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Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skin conditions that we treat here at the Z Center for Cosmetic Health. It can affect people of all ages and skin types. Living in California and being exposed to the sun can increase the likelihood of developing Hyperpigmentation of the skin. Although it is relatively benign, Hyperpigmentation can be an annoyance both for those who suffer from it and for the skin care professionals who treat it. Understanding the cause of Hyperpigmentation is a key to its successful treatment.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a condition that causes the skin to appear darker in spots due to an increase in Melanin production. Melanin is a substance in the body that is responsible for the color, or pigment, of the skin. Not to be confused with Hypopigmentation, the condition in which the skin appears lighter due to a reduction of Melanin production.

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

There are a variety circumstances and conditions that can cause Hyperpigmentation. The most common is Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH), which usually occurs after having acne lesions/scars, psoriasis, or burns. As long as the skin is kept protected, these spots will fade as the skin regenerates or heals over the course of several months. Exposure to the sun for long periods of time can darken these spots even more, reversing any treatment you may have had to eliminate them. If you cannot avoid the sun it is important that you at least wear a sunscreen of SPF 35 or higher.

Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation From Acne Scarring Treated With VI Peel

Melasma is another example of Hyperpigmentation, which appears most often in women with darker skin tones or who have a family history of the condition. These tan or brown spots most commonly show up on the face, and can result from hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy. For this reason, Melasma is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy”. In addition, it can come from the use of birth control pills or hormone therapy. If these causes cease to be contributing factors then the spots will most likely fade over time.

Melasma Treated With VI Peel
Melasma Treated With VI Peel

Hyperpigmentation also comes in the form of Lentigines, more commonly known as “liver” or “age” spots. These spots become more prevalent with age, but are not a direct result of the aging process. Rather, they develop from excessive UV exposure over many years. Flat lesions such as these are often irregularly shaped and may change in appearance. It is important to monitor them closely, as you may need to have a biopsy done if the characteristics of these lesions change.

Lentigines of the Chest Treated With VI Peel
Lentigines of the Chest Treated With VI Peel

Hyperpigmentation Treatment

Treatment options for Hyperpigmentation range from creams containing Hydroquinone, Tretinoin, or Corticosteroids to peels, microdermabrasion, and laser resurfacing. Our VI Peel has shown excellent results for treatment of Hyperpigmentation, although a series of peels is normally required. The Obagi NuDerm system is also a great at home system for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. Results can be seen in 4-8 weeks.

If you want to prevent future skin damage, you must consider your own skin care habits now. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I commonly use tanning beds?
  • Am I wearing sunscreen every day, especially when directly exposed to the sun?
  • Do I often use harsh, damaging skin products?
  • Have I noticed and ignored any suspicious looking spots on my body?

In all cases of Hyperpigmentation overexposure to the sun with or without proper protection is the #1 causing factor. Whether you’re still young and perfect, or the years have gotten the better of you, protecting the health and safety of your skin should be made a priority by everyone.

Treatment of Hyperpigmentation with Obagi NuDerm system
Treatment of Hyperpigmentation with Obagi NuDerm system