Now that summer is finally here we may get to see some sun! But aside from our usual concerns around tanning and burning and keeping ourselves safe in the sunshine there are some of us that suffer from a condition known as Hyperpigmentation, where areas of the skin start to darken or discolour, and it gets worse in the summer…
We spoke to skin specialist and leading aesthetician Dr Rosh to get the lowdown on Hyperpigmentation and what can be done about it.
Firstly, what is it?
Hyperpigmentation is a medical term used to describe areas of uneven pigmentation in the skin.
Hyperpigmentation is caused by an increase in melanin production. Melanin is the natural pigment that gives our skin, hair and eyes colour. While increase in pigment is not harmful, it can be the symptom of another medical condition and some people can find these patches distressing in appearance.
Why does it appear more in summer?
Sun exposure is the number one cause of hyperpigmentation, as it is sunlight that triggers the production of melanin in the first place. Melanin acts as your skin’s natural sunscreen by protecting you from harmful UV rays, which is why people tan in the sun. But excessive sun exposure can disrupt this process, leading to hyperpigmentation.
There are a number of other factors that can increase melanin production, other than sun exposure. These include but are not limited to
– fluctuating or changing hormones
– skin injuries and inflammation.
Who’s more prone to it?
People with dark skin are normally more affected by hyperpigmentation marks than those with a lighter skin tone, because skin pigmentation is stronger in dark skin. However it can obviously be more apparent on lighter skin tones.
Is there a way to measure and treat it?
We can measure hyperpigmentation with digital facial skin analysis. At KLNIK we use VISIA for our analysis and we can quantify the pigmentation and also monitor the reductions with our treatments. Ways to address hyperpigmentation include:
Medication – These are topical medications that can lighten skin tone. These include hydroquinone, tretinoin, Vitamin C, kojic acid etc.
Chemical Peels – Multiple different types of peels such as salicylic acid can help even skin pigment.
Laser – Laser skin treatments can be an effective option. Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments are commonly used to gently remove brown spots on the skin. Customizable wavelengths of light target pigmented areas deep within the skin, breaking up the melanin and restoring an even skin tone.
But really sun protection is the most significant step that you can take in helping to prevent hyperpigmentation in the first place. It is important to remember that the sun’s rays affect the skin even on cloudy days, and so it is vital that you give your skin the daily protection that it needs.
Try to keep out of the sun between the hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest, and wear protective clothing, such as hats and sunglasses, whenever possible. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, apply and regularly reapply a sun protection product SPF 30 or above.
Dr Rosh top tip is every SPF has a star rating on the back. Not all SPF 30 or 50s are the same. The star rating measures the amount of ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) protection Look for ones with a star rating of at least 4-5 stars.
Other types of skin pigmentation:
Melasma is a condition where larger patches of hyperpigmentation develop mainly on the face.
Although it can affect both men and women, melasma is most common in women and is thought to be triggered by changes in hormone levels. Melasma occurs in 50% of pregnant women in the UK and in 10-25% of women taking oral contraceptives,
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs when a skin injury or trauma heals and leaves a flat area of discolouration behind. It’s commonly found among acne sufferers and can also be caused by cosmetic procedures, such as dermabrasion, laser treatment and chemical peels.
Dr Rosh is Medical Director and CEO of the award-winning Cheshire clinic KLNIK (www.klnik.co.uk) and is able to advise on all skin concerns such as Hyperpigmentation.