Hyperpigmentation is a common condition in which small patches of skin become darker in colour compared to normal surrounding skin. This darkening is due to excessive melanin production by melanocytes in the skin.
The most common types of hyperpigmentation include:
a) Age spots/solar lentigenes
These small pigmented patches are attributed to UV/sun exposure and aging, and are most commonly found on sun exposed areas including the face and hands.
b) Melasma (mask of pregnancy)
This condition has a hormonal basis, and results in patches of pigmented patches of skin that are similar to age spots, but tend to be larger. The condition may arise during pregnancy, hence commonly known as mask of pregnancy, and may or may not resolve on its own after giving birth. The use of oral contraceptive pills can also aggravate melasma, in which case may resolve with cessation of the pills (you are advised to consult your doctor before doing so).
This is an inherited condition, and is aggravated by sun exposure.
d) Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
This condition arises after injuries to the skin. Trauma, acne and surgery causes damage and inflammation, and this can result in pigmented patches that lasts for months or even longer.
Treatment for hyperpigmentation consist of the following:
- Spectra laser
- Chemical peel
- Hydrafacial +/- iontophorosis
- Medical grade topicals: Creams containing high potency hydroquinone, vitamin C, retinoids, or crystal clear may be used for treatment. Sun protection with sunscreen is critical.
These treatments also have the added advantage of improving the skin condition, imparting a radiant glow to the face.