How to Treat Hyperpigmentation
It’s sometimes cute (a sprinkling of freckles across the nose) and sometimes not (dark spots on the chest and hands), but this much is true: hyperpigmentation is one of the most common complaints out there today.
Most pigment changes in the skin can be attributed to two major factors: hormonal shifts (pregnancy and the use of oral contraceptives are likely culprits) and prolonged exposure to the sun. An old injury, a disease, or an incorrectly administered cosmetic procedure can also contribute to this uneven accumulation of skin pigment in the form of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. When the cause is hormonal, the pigmentation is called melasma, and it shows up as irregularly shaped blotches, usually on the cheeks, forehead, and upper lip. Melasma is a very common condition but, unfortunately, one of the most difficult to eliminate completely. A few lucky patients might see it go away on its own.
Solar lentigines, commonly known as sun spots, are a direct result of sun exposure and not, as many people believe, an unavoidable rite of passage. (Take a peek at an elderly person’s naked body and you’ll see that the vast spotting on the face and hands doesn’t exist on the areas that have been protected from the sun.)
Solution – Treat Hyperpigmentation
Nearly every form of hyperpigmentation can benefit greatly from at-home bleaching products. Look for proven bleaching agents, such as hydroquinone. There are various other bleaching agents, such as kojic acid, licorice extract, and arbutin. For hydroquinone, a standard concentration is 2 percent for an over-the-counter product and 4 percent for a prescription preparation. When these products are combined with retinoids and glycolic acid, which work largely by exfoliating the skin, penetration is improved and results are seen even faster.
Above all else, it’s crucial that those with any type of hyperpigmentation become fanatical about avoiding the sun, since no other condition is as easily aggravated . Feeling an urge to step outside? Then by all means do so, but not without first loading up on a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays of sunlight.
What You Can Expect – Treat Hyperpigmentation
Given time to work, this regimen can significantly fade most signs of hyperpigmentation in one to three months, although those due to hormonal issues are usually more challenging to treat.
Supplement It With – Treat Hyperpigmentation
If there is a condition that lasers are superb at treating, it’s certain types of hyperpigmentation. There is one caveat, however: only freckles and sun spots respond extremely well to laser treatment. (Conditions like melasma and other diffuse hyperpigmentation are more stubborn; for them, lasers are not the treatment of choice.) The lasers appropriate for hyperpigmentation are called pigment lasers and include the Q-switch ruby, Alexandrite, and Nd:Yag. Another effective solution is a superficial to medium-depth chemical peel, such as a trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel. Both methods require several treatments before an improvement is seen.