Our skin gets its colour from a natural pigment called melanin. 

Melanin is produced in special cells called melanocytes. The colour of our skin depends on the amount of melanin produced in our skin cells. More melanin production results in darker skin and less melanin production results in lighter skin.

Skin Pigmentation can occur in variations of spots, scars, patches, blotches or can cover a large area of skin.         

Hyperpigmentation: causes, remedies and treatments

What Is Pigmentation?

Pigmentation refers to uneven discolouration in the skin. Skin pigmentation can be of two types - hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation

Hyperpigmentation occurs when there is an increase in pigment production, thereby darkening the skin. For example- Suntan.

Hypopigmentation occurs when there is a decrease in pigment production thereby lightening the skin. For example- Vitiligo.

Hyperpigmentation is much more common than hypopigmentation. Hyperpigmentation occurs in the exposed parts of the body including the face, neck, shoulders, hand and feet. 

Causes Of Hyperpigmentation

1. Sun Exposure

Sun exposure causes solar lentigines or age spots. 

The sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun damage the skin. Prolonged sun exposure stimulates melanin production and causes hyperpigmentation or dark patches. 

Sunburn, suntan and rashes further worsen the skin's condition.

2. Skin Damage

When the skin gets hurt, bruised or damaged, the area gets darkened after the swelling subsides. This is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. 

Cuts, scratches and burns due to improper hair removal can cause skin damage and can lead to pigmentation. 

Bug bites, acne and eczema can also cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

3. Hormone Fluctuations

Pregnancy can sometimes cause overproduction of melanin thereby causing melasma or “The mask of pregnancy” in women. 

In some cases consuming birth control pills can also cause hyperpigmentation. 

Hormonal shifts due to hormone replacements or implants can also trigger discolouration in the skin.

4. Medical Conditions

Addison's Disease is a rare endocrine disease that may be an underlying cause of hyperpigmentation. 

Other medical conditions include hypothyroidism, gastrointestinal diseases and vitamin deficiencies. 

Medications like chemotherapy drugs, antidepressants, antimalarial and anti-seizure drugs can also trigger hyperpigmentation.

Medical Treatments Available For Hyperpigmentation

1. Laser Skin Resurfacing

Lasers use concentrated light therapies that target and penetrate under the skin's layers to treat the skin from underneath. 

Lasers boost collagen and elastin production which rejuvenates the skin. 

It effectively treats pigmentation and evens out the skin's texture. Laser therapies require about 3 to 6 sessions.

2. Intense Pulsed Light

Intense Pulsed Light is a light therapy that treats skin pigmentation, sun damage, wrinkles, unwanted hairs, varicose veins etc. 

It involves releasing lights of different wavelengths that scatter and penetrate the skin without harming the top layer of skin. 

It is both non-invasive and non-ablative.

3. Chemical Peels

Chemical peels involve using specially formulated chemical solutions to the affected areas. The concentrated solution makes the skin blister and eventually peel off. 

The new layer of skin underneath it is blemish-free, smooth and youthful. Chemical peels give quick results.

4. Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion involves using a quick rotating instrument to gently sand out the upper layer of the skin. 

It evens out the skin texture and leaves the skin as new and refreshed. 

Microdermabrasion removes all kinds of pigmentation spots, discolouration and blemishes.

Home Remedies For Hyperpigmentation            

1. Potato

Potato has natural bleaching properties which lighten and brightens the skin. Potato treats pigmentation spots and also boosts collagen production in the skin. 

Rub a fresh potato slice on the affected skin and wash it off after it dries. You can also blend potatoes and apply the juice on the skin.

2. Papaya

The enzyme 'papain' in papaya effectively treats scars, spots and blemishes. It lightens the skin and also gives it a bright glow. 

Rub mashed papaya pulp well into the affected skin. Wash it off after 20 minutes.

3. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is rich in citric acid and is a natural bleaching agent. It lightens the skin and effectively fades away spots and discolouration. 

Mix a few drops of lemon juice with plain water or honey and apply it on the affected skin. Wash it off after 15 minutes.

4. Tomato

Tomato has astringent properties and helps to refresh dull skin. It lightens the skin and also removes signs of ageing. 

Tomato is also rich in vitamin C and potassium. Rub a tomato slice on the skin in circular motions and wash it off when it air dries.

Hyperpigmented skin of woman

5. Turmeric

Turmeric contains an antioxidant called 'curcumin' which lightens pigmentation and is also anti-inflammatory. Turmeric also gives the skin a golden glow. 

Mix turmeric paste or powder with milk and apply it evenly on the affected areas. Let it sit for 20 minutes and rinse off with cold water.

6. Orange Peels

Orange peel works great as an exfoliator for the skin. It makes the skin clean and clear. It is also rich in vitamin C which treats pigmentation spots and discolouration.

Mix orange peel powder with milk or water and apply the paste on the skin. Wash it off after it air dries.

7. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera has medicinal properties and is packed with antioxidants. Aloe vera gel soothes the skin and moisturises it. Regularly applying aloe vera gel will clear the skin's complexion. 

Apply the freshly extracted aloe vera gel on the affected areas. Let the gel stay overnight and wash it off in the morning for best results.

8. Sandalwood

Sandalwood exfoliates the skin very gently and enhances its complexion. Sandalwood effectively removes tan and discolouration. 

Mix sandalwood paste with milk and besan to make a smooth paste. Apply it evenly on the skin and wash it off after 15 minutes.

9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar can act as a light chemical peel. It contains acetic acid which lightens the skin and glycol which reduces signs of ageing. 

Mix it with water in equal measure and apply the paste on the affected area. Wash it off after 10 minutes.

10. Milk Or Yogurt

The lactic acid present in milk treats pigmentation and results in a lighter skin tone. Milk also nourishes and rejuvenates the skin. 

Mix milk with Multani mitti and apply the fine paste on the skin. Wash it off with cold water after the mask dries completely.

Recommended Products For Hyperpigmentation 

Bonus tips 

  1. Always wear sunscreen before stepping out under the sun to avoid pigmentation and tanning due to extra melanin production. Carry sun protection accessories to prevent skin discolouration from getting worse. 
  2. Do not prod or poke cuts, scrapes or wounds to avoid skin damage and post-inflammatory pigmentation. 
  3. Drink enough water to keep the skin hydrated and nourished. 
  4. Eat healthy fruits and vegetables to maintain the overall health of the skin. 

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