“External influences such as unprotected sun exposure and washing too frequently or with water that is too hot can damage skin. An unhealthful diet, stress, a lack of sleep, not enough exercise, dehydration, smoking, and particular medications can all impact the skin’s ability to operate as an effective protective barrier.”
– Medical News Today,
You may have noticed certain dark spots on your skin that don’t seem to fade with time. If you have experienced a large amount of this, you may have hyperpigmentation, which is very common and very treatable. Hyperpigmentation is described as the darkening of one’s skin in patches or spots, usually being harmless. You may be asking, “what causes hyperpigmentation?” Well, melanin, which produces pigment in our skin, is responsible. When more pigment is produced than necessary by our bodies, a deposit is formed on our skin, which results in the surrounding areas darkening..
Types of Hyperpigmentation
The most common types of hyperpigmentation are:
Age Spots: These are also referred to as sunspots or solar lentigines. They commonly appear on the face, hands, and on the areas that are generally the most exposed to sunlight. Age spots often appear as a brown, tan, or black spot on the skin and are most commonly seen in older adults when they overexpose themselves to the sun.
Melasma: Melasma, also called Chloasma or “the mask of pregnancy”, usually appears in women who are either pregnant or taking birth control pills. People with darker skin are also more likely to develop Melasma.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation: This form of hyperpigmentation appears on those who have had inflammation or injury. It presents itself as spots or patches of darkened skin, usually appearing on the face or the neck.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is caused by melanin within our bodies, which is produced by body cells called Melanocytes. Though radiation is a large factor in this condition, hyperpigmentation is not always a result of exposure to sun, health issues and other environmental factors also being sources.
There are three main causes of hyperpigmentation that are all more common than you may think, which is why it is important to stay cautious about your skin’s health.
Unknown to most people, an increase in hormones actually escalates the melanin production within our bodies, which could cause excess amounts of pigment, resulting in hyperpigmentation. This is the reason why women that are pregnant are especially prone to hyperpigmentation due to more estrogen and progesterone that rapidly increase melanin production. Genetics also play an important role in melanin production, so if you are experiencing this condition without knowing what is causing it, the condition may have been passed down through your family
Another reason a person may have hyperpigmentation is because of emergent or ongoing skin conditions. An example of this is how hyperpigmentation is sometimes a symptom of Melasma, a skin condition that causes brown or gray patches on the skin. It can also be due to a rare endocrine condition called Addison’s Disease that causes hyperpigmentation on the obvious areas of sunlight exposure. Chronic acne is also a major contributor towards hyperpigmentation because of skin conditions like Psoriasis and Eczema that leave scars, therefore causing dark patches on the skin.
Exposure to Sunlight
A healthy exposure to sunlight helps our body produce essential Vitamin D, but it is always better to limit the amount of time the skin is exposed to radiation due to harmful UV rays. Sunburns are caused by the UV rays that penetrate the skin and negatively affect the deepest layer of the epidermis. Sunlight also triggers the production of melanin, therefore causing sunspots or age spots and oxidative stress caused by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays also causes hyperpigmentation and premature aging.
How Do You Protect Your Skin?
Almost everyone faces hyperpigmentation, especially during the summer months. Professionals advise that the best way to overcome this condition is to manage it efficiently and stay aware of your surroundings.
Protect From Inflammation
Resveratrol, Vitamin E, Centella, Asiatica, Vitamin C, ginger, green tea, and CBD are a few of the various ingredients that help our skin with inflammation. Anti-inflammatory products act as a barrier between the sun’s harmful rays and the skin by increasing the number of anti-inflammatory molecules within the epidermis.
It is advised to exfoliate your skin once or twice a week to get rid of any dead or hyperpigmented cells. Chemical exfoliants are preferred to physical exfoliants because physical exfoliants are often harsh on sensitive skin and regularly cause inflammation. Chemical exfoliants with glycolic, salicylic, lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) in the ingredients are ideal for managing hyperpigmentation.
Lather Your Skin
Sunscreen is not only essential for sunny beach days but also for everyday usage. Wearing sunscreen is the best and easiest way to limit your exposure to harmful UV rays, and the product should be applied 30 minutes before sunlight exposure and reapplied every two hours for the best results. A sunscreen with a physical blocking, preferably with zinc oxide as the main active ingredient, at least an SPF from 30-50, and broad spectrum coverage is ideal for shielding the skin from radiation.
Another helpful tip is to limit your sun exposure between 10 AM and 2 PM when the UV rays are the strongest. Wearing suitable clothing that covers any sensitive areas can be a good course of action to maximize skin protection.
Overall, hyperpigmentation is nothing to be ashamed about, many of us experience it and there are many possible treatments that one could try to lessen the issue. All of these treatments revolve around maintaining sustainable practices like avoiding nonstop sunlight exposure and regularly cleansing your face, so it is best to start your path to healthy skin now and watch as results become visible!