatment: Tretinoin

Another popular topical cream is tretinoin. While hydroquinone is known for its skin lightening properties, tretinoin is known for treating acne, reducing roughness, reducing fine lines, smoothening wrinkles, and improving skin discolorations. There are many different strengths of tretinoin cream available, so it is important to consult with a doctor before using it. Some hyperpigmentation treatment plans involve the use of both a hydroquinone cream and a tretinoin cream.

Hyperpigmentation Treatment: Cysteamine

A hyperpigmentation treatment that is becoming more popular as an alternative to hydroquinone, is cysteamine. The safety concern with hydroquinone is one reason why cysteamine is becoming the treatment of choice of a lot of people. Cysteamine is a natural antioxidant on the human body. Aside from lightening brown patches on the skin, cysteamine creams are corticosteroid-free and paraben-free. It is also known for its antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic properties.

Hyperpigmentation Treatment: Glycolic Acid

Also known for its ability to lighten skin, glycolic acids are also sometimes used for treating hyperpigmentation. Glycolic acid technically does not lighten the skin. Instead, it helps to remove the upper layer of the skin, effectively getting rid of some of the discolored areas. Hence, expect some skin peeling when using glycolic acid. A common combination treatment is to use glycolic acid to peel off the top layer of the skin and then to use a topical cream (with hydroquinone, tretinoin, or cysteamine) to lighten the newly exposed layer of skin.

Hyperpigmentation Prevention: Sun Protection

Some causes of hyperpigmentation may not be prevented, but one good way to help manage hyperpigmentation and prevent further darkening of hyperpigmented areas is to limit your exposure to the sun. As mentioned above, sun exposure may cause hyperpigmentation or make it worse. Make it a habit to keep your skin protected from the sun by wearing hats, using long-sleeved clothes, and applying sunscreen. Although these may not totally prevent hyperpigmentation, limiting your sun exposure will also limit any additional damage that the sun can have on your skin.


Author Bio: Rana Tarakji is an entrepreneur and a contributing writer at One SEO, a digital marketing company in Lebanon, Beirut. Rana is passionate about digital marketing, startups, helping entrepreneurs grow, and empowering them to live their dreams. She has worked as a marketer, a technology co-founder and business developer, and a writer.

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