7 Doctor-Approved Ways to Get Rid of Hyperpigmentation
If you’re concerned about dark spots due to hyperpigmentation on your skin, one thing is clear: there are more options than ever before to erase that harmless but annoying discoloration.
What is hyperpigmentation? This is any area of skin that appears darker than your natural skin tone because the brown pigment melanin is produced in excess. As noted by the Cleveland Clinic, hyperpigmentation can be seen in liver spots (or age spots) and sun spots.
4 factors that can cause hyperpigmentation
According to the Cleveland Clinic, these are the most common causes of hyperpigmentation and affect people of all skin tones to varying degrees.
Skin injuries such as pimples, eczema, insect bites, cuts, scrapes, even scratches or rubbing, such as from hard friction, can cause inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, can lead to an overload of pigment-producing cells, leaving a dark patch after the injury heals. When the cause of discoloration is inflammation, it is often referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
2. Exposure to the sun
According to the Mayo Clinic, the sun’s ultraviolet rays cause additional melanin production as a way of protecting the skin from damage. This extra melanin gives you a tan. But when sun exposure is frequent or excessive, it can lead to dark spots. Although sunspots are not cancerous, according to the American Society for Dermatological Surgery, sun-exposed skin can develop precancerous spots that resemble sunspots. For this reason, it is important to have your skin checked by a dermatologist every year.
Often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma is characterized by brown patches that usually form in women with fluctuating hormone levels, such as during pregnancy. This type of hyperpigmentation is most common in women but can also occur in men. According to experts from the American College of Osteopathic Dermatology (AOCD), it is believed to be caused by sun exposure, genetic and hormonal changes, and the use of oral contraceptives. In addition, according to the Cleveland Clinic, other hormonal drugs used for birth control and menopausal symptoms can cause melasma, as well as other types of drugs discussed below.
4. Medical conditions or medications
Hyperpigmentation can be caused by Addison’s disease, an adrenal gland disorder that can increase melanin production. According to a book published by StatPearls in July 2022, certain medications, including antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antimalarials, can increase the risk of hyperpigmentation. Some chemotherapy drugs can also cause temporary hyperpigmentation. Cancer connection. In the case of chemotherapy drugs, the associated dark spots usually disappear 10 to 12 weeks after the end of treatment as new skin cells replace the dead ones.
The Best Ways to Treat and Prevent Hyperpigmentation in the Future
Today there are many dark spot correctors to choose from, but it is equally important to approach them in advance. The following scientifically proven steps can help.
Keep Skin Moist to Boost Cell Turnover
While your primary goal for hyperpigmentation is to lighten dark spots, an effective over-the-counter moisturizer should contain ingredients that benefit your skin in other ways. “In addition to addressing pigmentation issues, a good product should contain moisturizers like glycerin or hyaluronic acid, and maybe even retinol to stimulate cell turnover,” says Doris J. Day, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Medical. . New York school and author of Beyond the Beautiful: Using the Power of Your Mind and Aesthetic Achievement to Look Naturally Young and Radiant. “These inactive ingredients allow active clarifiers to work more effectively.”
A good moisturizer can also restore the skin’s lipid or oil barrier, helping new skin cells stay healthy as they rise to the surface in place of old ones, notes the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Keep your hands away from insect bites, blackheads and other injuries.
As tempting as it is to scratch a mosquito bite or squeeze out a stubborn blackhead, remember your mother’s warning: “Don’t bite!” – and follow this advice. “Scratching and picking at the site will only increase the inflammation that causes skin discoloration,” says Janine Downey, MD, dermatologist and director of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. “The more you play with him now, the worse he will look later.”
Explore OTC Whitening Options
Consider an Rx for Stubborn Skin Discoloration
If OTC remedies aren’t helping, it’s time to call in the pros. Dermatologists consider products with hydroquinone, alone or combined with other lighteners, to be the gold standard for fading dark spots because it slows the production of pigment. These are available by prescription, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “It’s our go-to,” says Downie, “because unlike many of the ingredients in OTC products, it almost always works at eliminating hyperpigmentation.” Have your dermatologist closely monitor hydroquinone treatment, she adds, because in high concentrations hydroquinone can cause sun sensitivity and may bleach the skin.
Protect Your Skin From the Sun
The most effective way to prevent sun-induced discoloration is to diligently apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater, every day, even on cloudy or cool days. “UV rays just send the pigment into overdrive, turning dark spots darker,” says Dr. Day. “You must wear sunblock daily on exposed areas.”
SPF refers to protection from UVB short-wave rays only. To also protect against UVA long-wave rays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises choosing a product that contains Mexoryl, Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone.
Additionally, the AAD recommends avoiding the outdoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is strongest. You can also wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head, as well as your face, ears, and neck.
Ask a Dermatologist About High-Tech Options
If topical solutions aren’t fixing the problem, you may want to talk to your dermatologist about more aggressive ways to banish discoloration, such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or dermabrasion, or, per the International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine, a laser resurfacing procedure. (Important note: If you have melasma, lasers are considered third-line treatments, as they have not been found to get rid of excess melanin production, according to a review published in March 2017 in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology.
Other Steps to Prevent or Minimize Future Damage
Besides treatment and sun protection, there are other preventive measures you can take to minimize the onset of future dark spots. Stick to gentle skin-care products that don’t sting or burn, as irritation can worsen or trigger hyperpigmentation. Also, protect yourself against other common skin-darkening triggers by using acne medication to fight off pimples, as well as bug spray to prevent bites.