Melanin is produced by melanocyte cells in the human skin. The skin gets its color from the chemical, melanin. When level of melanin increases, it leads to a skin condition called hyperpigmentation. Age spots and freckles are common examples of hyperpigmented skin. Other reasons for hyperpigmentation include trauma to the skin, exposure to the sun or side effect on the skin by using particular drugs. Hyperpigmentation is not a medical condition that is very serious, however due to cosmetic reasons, people do seek treatment.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
Hypigmentation is of three types. Melasma is one type of hyperpigmentation caused by fluctuations in hormones especially during pregnancy, hormone therapy or thyroid dysfunction. Treating Melasma is difficult. Lentigines also termed as age spots or liver spots, is another hyperpigmentation condition. It occurs mostly in people above the age of 60 and due to exposure to ultra violet rays. PIH or Post Inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the third type caused by treatments used for skin care, acne, burns and psoriasis. As the skin heals and regenerates, PIH goes away usually.
The dermatologist will ask questions about your medical history, lifestyle, level of exposure to the sun, frequent use of sunscreen or tanning bed, type of medications taken, past and current medical conditions, recent pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, use of birth control pills, plastic surgery undertaken, professional skin treatments taken, etc. A magnifying lamp is used for examination by the dermatologist.
Course of treatment and changes in lifestyle depends on the hyperpigmentation type to prevent further skin discoloration. As part of treatment, the doctor may advise topical applications containing retinoids and hydroxyl acids. This helps exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin and treat all types of hyperpigmentation. Mandelic acid, Azelaic acid, Kojic acid and Hydroquinone are some of the types of topical applications used in hyperpigmentation treatment. Skin peels, microdermabrasion treatment, Laser skin surfacing, Intense Pulsed Light therapy, and IPL devices are used professionally, to target hyperpigmentation. Over the counter medications, skin lightening creams, home remedies also form part of hyperpigmentation treatment