April 06, 2021 5 min read

In this article

    What's hyperpigmentation and what causes it?

    What's hyperpigmentation and what causes it?

    Pigmentation just means coloring, and your skin gets its color from a pigment called melanin. Hyperpigmentation is a common and often harmless condition in which certain patches, or areas of the skin become darker than the surrounding areas, due to excess melanin production. Freckles, rosacea, birthmarks, and sunspots are all different manifestations of hyperpigmentation that can appear anywhere on the body.

    Melasma, another form of skin discoloration that looks very similar to hyperpigmentation, also causes symmetrical dark spots to form on the face. Between 1.5% and 33% of the population may get melasma. It is often called the "pregnancy mask" because anywhere between 15-50% of pregnant women may get it. Both hyperpigmentation and melasma are thought to worsen with UV ray exposure, but melasma is highly influenced by hormones, whereas hyperpigmentation is not.

    Everyone knows that sun exposure causes freckles, hyperpigmentation, and yes, a great tan... but how exactly? Melanocytes are the skin cells that manufacture melanin. People with darker skin tones have more of them, and they are evenly spread throughout their skin. In individuals with fair skin, the melanocytes form into small clusters and when exposed to sunlight, the overproduction of melanin causes the skin to darken and form freckles and/or tanned skin. Sun exposure isn't the only thing to causes hyperpigmentation though. People with dark skin tones are more likely to experience hyperpigmentation than people with light skin (who are more likely to form freckles). Hyperpigmentation can also be triggered by:

    • Inflammation (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation)
    • Pregnancy
    • A side effect of drugs such as oral contraceptives
    • Injury or wounds that impact the skin
    • Using alpha-hydroxy acids in cosmetics

    How to treat and prevent hyperpigmentation

    How to treat and prevent hyperpigmentation

    Whether you’ve never experienced hyperpigmentation or are looking to prevent it from getting any more severe, the first rule of thumb is to use sun protection! This is by far the best way to avoid sun damage and hyperpigmentation. Before you go out, always apply broad-spectrum sunscreen or use a hat and clothing to protect your face and body from getting burned. You should also add a moisturizer with SPF of at least 30 to your everyday skincare routine, even if you're not having a beach day. On cloudy days, the UV index can still be dangerously high.

    When it comes to fading hyperpigmentation, time is in your favor. If you experience sudden hyperpigmentation that doesn't seem to fade, contact a dermatologist or doctor to explore it further. Otherwise, if you want to brighten your skin and help speed the fading process along, here's what you can do:

    • Lightening and brightening creams: In most cases, we recommend healing the skin from the inside out with nutrition and supplements. But when it comes to hyperpigmentation,  topical products can help equally as much. Look for lightening gels containing hydroquinone, licorice extract, N-acetylglucosamine, and niacinamide. If you’re looking for a dietary supplement, consider glutathione.
    • Facial acids: Another topical product that can improve hyperpigmentation is the use of exfoliating, facial acids. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), glycolic acids, salicylic acids, lactic acids, kojic acids, penetrate the skin to stimulate cell turnover. You can apply a facial toner with acid after using a hydrating cleanser, or use a serum.
    • Retinoids: Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) are one of the most commonly used anti-aging treatments in the world of dermatology. In addition to preventing and filling fine lines and wrinkles, retinol can even out your skin tone. Retinols can be purchased in drug stores and online in varying strengths and it’s pretty powerful stuff! Start slow, especially if you have sensitive skin, and make sure that you aren't using any other ingredients in your skincare routine that might negatively react with retinol.

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    Boost Collagen Production

    • Chemical Peels and Microneedling: Though the methodology of both of these procedures varies, both leverage our bodies' natural ability to repair themselves with collagen. Sometimes called "resurfacing", these procedures use "controlled injury" to penetrate deep layers of the skin and stimulate collagen production. Because this leaves the skin exposed, you should not do at-home chemical peels frequently. Your dermatologist will be able to determine if you are a better candidate for a chemical peel or a microneedling (or microdermabrasion) procedure and will be able to help decrease the likelihood of severe side effects.
    • Collagen Supplements: Many of the most effective hyperpigmentation treatments aim to do one thing - boost collagen production. Collagen is the body's most powerful and plentiful protein and is responsible for wound healing and supporting healthy skin and joints. Collagen is packed with the "anti-aging amino acid" glycine, which helps to boost your skin's hydration. Not only can it help to repair damaged, hyperpigmented skin, but it can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improve your skin's texture. The trouble is that as we age, our bodies produce less and less collagen. Moreover, free radicals can deteriorate the collagen already in our bodies. This is where supplementation can help reverse signs of aging and manage hyperpigmentation. Marine collagen, one of the most bioavailable sources of collagen, can be added to your morning coffee or breakfast to help repair the skin and minimize hyperpigmentation while you work!
    • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is another skincare hero! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your skin from free radicals and oxidative stress. It is also known to inhibit tyrosinase, an enzyme needed for melanin production. It's a critical nutrient that allows your body to produce collagen and hyaluronic acid. Studies show that it's even more effective at treating hyperpigmentation when paired with vitamin E.

    Collagen is the key to retaining your skin's healthy and youthful glow! The best way to protect the collagen you already have, ensure future production, and manage hyperpigmentation is to skip long days in the sun and always wear protection. When the damage has already been done, give your body what it needs to "erase" hyperpigmentation from your skin with an all-natural collagen supplement.

    Summary Points:

    Hyperpigmentation is a common and often harmless condition in which certain patches or areas of the skin become darker than the surrounding areas, due to excess melanin production.

    Whether you’ve never experienced hyperpigmentation or are looking to prevent it from getting any more severe, the first rule of thumb is to use sun protection.

    Many of the most effective hyperpigmentation treatments aim to do one thing - boost collagen production.

    Marine collagen, one of the most bioavailable sources of collagen, can be added to your morning coffee or breakfast to help repair the skin and minimize hyperpigmentation while you work.

    Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your skin from free radicals and oxidative stress.

    Article References:

    1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21454-melasma#:~:text=Melasma%20is%20a%20very%20common,and%20rarely%20happens%20during%20puberty.
    2. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/hyperpigmentation-treatment
    3. https://fabfitfun.com/magazine/tips-to-fade-hyperpigmentation/



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