Have you ever looked at your skin and realized that some parts of your body are darker than the rest? For example, the lower part of your legs seems darker than your thighs or your forehead is way darker than the rest of your face.
This is one of the basic issues most women have to face. It is bad enough that some of us have an uneven skin tone, but it is worse when some parts of your skin just decide to go darker even when others remain fair.
What causes this to happen and most importantly, how can you treat it? This is what I will be explaining today.
So, let’s dive in quickly, starting from the very beginning…
What is hyperpigmentation?
This sure sounds like a big word, right?
Well, don’t let the long string of letters scare you. Hyperpigmentation is a term that is used to describe skin patches that get darker than the surrounding areas of the skin.
Basically, when a part of your skin gets darker than the rest, it is called hyperpigmentation.
It could occur in small skin patches or cover large areas of the skin. In extreme cases, it can affect the whole body.
Most of the time, hyperpigmentation is not harmful. The major thing it does is disfigure the way our skin looks. It only becomes a problem if it is caused by a medical condition.
How does hyperpigmentation occur?
Hyperpigmentation occurs when your skin produces more melanin than it normally should. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin its color.
So, when it becomes too much, that part of your skin becomes darker.
What causes hyperpigmentation?
Granted, excess melanin is the main culprit for hyperpigmentation, but there are factors that trigger your skin to produce excess melanin. Some of those factors include:
Hyperpigmentation caused by skin inflammation is usually called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
This is when hyperpigmentation is caused by an injury or skin inflammation. Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, cuts, bug bites, scratching the skin or any form of friction on the skin can cause your skin to get inflamed.
When this happens, your skin’s pigment-producing cells go into overdrive and the result is a dark spot or skin patch left behind after the injury has healed.
Exposure to the sun
Many of us are exposed to the sun every day, and it is worse because we live in a hot climate.
Ultraviolet rays from the sun are very harmful to the skin. When these rays touch your skin, your skin begins to produce extra melanin as a way of protecting itself from damage. If this happens occasionally, the worse you get is a tan.
But when the exposure is frequent, it can lead to sunspots.
This kind of hyperpigmentation occurs on parts of your body that are constantly exposed to the sun, such as your hands and face.
This is a skin condition that is usually caused by pregnancy. Brown skin patches begin to form on women who are pregnant.
Although this occurs in mostly women, it can also occur in men. It is triggered by mostly hormonal changes and sometimes, genetics.
The most areas that get affected are usually the face and stomach. With melasma, you are bound to have darker skin patches than the rest of the body.
Medications or medical conditions
Just like I mentioned earlier, hyperpigmentation could be a symptom of a medical condition.
Illnesses like the Addison’s disease (an adrenal gland disorder), can cause the production of melanin to increase.
Also, certain medications can spike the production of melanin. For example, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, etc.
If it is caused by any of this, you need to see your doctor immediately.
How do I get rid of it?
Here is the more interesting part. The good news is, there is a way to treat it. How?
Do not touch your skin when it is inflamed or injured
Even though it can be quite tempting to pick at acne or scratch a bug bite, Don’t!
Scratching increases inflammation which is bad news for your skin. The more you keep touching your skin, it worse it will become.
It is better to try and treat the injury or inflammation as soon as you can. While you treat it, trust that the treatment will work and keep your hands off.
Keep your skin moisturized
Agreed, the main job of a moisturizer is to keep your skin hydrated and not to remove dark skin patches, but a good moisturizer helps to increase cell turn over which in turn, helps to manage melanin production.
Also, a good moisturizer keeps your skin lipid barrier strong and healthy. So, your skin stays protected from the damaging rays of the sun.
The added advantage is, your skin stays moisturized through all of these.
Get a sunscreen
Do you remember how I said that ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause pigmentation? Getting a sunscreen is one sure way of protecting your skin from these rays.
With sunscreen, the sun cannot penetrate through your skin and there is no need for increased melanin production.
While you get a sunscreen, make sure it is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and above.
Rub it before you step out of the house and at intervals during the day.
Get a lightening cream
You should be very careful when going for this. In fact, I advise that you speak to a dermatologist before you go ahead to buy just any skin-lightening cream.
These creams reduce pigmentation and cause the dark patches to get back the normal skin colour.
They contain active ingredients like hydroquinone, retinoids, licorice extract, etc., that help to lighten the skin.
Speak to your dermatologist
You can go straight to your dermatologist which is more advisable.
First, your dermatologist will be able to identify the cause of the dark patches and if it is caused by a medical condition, treatment can begin immediately.
Also, you have various treatment options that your dermatologist can help you with. For example, you can try out microdermabrasion, micro-needling, laser therapy, chemical peels, etc.
Hyperpigmentation should not be one of the things that keep you up at night.
Once you notice the dark patches, try to identify the cause. Then follow the tips I gave above and you would notice your skin getting back its normal colour.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment. I will reply as soon as I can.