The majority of people have experienced hyperpigmentation in their lives. Usually referred to as “dark spots” on the skin after some kind of trauma or inflammation, hyperpigmentation is not typically something that you grown out of. Those who have dealt with acne and those annoying dark spots after a breakout know that it can take MONTHS for the hyperpigmentation to dissipate (if ever). It’s annoying to say the least. So what is it? Why does it happen? Is there anything that can be done to prevent it? What about if now you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation that is left over from years and years ago, is it still treatable?
What is hyperpigmentation?
Simply put, hyperpigmentation is the over production of pigment (melanin). Inflammation and trauma trigger the melanocytes in your skin to have a party. It can occur in small concentrated areas (like those commonly after a breakout), in larger areas like underarms or bikini area (from waxing or friction), or more systemic like Melasma.
(Melasma is a beast all on its own that is caused by internal hormonal imbalances. We are going to concentrate on the more commonly occurring hyperpigmentation rather than Melasma. That will need its own completely separate blog post.)
Why does it happen?!
Simply put, your skin is trying to protect itself. The skin senses there is an infection or trauma occurring and comes to the rescue resulting in inflammation. Inflammation and hyperpigmentation go hand in hand. This is why those who have inflammatory cystic acne NEED to get the inflammation under control to stop the hyperpigmentation from happening. Waxing can cause it too and some clients are simply not candidates for waxing. Those are the clients that need to explore Laser Hair Removal and then following treatment look into peels for lightning those areas already hyperpigmented. If you don’t stop the cause of the trauma and inflammation to your skin, it will never get better.
What can I do to prevent it?
Stop the things that are causing it. Stop picking at your skin. You are not Doctor Pimple Popper. Get to a Skincare professional that can look at all the products you’re using and properly prescribe professional grade skincare.
If the hyperpigmentation is cause by waxing, stop waxing. Time to find a laser hair removal clinic that has an Alex/Yag Laser (No, IPL does not do laser hair removal.) Those who are dealing with hyperpigmentation that are shaving, the vast majority of disposable razors are made with cheap nickel. Chances are you have a nickel allergy or sensitivity. Ditch the razor. Stop using products topically that are contributing to your bodies inflammatory response. Think all the things that are anti-inflammatory. Think cold. Just like most injuries you’ve experienced in your life. Gently clean. Ice. Calming and soothing products. On this note: stop consuming dairy. I’ll go more into that in another blog but dairy is a huge trigger for cystic acne.
What can I do to treat it?
Now that you’ve gone to your skin care professional and gotten the inflammation under control it’s time to tackle the residual hyperpigmentation. Your at home care is imperative. Lighteners and brighteners are wonderful along with religious use of sunscreen. If you aren’t using sunscreen then all you do to lighten hyperpigmentation is for naught. Sun speeds up the melanocytes in your skin which darkens the hyperpigmentation. Stay out of the sun and sunscreen every single day without fail. Using lighteners and brighteners without SPF again causes more damage. Personally, I am not a fan of hydroquinone. The US is the only place left in the world it’s legal. The EU outlawed it years ago. Please be aware and research the side effects if you opt for a product with hydroquinone.
Peels paired with Dermaplaning and Microneedling are wonderful professional treatments for hyperpigmentation. Just know that treatment hyperpigmentation is not a “one and done” deal. Going and getting one peel and thinking that will be a cure all is the same as thinking if you go to the gym once you’ll have the body you desire. Typically, depending on the severity of the hyperpigmentation, you’re looking at a series of four to six treatments. The frequency in which you receive treatments is something you can plan out with your skincare professional. When looking at laser treatments be aware that they NEED to be paired with proper at home care for pre/post procedure so the skin is ready for treatment. The at home care typically consists of lighteners and brighteners and a mineral based sunscreen. IPL lasers for those who have lower Fitzpatrick’s are very effective but not an option for those with higher Fitz. Ironically, those with higher Fitz are the ones who are more prone to hyperpigmentation. Fraxel Laser when performed by an experienced professional can be highly effective.