HYPERPIGMENTATION, WHAT IS IT AND HOW CAN BE TREATED?
Have you ever wonder why you can guess somebody’s age just looking their skin?
Not the whole face, neither the body nor a hand; just by looking a small area of skin you may guess the age of a person even when not a single wrinkle is present.
Don’t you figure out why?, well, that’s possible because with years and exposition to some risk factors the skin will:
– Lose its glow
– Become saggy
– Develop color changes
This subtle changes allow you to know the age, but not only elderly people suffer from hyperpigmentation.
Usually known as dark spots when localized, or patchy skin when diffuse, there are several kinds of hyperpigmentation affecting both genders and almost all group of ages. Yes, you are right! Nobody is safe.
Have you ever noticed that people who works outdoors (on a farm, or fishing out the shore) look older than their counterparts working indoors (office personnel, teachers, etc)?
If not, pay attention next time when you see people working outdoors, you will notice the changes on their skin and that is because they are more exposed to the causes of hyperpigmentation.
Now you must be checking your skin and asking yourself why am I doing it? At the end I don’t have a job outdoors! But, what are these tiny, dark spots on my arm?
Everything begins with a group of small skin cells called melanocytes. Such cells produce a pigment called melanin which is responsible of the color of the skin. More melanin means a darker skin, while less melanin is equal to a light skin.
Then, those dark spots are melanin heaps … Are you feeling less comfortable now that you look your skin with a critical eyes? Are you now figuring how to avoid hyperpigmentation? If not, let’s move forward; until know we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
Even when melanocytes respond to a genetic signaling to produce an specific amount of melanin (that’s the reason different skin colors among people), there are many other factors which may act as an stimulus to these cells, leading then to hyperpigmentation.
Overview of the Common Types of Skin Hyperpigmentation
Many people suffer from hyperpigmentation and assume such condition as normal, such as:
- Dark spots
- Age spots
Yes! Your moles are a kind of hyperpigmentation! And You were not aware of it!
On the other hand, under certain circumstances, hyperpigmentation might be present even when we are not aware of it due to its localization.
Perhaps you have not looked down to your groins recently, or your underarms … are you sure that your neck is not dirty?
All these anatomical areas might be affected by a different types of hyperpigmentation, one that affects larger areas than just a mole.
The most common causes of such an ugly, darker areas are:
- Insulin Resistance
- Polycystic ovaries
- Certain drugs like anti-seizures and some antibiotics
- Hormones (such as contraceptive pills)
Yes, cancer, due to a situation known as paraneoplastic syndrome, cancer cells begin to produce hormones and chemical signals that may affect many organs and systems, including melanocytes.
Fortunately, cancer is not the leading cause of hyperpigmentation. There are many other much more frequent such as Insulin resistance; responsible of a condition called “Acanthosis nigricans”, a dark area of skin on the scruff which is usually confused with dirty.
For sure, next time you see a person with a dark nape, you will not think that is due to lack of hygiene!
On the other hand polycystic ovaries may cause an increasing pigmentation of your groin; the same occurs with contraceptive pills, usually associated to hyperpigmentation of groin and underarms.
At his moment, you must be thinking that this is not a big deal, at the end of the day, just treating the cause of hyperpigmentation, it will fade out but … Things do not work that way.
Once the hyperpigmentation appears, it will last forever, unless treated, no matter if the conditioning factor has disappeared.
Do you still think that your risk for hyperpigmentation is low? But …
Did you know that inflammation is a cause of hyperpigmentation?
Chronic skin inflammation may lead to a stimulation of melanocytes, leading with time to a progressive hyperpigmentation of the chronic inflamed area.
This is particular true on patients with acne or seborrheic dermatitis but they are not the only at risk.
After a surgery you might have a hyperpigmented scar!
When an incision for a surgical procedure is done, there is inflammation.
Afterwards there will be a cicatrization process which affects all skin cells, including melanocytes, thus on the scar area, there will be an extra amount of such cells which could lead to hyperpigmentation.
In addition if the scar is exposed to direct sunlight, these melanocytes will be activated and the area will turn darker.
That’s the reason beyond the medical indication to avoid direct sun exposure at least six months after surgery.
But .. what can you do if you already suffer from hyperpigmentation?
First of all: STOP EXPOSURE TO RISK FACTORS, that means:
- Use sunscreens when outside
- Avoid contraceptive pills when possible
- STOP SMOKING, tobacco causes inflammation and then …
- Seek treatment for medical conditions causing hyperpigmentation
- Make an appointment with a dermatologist to evaluate moles
Once you have complied the above mentioned steps, and after confirmation of absence of malignant conditions, it’s time to begin the treatment of hyperpigmentation.
Usually, depending of the type, extension and number of lesions, a patient will need to use more than a method, including:
The most commonly used are the ointments and laser to treat larger areas while cryotherapy is needed only to freeze down some spots and moles; surgery is indicated when a biopsy is needed to confirm/discard malignancies.
Whitening Ointments content hydroquinone or retinoic acid, both substances will clear the skin when applied for long term, on the other hand chemical treatments such as peelings help to eliminate the older, dark layers of skin, which will be substituted by lighter, growing layers.
The problem with ointments and peelings is time; usually such treatments last too long, AND ARE VERY EXPENSIVE!
Thus, the ultimate treatment of hyperpigmentation is the Laser.
Laser allows to remove the older, superficial layers of cells and at the same time reduce pigmentation due to a direct effect of the light on the melanin.
As all pigments, melanin fades out when exposed to high intensity light. With laser treatment melanin receives a big amount of concentrated light which interacts with the pigment, degrading and finally whitening the skin.
The best of all: Laser treatment is much faster! You can get a laser treatment done within minutes! Imagine that!
Now you know a lot more about Hyperpigmentation – Causes, Types & Treatments, thus you will be able to deal with it.
Don’t forget to spread this information and share with your friends and relatives. It’s an opportunity to allow them to find a way out of their hyperpigmentation.
And if you are suffering from Hyperpigmentation, come down to ONLY clinic for a consultation today to treat your hyperpigmentations!