Hyperpigmentation is the presence of dark spots on the skin as a result of excessive production of melanin. It is actually a general term for a variety of different issues, including freckles, sun spots, pregnancy mask, liver spots, which are all caused by too much pigment. There are a number of treatments available to make the skin lighter.

When too much melanin is produced in one area, it forms deposits on the skin that cause hyperpigmentation. As a result, these zones look darker compared to the surrounding skin, which has a normal color.

Any type of dark spot, such as melasma, age spots, sun spots, liver spots or freckles, are considered a form of hyperpigmentation. These are the most common on the face, hands and arms, which are the areas most exposed to the sun.

While this condition is rarely dangerous, it can be surprisingly difficult to eliminate it completely. It is one of the problems most often encountered by dermatologists and other skin care professionals. At the same time, it is one of the most common causes of concern for patients as well.

The dark skin patches caused by hyperpigmentation can affect people of both sexes and of all races. Adults and elders are more vulnerable to the condition but younger people aren't immune to it either. It has two possible causes. Melanocytotic hyperpigmentation happens when melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the skin pigment melanin, become too numerous. In the case of melanotic hyperpigmentation, the number of cells remains normal but they are more active than usual.

While hyperpigmentation itself is not a serious health problem, it can be the sign of a much more serious disease. In addition, it can cause considerable anxiety and stress, especially to people with dark spots on their face. This makes it a potentially serious condition that must be approached and treated with care, considering all the relevant factors.

What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is split into three main types, depending on the actual root cause. The first one if post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, also known as PIH. It happens after the skin is injured by burns, friction, psoriasis or even acne. It can be the side effect of several skin care treatments. It can be cured pretty fast but it also heals by itself, as the skin regenerates over a few months.

Age spots or liver spots are known scientifically as lentigines. Despite their name they are not really caused by aging itself, but rather by the accumulated exposure to sunlight. As a result, they are very common in older people and more than 90% of individuals over the age of 60 have them.

Melasma is a condition triggered by hormonal imbalances. These can happen due to birth control pills, hormone replacement medication or pregnancy. It is also caused by some diseases, like a dysfunctional thyroid gland.

Treatment options

Several treatments for hyperpigmentation exist, depending on the root cause and the skin type. It is also important what the cosmetic changes that you aim for are. A specialized plastic surgeon is the best qualified to determine the cause of the condition and the best method to remove it.

The current state of the skin as well as your entire medical history are the factors that matter the most in the doctor's evaluation.

Many treatments are actually quite simple. It is sometimes enough to just change medication and choose alternative drugs that don't cause harm to the skin. Selecting the best products for skin care might also have spectacular effects. Bleaching creams are another option to lighten the skin. Some of the most effective products against hyperpigmentation are presented below.

One of the most effective compounds that can make the skin lighter is hydroquinone. It has the ability to block the skin pigment melanin, so it makes it less dark. In lower concentration it can be bought without a prescription but one is required for higher doses. Retin-A and other compounds can be included in the product, to boost its effect. High doses and constant use can have several side effects, including a permanent lack of pigmentation, black spots (ochronosis) or irritation. If sun block is not used, this treatment can actually increase the amount of pigment in the skin. To avoid such problems, it is very important to respect the dosage and listen to the advice of your doctor.

Retin-A can be used on its own or combined with hydroquinone. It boosts the growth of new skin by exfoliating the top layers, which can give it an even color. It is a derivative of vitamin A and is typically prescribed in increasingly high doses. Retin-A is also effective when mixed with other similar agents. A common topical commercial product named TriLuma is available only with a prescription and includes both Retin-A and hydroquinone.

A new product sold as a cream that can eliminate hyperpigmentation is based on Lumixyl. This is actually based on several peptides with a natural origin and can be a good replacement for hydroquinone. Just like the other products, it has to be applied topically. While it also reduces the total amount of melanin, it doesn't have the significant side effects of the other two compounds.

An even newer product in the treatment of hyperpigmentation is Elure. It is based on the latest research and comes from lignin peroxidase, an enzyme found in nature, which is transformed into the active ingredient Melanozyme. It is found as a package of three products: a lotion, facial wash and night cream. All of them have the same effect and reduce the quantity of melanin in the skin. It is only sold in medical offices and the risk or irritation or other side effects is low.

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