The condition known as hyperpigmentation usually presents as an uneven skin tone with patches of discolouration; pigmentation may appear as uneven skin tone, areas of darkened skin (such as with Melasma) or more pink coloured areas from post-blemish scarring.
Hyperpigmentation usually occurs when the pigment that produces normal skin tone (melanin) is overproduced in a concentrated area. When this happens the excess melanin produced rises to the surface of the skin, causing visible, and often stubborn, discolouration. This overproduction of melanin can be caused by a range of factors including over exposure to UV, certain medications, pregnancy or fluctuating hormones and trauma to the skin.
There are several different types of pigmentation which include:
Age spots or stubborn dark patches
Post Inflammatory pigmentation, following an invasive skin procedure or injury
Post blemish scars
Hyperpigmentation caused by Melasma; this is a form of hyperpigmentation more commonly found in women and those with olive or darker skin types. It usually occurs due to hormonal irregularities often triggered by pregnancy and oral contraceptive use for example.
Whilst there can be other reasons for hyperpigmentation, the three most common causes of the body to produce excess melanin are sun exposure, hormone level and scarring.
Sun exposure is the one of the most common causes of pigment changes. Melanin is the body's key defence for protecting the skin against sun damage. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanin absorbs the energy of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays in order to protect the skin from overexposure. However, with prolonged exposure to UV the body triggers an overproduction of skin cells and these cells cluster together to form small circular marks known as age or sun spots (solar lentigines). these are usually found on the areas of skin most exposed to the sun like the face, décollete and the backs of the hands.
Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF30 every day (even during winter time) will help protect against further damage from the sun’s harmful UV rays and helps prevent sun-induced hyperpigmentation.
Hormonal changes in the body can also affect pigmentation. Fluctuations in oestrogen levels, due to pregnancy or oral contraceptive use, can also stimulate your melanocyte cells to overproduce and create pools of melanin on the skin called Melasma. Pregnancy, for example, can trigger overproduction of melanin on the face and darkened skin on the abdomen and other areas, sometimes referred to as ‘Pregnancy Mask’. Sometimes this type of pigmentation will be transient and right itself after pregnancy or stopping the contraceptive pill when the hormones return to a more balanced state.
Scarring caused by blemishes, imperfections, injuries or surgery, can also lead to uneven skin tone. A swollen pimple or any blemish that causes scarring or injury to the skin can also trigger an over production of melanin, this results in marks called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
The treatment of hyperpigmentation depends on how it presents in the skin and what has caused it. We will work with you to identify what is responsible for your pigmentation and work out a treatment plan that will best improve it. It often requires a combined approach of in-clinic treatments (such as laser, microneedling or bespoke peels) and home use skincare. We will also offer you lots of guidance on minimising future occurrences and managing pigmentation long term.