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Ask A Dermatologist: What Is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is characterised by an uneven skin tone, often with patches of skin being lighter (hypopigmentation) or darker (hyperpigmentation) than the rest of the face. Hyperpigmentation a common skin condition that the Dermatology Team at Skin + Me see regularly, and treat with a personalised blend of active ingredients.

To be clear about terminology, pigmentation refers to the change of colour in the skin, and hyperpigmentation is the term used to describe distinctive areas of uneven pigmentation.

Why do I get hyperpigmentation?

Our skin’s natural colour is determined by a pigment called melanin that is produced by cells in the top layer of our skin. Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin over-produces melanin, which is the pigment responsible for your skin’s colour. This can be triggered by a number of underlying skin conditions and environmental factors, such as prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun, and associated damaging UVA and UVB light.

What causes hyperpigmentation?

There are many causes of hyperpigmentation but we’ll talk you through the three most common ones. The first is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (or PIH) which results from inflammatory conditions such as acne. The second is solar lentigos, also called sun spots or age spots, which are caused by sun exposure. Lastly, the third is melasma. While the root cause of melasma is still unknown, we do know that a change in hormones and exposure to UV light definitely play a key role.

What does hyperpigmentation look like?

As every person is different, their skin is just as different too. However, there are some key identifiers of each of the three main causes listed above that you can look out for. 

PIH that results from acne can leave brownish marks on the skin’s surface. If you pick your spots then it can lead to even more inflammation and scarring which can, in turn, worsen hyperpigmentation, so try your best to leave those scars alone.

Solar lentigos typically appear as flat brown spots on the skin. Think freckles, but enlarged. They are mostly found in sun-exposed areas of the face such as the nose, cheeks and temples but can still appear anywhere on the face as well as your chest and the back of the hands. While most sunspots are harmless, they can sometimes change into more dangerous skin lesions. If you notice one of these spots standing out compared to the others or if a spot is changing in any way then go and see your GP to have it checked out.

The mysterious melasma usually shows up on the skin as brown to greyish patches of mottled pigmentation. Note that the pigmentary changes seen in melasma are also usually bilateral and often symmetrical.

How does Skin + Me treat hyperpigmentation?

At Skin + Me, our ethos revolves around a personalised approach to skincare. If you have hyperpigmentation, you’ll be prescribed a bespoke treatment containing a combination made just for you of powerful, evidence-based ingredients that are proven to be effective in treating your hyperpigmentation and maintaining remission. Some of the ingredients that take the main stage in our tailored formulations include hydroquinone, tretinoin, hydrocortisone, azelaic acid and niacinamide.

These ingredients are all specifically chosen to give you the best results whilst also minimising any side effects. At Skin + Me, when we treat PIH caused by acne, the most important step is to also treat the underlying acne as well as the hyperpigmentation to avoid any further remission.

We treat melasma slightly differently from other types of hyperpigmentation. We also advise a stripped-back supportive skincare routine to accompany your personalised solution. Using sunscreen every day is a major part of that no matter which type of hyperpigmentation you have. 

How long does it take to treat hyperpigmentation?

Results can vary depending on the type of pigmentation you have, and the actives in your Daily Doser personalised solution. With pigmentation, you’ll usually start to see meaningful results in the mirror after 16 weeks of using Skin + Me products. However, prescription skin treatments can take time to work, so patience and consistency are key to achieving the best results. 

Medical facts checked by Head of Medical, Dr Jason Thomson.

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