What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is characterized by a darkening of an area of skin caused by the overproduction of a pigment in the skin known as melanin. It is relatively common and usually harmless, but for cosmetic reasons, it is a nuisance to those who have it. Hyperpigmentation can affect any part of the body including the face, hands, and neck.

Some basic causes of hyperpigmentation are:

  • Overexposure to the sun
  • Hereditary
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain medications such as antibiotics, hormone treatments, and anti-seizure drugs.
  • Inflammation and skin injuries such as acne vulgaris

Various examples of hyperpigmentation:

  • Lentigo/Lentigines– Lentigo simply means one freckle; lentigines are multiple freckles.
  • Solar Lentigines – widely known as ‘sun spots,’ ‘age spots’ and ‘liver spots,’ solar lentigines are freckles caused by sun exposure.
  • Melasma – Often known as the ‘pregnancy mask’ or ‘chloasma’. It is characterized by splotchy, dark, irregular well demarcated hyperpigmented patches on the face; commonly found on the upper cheek, nose, lips, upper lip, and forehead. These patches often develop gradually over time.
  • Lichen Planus Pigmentosus (LPP) is characterized by oval or irregularly-shaped brown to gray-brown macules and patches on the skin. Areas that are exposed to sun, such as the forehead, temples, and neck are most commonly affected. However, the macules and patches may also develop on the trunk or in places where two areas of skin touch or rub together (i.e. the armpit, groin, etc).

Treatment of hyperpigmentation may include:

  • Topical Creams containing hydroquinone, kojic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, azelaic acid, ascorbic acid, tretinoin (Retinol), topical glucocorticoids, and licorice extract are few of the depigmenting agents used.
  • Chemical Peels: Alpha Hydroxy Acid peels- glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, salicylic acid peels, trichloroacetic acid peels, azelic peels and yellow peels are used.
  • Lasers: Q-switched Nd Yag laser, Erbium Yag, Erbium Glass laser, Fractionated Carbon dioxide lasers can be effectively used to rejuvenate the skin and reduce pigmentation.

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