Defining Hyperpigmentation—Your Guide to Understanding Skin Discoloration

As you age, maintaining beautiful skin becomes more challenging. Your skin changes over time, sometimes to the point of becoming unrecognizable. ] After all, you’ve been told your whole life to wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer (aka melanoma) from forming, but did anyone ever mention hyperpigmentation or how to prevent it?

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a very common skin pigmentation disorder, defined by healthcare providers as: darker patches of skin that often form on the face, arms, or hands. You may be familiar with the term “liver spots,” associating it with elderly people in nursing homes or hospitals.

Well, as you age or experience excessive sun exposure, and the harmful UV rays that come with it, your melanin production will increase, potentially causing lasting damage. No one wants their skin to change for the worse, so how can you manage this overproduction of melanin?

Five Steps to Rid Yourself of Hyperpigmentation

  1. Don’t pick at your skin after an injury.
  2. Avoid direct exposure to sunlight.
  3. Use skin cream to heal skin.
  4. Wear sunscreen on heavily impacted areas.
  5. Utilize professional cosmetic procedures.

Skin care can seem like an expensive and pointless undertaking, especially if you’re buying the wrong products, but that doesn’t mean you should let a day out at the beach result in so much skin damage. Your skin care routine can be easy and affordable if you research which active ingredients best maintain the health of your skin. 

Sun exposure isn’t the only thing that can cause damage to your epidermis though. Cuts, abrasions, scars, acne, “the mask of pregnancy,” an under or overactive thyroid, Addison’s Disease, and even burns can all result in different forms of hyperpigmentation.

Don’t pick at your skin after an injury.

While it’s tempting to “help” an injury heal more quickly, picking at a scab or burn always results in more harm than good. When you remove this protective “bandage” that your body has created, even accidentally, your skin is more likely to discolor and create a scar. 

An extra dose of Vitamin C after an injury will help prevent your skin from discoloring, while also boosting your immune system! If you just can’t seem to stop the impulse to pick your wound, cover it up with a bandaid to further aid in healing.

Avoid direct exposure to sunlight.

Wearing lightweight, long-sleeve clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, or even sitting under an awning or umbrella when you’re outside can help prevent any enduring, long-term skin damage. Keeping covered or staying indoors, avoiding the sun altogether, is the easy way to avoid the sunlight, but what else can you do?

Of course, there are going to be days when you’re simply going to be wearing a swimsuit and or a tank top to soak up the sun. In instances like these, using sunscreen as a form of skin protection can be a reliable option as long as you remember to apply it regularly and give yourself breaks in the shade.

Use skin cream.

Regularly using a nighttime skin cream, as well as a clarifying moisturizer, before heading out for the day (especially one containing SPF), will gradually lighten areas of darker skin growing on your body, leaving you feeling younger and less self-conscious about skin spots. If you suffer from a condition like hyperthyroidism or Addison's Disease, or are currently pregnant, utilizing skin care supplements should help counteract any sustained damage from the UVA or UVB rays.

The most helpful skin care products contain some, or all, of the following ingredients:

  • Azelaic acid: Treats acne
  • Glycolic acid: Gently exfoliates skin
  • Tretinoin: Treats acne and sun-damaged skin
  • Hydroquinone: Lightens dark patches of skin
  • Corticosteroids: Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Kojic acid: Helps produce melanin
  • Vitamin C: Brightens skin and smooths dark spots

Wear Sunscreen.

The leading cause of skin damage is from the sun. Whether this is unfortunate or not to you personally, there is a simple solution. Researching products that contain SPF and incorporating them into your daily skin care routine will show remarkable results over the course of time!

Mineral sunscreens have zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which help create an effective sun protection barrier for your skin. Be mindful of products that use cheaper ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate though, as they contain chemicals that can chemically alter your skin tone, as well as your body, and cause hormonal imbalances.

Utilize professional cosmetic procedures.

Reach out to a dermatologist about skin care options if you’re looking for further treatment for hyperpigmentation. 

Some options to look into include:

  • Chemical peels: Resurfacing technique that removes the damaged, outer layers of skin
  • Microdermabrasion: A noninvasive procedure where fine crystals are rubbed onto your skin to gently exfoliate it
  • Laser therapy: Lasers soften and depigment the skin

When to Invest Time and Money in Skincare Solutions

Think back to a time you burned yourself accidentally. Your skin blistered, soon-after peeled to reveal a shiny new layer of skin, and after it had completely healed, an off-color spot where your hand was burned remained. This kind of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is something no one wants to deal with.

By employing depigmentation strategies, so that there is a noticeable loss of pigment in or a lightening of your skin may be your best next step. With all of the rejuvenating treatments for aging or damaged skin available today, it’s exceptionally important to do your research on how each treatment option differs and meets your specific skin tone’s needs.

Skin care doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence; with a little pre-planning, your skin can look smoother and more evenly toned than ever!