Hyper pigmentation is a common, usually harmless condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. This darkening occurs when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, forms deposits in the skin.
Melanin is a natural skin pigment that is responsible for providing color of the eyes, hair and skin and is responsible for providing UV protection, therefore melanin it’s vital in protecting skin cells from UV radiation. Special skin cells called melanocytes make melanin. Interestingly, everyone has the same number of melanocytes, but the only difference being is how active they are and the physical amounts of melanin they’re capable of producing.
There are many causes of hyper pigmentation issues including genetics, inflammation, trauma, hormones, and medication. However, there are two factors that they all have in common, inflammation and UV exposure.
When UV radiation hits the skin, it triggers Tyrosinase, an enzyme that is present in our skin and instructs the melanocyte to produce more melanin.
By combining an inflammatory response in the skin with UV exposure and it is sufficient to over-stimulate the delicate melanocyte to produce excess pigment. Even irritants such as benzoyl peroxide in skincare or topical medications can contribute to this inflammatory response and trigger hyper pigmentation.
Types of Hyper pigmentation
There are several types of hyper pigmentation. The most common ones include:
- Melasma: appears as patches of pigmentation that are concentrated most of the time on the face across the cheeks, nose and forehead. Melasma is generally caused by hormone imbalances as a result of medication or pregnancy, resulting in the skin becoming overly sensitive to UV exposure.
- Sunspot: Sunspots or solar lentigines are tan to dark brown spots that occur on sun-exposed areas such as the face, hands, forearms, upper chest, and upper back. It usually occurs due to chronic sun exposure.
- Post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation: It occurs due to an injury or inflammation to the skin. Acne is the most common cause of this type.
The most challenging part in treating hyper pigmentations it’s the fact the melanocyte lives deep within the epidermis and that the melanin pigment is therefore dispersed between all layers. Hence why the removal of hyperpigmentation involves a series of treatments, working at different levels of the skin to achieve best results without compromising skin health.