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Types of Hyperpigmenation

The skin is the largest organ in the body, it has three systems that act as protective functions: (1) the stratum corneum barrier, (2) immunity, and (3) providing pigment to protect the body from harmful radiation, including sun exposure (particularly the ultraviolet rays).

Before we proceed about hyperpigmentation disorders, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with some basic terms:

  1. Melanin- aka pigment, is a dark coloration that appears in the hair, skin and eyes. It consists of two types: Eumelanin for brown/black color and Pheomelanin for yellow/red color.
  2.  Melanocyte– the cell responsible for producing melanin (pigment) in the skin. Melanocytes are contained within the epidermis (the first layer of the skin). When injury is caused to the skin, or some type of metabolical defect, melanocytes are deposited into the dermis (second layer of the skin) causing hypepigmentation.
  3. Melanosomes– Color granules, oval in shape, contained within the melanocytes that combine melanin (pigment). Although every human being has the same number of  people have a larger number of melanosomes that create darker pigment. Disorders related to melanin, such as hyperpigmentation, are the one of the major reasons why people seek skin bleaching products aka skin lightening products with the hope of finding a solution to even out one’s skin tone.

Types of hyperpigmenation include:

  • Ephelides– aka freckles which tend to increase in color when exposed to sunlight. Ephelides are usually less that 0.5 cm in diameter and are found on the faces, chest, back and arms. The best treatment for freckles, we hate to write it, do not over expose your skin to the sun. Always cover up with sunscreen, wear a hat, and even don large sun glasses.
  • Lentigos– aka liver spots, usually resulting from local accumulation of melanocytes and are commonly found on the face, neck, upper trunk, arms and hands. They are usually over 0.5 cm in size. Conventional treatment is destructive liquid nitrogen ( a treatment that should only be performed by a dermatologist).
  • Dyschormia– marked by surface blotches of different colors and shades. “Dyschormia” means an abnormal discoloration of the skin, and includes mottled hyperpigmentation, it is sometimes confused with melasma. Treatment such long-wave LED performed by a physician, will help calm this type of inflammation.
  •  Hormonal Melasma– aka pregnancy mask, appears during pregnancy, post-pregnancy, while taking certain types of birth control pills, and during perimenopause. The best treatment is light microdermabrasion and skin lightening products which DO NOT contain hydroquinone (a dangerous, carcinogenic agent used in many skin bleaching creams). Laser treatments are not recommended because the heat emitted by the beam of the laser can aggravate this type of hyperpigmentation disorder.
  • Miscellaneous hyperpigmentation (this is the best kind of term we can find, as there are causes but perhaps not a definitive medical terminology, other than hyperpigmentation)- resulting from over exposure to the sun, skin lesions which have healed, the use of certain prescription medications, and ingestion of certain minerals (such as silver and iron). Hyperpigmentation caused by the above examples can occur anywhere on the face, chest, arms, hands, legs, private regions and even around the anus.

Hyperpigmenation is often treated by melanin suppressants such as hydroquinone ( we highly recommend that you read about the dangers of hydroquinone before you use any skin bleaching products which contain this carcinogenic byproduct), natural plant-based lightening creams derived from Arbutin, kojic acid, azelaic acid and even licorice root. The combination of a natural based lightening cream with microdermabrasion treatments has been found to be extremely helpful.