Regardless of your age, skin type, or colouration, hyperpigmentation will affect you at some point in your life. The four classes of this skin condition have a variety of triggers, treatments, and resolutions.
An even skin tone is associated with health, youth, and resilience. With thousands of skincare products aimed at brightening and evening your skin tone, hyperpigmentation may soon become an extinct species.
What is skin hyperpigmentation?
'Hyperpigmentation' is a dermatological term used to describe an area of skin significantly darker than your natural pigmentation. Regardless of your colouration, your skin possesses a brown pigment called 'melanin'.
All healthy skin manufactures melanin naturally, and this pigment's intensity varies throughout the year because of sun exposure. As with all of your skin's processes, melanin manufacture is affected by your health, well-being, and lifestyle.
What causes hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation has varied causes; however, the underlying biological changes remain similar. The primary triggers of hyperpigmentation can be categorised into four camps:
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Age, liver, or sun spots
- Freckles and moles
Let's take a look at each.
1. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, describes a condition of hyperpigmentation caused by trauma. When skin becomes damaged by shaving, acne, or abrasion, the skin initiates a healing response.
When skin sees an event worthy of The A-Team, skin first deploys inflammation. Inflammation supplies a healing rush of immune cells, blood, and nutrients to the site of attack. This is why bruises can form instantaneously after trauma.
Products we recommend for treating PIH:
2. Age spots / liver spots / sun spots
Environmental damage from exposure to sunlight or pollution can spontaneously initiate the formation of hyperpigmentation. These types of hyperpigmentation are often referred to as 'age spots'.
Unlike PIH, age spots occur with no incidence of trauma. Instead, their creation stems from years of environmental impact. Stressors such as UV light and air pollutants accelerate the ageing of skin cells. This includes the skin cells called 'melanocytes', which produce melanin.
When melanocytes are stressed, their melanin manufacturing hubs spark into overdrive. The result is an age spot.
Common causes of age spots include UV damage / sun exposure, exposure to pollutants, and smoking.
Products we recommend for treating and preventing age spots:
Sometimes called 'the mask of pregnancy', melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal imbalance. Affected areas appear as free-form blotches and large patches. After hormones return to normal levels, the condition usually subsides.
Common causes of melasma include pregnancy, hormonal birth control, thyroid disorders and other endocrine conditions. Tendency to melasma is worsened by sun exposure and fragranced cosmetics.
4. Freckles and moles
Nature’s beauty spots are also a form of hyperpigmentation. Whether you've developed a fan of freckles or have lots of moles, excess melanin is the cause.
Common causes of freckles and moles include sun exposure and genetics.
If you have a skin type prone to brown spots, head over to our Ultimate Guide article, 'How can I avoid skin hyperpigmentation?', to learn exactly how you can prevent and treat darkening.