If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and noticed that one or more areas of your skin was darker than the surrounding area, than you’ve experienced hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation develops when your skin produces excessive melanin, aka pigment. Dark spots (sometimes called sun spots or liver spots) can develop for a variety of reasons, but they’re usually associated with the aging process.
Here’s what you need to know about dark spots, including what you can do to treat them if they’re bugging you.
Types of Hyperpigmentation
A few different things can cause the skin to produce more pigment in some areas . A few of the different types of spots that can develop include:
- Age spots. If you spend a lot of time in the sun without SPF or in tanning beds, you might develop age or sun spots. Age spots form as a direct result of damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Although they can develop anywhere, they are most common on the face and hands.
- Moles. Moles develop when your skin’s pigment cells (known as melanocytes) form in a clump or cluster. You can have moles since the time you were born or you might develop them during the first 25 years of your life. Although moles are usually harmless, there is the chance that they will develop into melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
- Freckles. People often assume that freckles develop as a result of sun damage, but that’s not true. Whether you have freckles or not is a result of your genes (it’s recessive, so you need to get the genes from both of your parents). But there’s a twist. While you can be born with moles, you’re unlikely to ever see a freckled baby. That’s because your skin needs sunlight to start producing the freckles. This is why they don’t usually appear until later in childhood. Prolonged sun exposure can also make your freckles darker. You’re more likely to notice them in the summer for this reason.
- Melasma. Melasma is often called the “mask of pregnancy” because hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy seem to trigger it in some women. It appears on the skin in the form of light brown/gray patches. Although it usually develops on the face, it can also appear on the shoulders, neck and other sun-exposed areas. Wearing sunscreen can help to minimize melasma.
- Scars. Hyperpigmentation can also develop as the skin heals after a wound. For example, people often notice dark spots where they once had acne or spots in areas where they had an eczema rash.
How you treat hyperpigmentation depends on the type of spots you’re dealing with. For example, if you have a mole that you are worried about, a surgeon or dermatologist might need to surgically remove it. If you have a lot of moles, it’s usually a good idea to have a doctor monitor your skin and keep an eye on them. That way, you’ll be able to take action quickly if there are any suspicious changes.
Age spots might be mostly harmless, but you might not be happy about their appearance. You have a few options for treating them, including skin care products that contain lightening ingredients. Another option is a laser treatment, such as Fraxel. The laser encourages exfoliation in the treated area, removing sun-damaged skin cells and allowing new cells to form.
Melasma can be a bit trickier to treat, but many people have had success with Fraxel. Since the pigmentation is usually connected to hormonal changes, you might find that it clears up if you stop taking birth control pills or switch to a different formula.
You might not be able to completely remove freckles from your skin, because they are an inherited condition. If you feel self-conscious about your freckles, you can cover them up with foundation or concealer.
Preventing Further Hyperpigmentation
It’s worth keeping in mind that sun exposure can make most forms of hyperpigmentation worse, including freckles, age spots and melasma. For that reason, whether you use laser treatments or skin care products to fade your spots, it’s important to use SPF as well. Wearing SPF 30 or higher daily, even on cloudy days, and limiting the time you spend in the sun can keep spots from getting darker or from returning after treatment.
If you want to learn more about your treatment options for hyperpigmentation, contact Mirror Mirror Beauty Boutique in Houston, Texas, for a consultation. Under the supervision of Dr. Paul Vitenas, our staff can help you choose the right non-surgical cosmetic treatment for your needs. Call 281-810-9083 to schedule an appointment today.