What Does Hyperpigmentation Mean?
Hyperpigmentation, (full name; Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation or PIH), is discoloration of the skin after an inflammatory wound which can be caused when a wound, rash, pimple or other conditions cause skin inflammation which makes the skin produce too much melanin. Melanin is the protein which gives skin its color. It is the excess melanin that darkens and discolors the wounded area and the discoloration remains even after the wound has healed. Hyperpigmentation related discoloration can range from pink to red, purple brown or black, which all depends on your skin tone and how deep the discoloration is. Hyperpigmentation is a common side effect of acne sufferers and it happens more commonly in those with darker skin tones.
There is a relationship between hyperpigmentation and acne. Hyperpigmentation occurs as the remnants of any kind of acne from your average everyday type to the more serious acne lesions that can occur. The more inflamed an acne breakout becomes, the larger and darker the hyperpigmentation will become. Picking at or popping pimples will increase the chance of hyperpigmentation. It is easy to identify hyperpigmentation by examining your skin. The skin will not appear pitted or depressed but will look like a discolored freckle on the skin. However, for more severe acne, it can be a larger, darker discoloration or may even look shiny or look like “new skin.”
Since hyperpigmentation is not a scar, even if you do not treat it, it will fade away over a period of time. Depending on the severity of the hyperpigmentation, it can take anywhere from three to twenty four months for the hyperpigmentation to fade away. Before exploring hyperpigmentation treatment options, it is important to have your acne under control beforehand as each new pimple could cause more hyperpigmentation to form and thus, would counterbalance the treatment. Most hyperpigmentation treatments take time; think within the ballpark of months instead of weeks as a time frame. It is also important to note that it is highly recommended that you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen on a daily basis, because the sun can darken the discoloration and that would increase the time it would take to fade away.
Alpha hydroxy acids or AHA are a good place to start for hyperpigmentation treatment. The alpha hydroxy acids speed up the skin’s exfoliation process which in turn improves the effects of hyperpigmentation. Several over-the-counter cleansers, lotions, creams and gels have AHA. These are a good first line of attack for mild hyperpigmentation. There are stronger AHA’s but you need a prescription to use them. As a bonus, alpha hydroxy acids are also used for anti-aging treatments, as well which leave your skin feeling softer and smoother.
Topical retinoids are a group of medications derived from vitamin A which are mostly used to reduce acne but are also used to improve hyperpigmentation. The most common retinoid creams are Retin-A (tretinoin), Tazorac (tazarotene), and Differin (adapalene). These are used because of their added benefits of fighting acne effectively and the different benefits for one’s skin not the least of which is treating hyperpigmentation. These retinoids however, are only available through a prescription.
Hydroquinone is one of the most common treatments for hyperpigmentation. It is available as an over-the-counter, as well as a prescription cream depending on its strength. Hydroquinone works by blocking the enzymes that are responsible for producing the melanin which in turn lightens the skin. The hydroquinone creams may also contain other lightening compounds, such as kojic acid, glycolic acid, tretinoin, and other types of retinoids or vitamin C. These compounds can give you better lightening results than just using hydroquinone by itself. When using hydroquinone creams, you should carefully apply it to only the darkened areas of the skin to prevent any unwanted lightening of your natural skin color.
Laser Treatments for Hyperpigmentation
Photoderm Pulsed Light Procedure: This procedure involves using certain amount of pulses onto the affected area. This procedure is also accompanied with anesthetics to help relax the patient. This is mostly used remove brown spots and redness due to an unhealthy amount of sunlight which as everyone knows, is not healthy for your skin.
Quantum Laser Treatment for Hyperpigmentation: This is a form of intense pulsed light therapy which uses moderate wavelengths of quantum energy on the affected areas. Also accompanied by anesthetics, this procedure is done repeatedly to maximize the healing effectiveness. This procedure can be used for all types of hyperpigmentation on all skin types.
Vasculight: This intense pulsed light procedure is used to get rid of unwanted veins and lesions on the skin. This penetrates deep into the skin and has the added effect of using a cooling mechanism, as well to help reduce discomfort and reduce the damage that may occur if the pulsed light was to come in contact with healthy skin tissue.
Besides hyperpigmentation, intense pulsed light is also used to deal with aging spots, liver spots, fine line and wrinkles on your face and hands, redness from sun exposure, tattoo removal and unwanted hair removal.
Home Remedies for Hyperpigmentation
Milk and Honey: This is one of the most effective home remedies for hyperpigmentation. This works because milk has a lactic acid which peels off old skin after some time and honey has curative properties. By making this into a paste, you can apply it onto the infected areas and it doesn’t make too much of a mess.
Vegetable Juices: By extracting juices from certain veggies such as cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes, you can apply it to the skin to lighten pigmentation. The juices can also be applied if you just want to lighten your complexion on certain parts of your face. Using juices works on every skin type and can be used on a regular basis with no real worries.
Avocados: Continuing the vegetable trend, avocadoes are a great source of Vitamin E which helps with having healthy skin. This also can be mashed into a paste that exfoliates the skin and reduces the effect of hyperpigmentation. To make it smoother, you can also add milk into the paste.
Almonds: Since almonds are a high source of Vitamin E, it is highly recommended for your skin. Soaking almonds overnight and then making them into a paste mixed with some milk also helps the affected areas. Almonds can also be consumed on a regular basis to help the effects of hyperpigmentation.
The Use of Chemical Peels for Reducing Hyperpigmentation
Chemical peels can be used to improve not only hyperpigmentation but the effects of other types of skin issues such as age spots. Chemical peels use a mixture of acids which exfoliate the top layers of skin and can be used on the face, neck, chest and hands. Chemical peels come in three levels of potency which are superficial, medium and deep. Superficial peels use mild alpha and/or beta hydroxy acids to exfoliate and cleanse the surface of the skin. Certain bleaching compounds such as hydroquinone or kojic acid are sometimes added to help calm the effects of mild hyperpigmentation. Medium peels use stronger concentrations of glycolic or trichloroacetic acids to reach a little bit below the surface layer of the skin. A medium peel can also be used to correct age spots, freckles and moderate discoloration. The deep peel uses phenol to penetrate deep into the skin which allows it to correct significant issues of discoloration.
Superficial or moderate peel procedures can be done at a dermatologist’s office. The treated area may feel warm afterwards and may be accompanied by a little stinging sensation. The procedure itself lasts about half an hour and afterwards, the dermatologist will apply a lotion to soothe and calm the skin. For the deep peels, this procedure is typically done at an outpatient surgical center. The patient is placed under a general anesthesia while the doctor is applying the chemical mixture to one small area at a time. Cold compresses are then used to soothe the skin and the treated area is bandaged with surgical dressing.
For each procedure, there is a respective healing process that must be stuck to, or it won’t heal right. For superficial peels, it takes about a week to fully heal. The treated skin will be red for a few days, from there it will begin to flake and peel away. During this healing process, you need to apply a soothing lotion to the skin. For medium peels, the skin will appear red and swollen for about two days. After that, the skin will form blisters and the skin will also become crusty. It will then come off within seven to fourteen days. During this, you need to soak the entire area on a daily basis and take an antiviral medication. You must also stay out of the sun completely until your skin is finished healing. The deep peel also requires daily soaking but with the added applications of calming ointment and lotions. As well, you must also take an antiviral medication for two weeks and completely avoid the sun for six months.