Updated: Mar 8
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation refers to dark areas on the skin caused by an overproduction of melanin. There are three main types of hyperpigmentation: melasma, post-inflammatory, & solar lentigines.
Melanin is a molecule produced by melanocyte cells in response to external influences. It produces a pigment, giving color to our hair, skin & eyes. In the skin, melanin is primarily produced as a defense mechanism, but it also plays an important role in how our epidermis (top layer of skin) & our dermis (lower layer of skin) function together.
Factors that influence melanin production & hyperpigmentation: UV exposure (including blue light), hormones, & inflammation or trauma in the skin.
When you see hyperpigmentation appear, know that your skin is alerting you that it could use some additional support in defending itself. Below, you’ll find preventative measures & protective ingredients to help support & strengthen your skin.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
Melasma also known as chloasma, butterfly or pregnancy mask
Melasma is hyperpigmentation triggered by genetics or hormonal fluctuations. The majority of melasma (about 90%) appears in women, typically on the face in matching, symmetrical patches on both sides of the face. There are three common facial patterns: centrofacial (center of the face), malar (cheekbones), & mandibular (along the jawbone). Melasma occurring during pregnancy is called chloasma & is triggered by an increase in estrogen.
Known for its ability to chronically reappear, those that have experienced melasma should be extra diligent about their skin care routine - because chronic melasma can make the skin more sensitive overall & susceptible to other skin conditions such as telangectasia (dilated capillaries). Wear SPF 30+ every day & use a skin care routine that keeps the skin healthy & strong - more info below.
Special considerations when treating melasma: The hormonal imbalance in the body needs to be addressed before aggressive treatment action is taken - otherwise, the hyperpigmentation could worsen & treatment will take much longer. Melasma often reaches deep down into the skin, so exfoliating peels & laser treatments tend to be most effective. As with all hyperpigmentation, daily SPF 30+ is a must, as are brightening ingredients (see below).
Post-Inflammatory also known as post-acne marks
As the name suggests, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the result of inflammation or trauma to the skin - commonly caused by acne, itchy bug bites, burns, rashes or injuries. This hyperpigmentation is typically localized to the site of inflammation - so can be easier to prevent & treat than other types of hyperpigmentation.
Solar Lentigines also known as sun spots or age spots
Solar Lentigines are harmless patches of darkened skin caused by UV exposure. These spots are very common, especially in people 40+. They typically present on the face, back of the hands, & forearms. Often, the melanin accumulates deep within the skin cells over many years, finally reaching the surface of the skin & becoming visible later in life - hence the nickname of “age spots”. UV exposure is the singular cause of solar lentigines, making daily sunscreen use & sun-protective clothing the gold standard for prevention.
Though hyperpigmentation can be triggered by a variety of factors, treatment is the same: a synergistic plan that focuses on protecting, brightening & exfoliating.
To protect your skin, wear SPF 30+ every single day, rain or shine, & follow additional preventative measures, as shown below. Remember, melanin production is stimulated by UV exposure, so this will prevent hyperpigmentation from getting worse & allow treatment measures to work efficiently.
Pollution & toxins can weaken our skin barrier & make it more susceptible to sun damage, so you will want to follow a preventative skin care routine to keep your skin healthy & strong. More information on this can be found in my Guide to Skin Care Essentials.
Regular exfoliation removes the top layer of dead skin cells, allowing the brightening ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin. Additionally, exfoliating (or cell-renewing ingredients such as retinols) speeds up the cellular turnover, helping to fade hyperpigmentation more quickly. Check out my Instagram for a deeper dive into some of these ingredients!
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SPF every day, baby.