Hyperpigmentation or melasma is an increase of melanin in the melanocytes or colour cells. It can affect any part of the body, but is most common on the face, affects all skin types and, although common in men, is more prevalent in women.
Although hyperpigmentation/melasma is rarely harmful, it can affect your self-esteem. If you or someone you know is suffering from this problem, you should know that there are effective methods for minimizing and ridding the skin of pigment.
There are number of factors that cause hyperpigmentation or melasma. These include hormones, acne, photosensitive medications, and sun damage, which is the most common culprit.
One option for treatment is topical prescription cream. The active medication is hydroquinone and a retin A. Hydroquinone is a lightening agent that will lighten the over-active melanin in the skin. It also blocks the stimulation of pigment production. Retin A stimulates new cells and sloughs away the old, dead, surface cells. It will take time to see full results, just as the pigmentation formation also took time to form.
Chemical peels such as the spot peel are also effective in lightening pigmentation. The spot peel uses a retinol and salicylic acid base to exfoliate. Two weeks before the peel, it is important to prepare the skin with the appropriate topical prescribed creams. Peels are also very beneficial in preparing the skin for topical lightening and exfoliants.
Intense Pulse Light Therapy (photo facials) is highly effective in managing hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage. The light energy is attracted to the dark spots and causes them to crust, turn dark and fall off. The pigmentation spots look like coffee grounds on the treated areas for a short period. Multiple treatments may be required.
Once hyperpigmentation has faded, the melanocytes will always remember the damage even if it is not visible on the skin’s surface. SPF UVA/UVB is the number one protector against hyperpigmentation returning. Other methods of sun protection include using a hat, covering up, and avoiding mid-day sun exposure. Even in the winter, SPF 30 UVA/UVB is strongly encouraged.