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Hyperpigmentation - Beautopedia


This guide provides information about hyperpigmentation, the types of pigment problems, ways of eliminating dark spots and the causes.

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What is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is presented by dark spots on the skin as a result of excess melanin being produced in the dermis. The pigmented marks can appear on any area of the body; however usual areas include regions which are commonly subjected to the sun such as the face and the back of hands. Typically, this skin condition is harmless of itself, with the only concern being the patient’s aesthetic appearance. The dark blemishes can either be dispersed or focal.

What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

A major reason for hyperpigmentation is exposure to the sun since the sun’s ultra violet rays accelerate the growth of melanin production. This is because UV light stimulates melanocyte activity. For patients who already have hyperpigmentation, sun exposure will make the pigment even darker.

Another cause of dark spots can be reactions to certain laser treatments. Some patients who have undergone certain laser procedures for various dermatological conditions such as acne scarring have ended up with brown spots on their face after the laser treatment.

Skin lightening creams can also cause darker spots to appear. For this reason, lightening lotions should be used only with extreme caution and under the guidance of a qualified doctor or dermatologist.

Certain drugs or prescription medications can also increase the likelihood of hyperpigmentation. Medications which can lead to dark patches include some antibiotics, antimalarial and antiarrhythmic drugs and also prescriptions which affect hormonal changes such as birth control pills. Dark spots can also be due to natural hormonal changes in the body such as during pregnancy.

Injuries to the skin such as surgery and also skin diseases like acne can affect changes in skin color.

Types of Hyperpigmentation

Age spots, also known as solar lentigines or liver spots, are a very common form of this skin condition. These typically occur because of sun damage to the skin from excessive sun exposure. Age spots are usually found on the hands and facial region since they are most frequently exposed to the sun. Whilst they are customary in elderly people, especially on the hands, they can also be seen in middle aged persons.

Melasma, also known as chloasma, are darker spots which appear due to hormonal changes such as during pregnancy where overproduction of melanin is common. Melasma as a result of pregnancy in most cases disappears soon after the woman gives birth. As for chloasma caused by birth control pills, the patient may be advised by the doctor to cease taking the pill. Alternatively, another oral contraceptive may be prescribed if melasma is a concern to the patient. The spots from melasma appear similar to age spots; however they are usually larger in size.

Another type of hyperpigmentation is freckles. These are usually harmless and are smaller in size but may be more frequent than liver spots or melasma. Unlike other forms of hyperpigmentation, freckles are a hereditary condition.

How to Avoid Hyperpigmentation

Whilst some causes of hyperpigmentation cannot be evaded, such as pregnancy, the extent of excessive pigment can be controlled by limiting the patient’s exposure to the sun. Patients should stay out of the sun and wear broad spectrum sunscreen (one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays). Sunscreen which contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide is also beneficial for preventing hyperpigmentation.

Whilst dark spots can affect all races, persons with darker skin are more prone to the condition. This includes persons with Asian, African or Mediterranean skin tones. Extra care should be taken in order to decrease sun exposure.

Treatments for Hyperpigmentation

Dark skin pigments can be treated a number of ways. If the problem is being caused by medications such as the contraceptive pill, the patient may be advised to stop taking the prescription medication in order to reverse the effects of melasma.

Chloasma and dark spots can be treated with prescription lotions which lighten the pigment. These usually contain hydroquinone. The creams effectively lighten darker patches by slowing the production of melanin. Prescription bleach creams often contain twice as much hydroquinone than over the counter products and are therefore more effective at lightening the dark areas. A doctor may also prescribe cortisone or tretinoin (Retin A) cream in more severe cases. These lotions can effectively lighten the hyper-pigmented areas to the color of the normal skin within approximately two to six months.

Another method of treating hyperpigmentation is by using pigmented lesion lasers such as the q-switched ruby laser or IPL (intense pulsed light). These are often used to remove the brown spot without leaving scarring and are a much quicker (but more costly) option of relieving hyperpigmentation than bleaching creams. Other alternatives include alpha hydroxyl acids, beta hydroxyl acids, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

How much does Hyperpigmentation Treatment Cost? Price Information

Price Range: $$ affordable $$$ moderate $$$$ high-priced

Price Indicator: $$ to $$$$

Cheapest Hyperpigmentation Treatment:

-          Bleaching creams can range from $30 to $150

-          Microdermabrasion costs around $75 to $150 per treatment

Higher Cost Hyperpigmentation Treatments:

-          Laser skin resurfacing costs around $2,500 per treatment. Some patients may require multiple treatments, which can raise the costs to above $5,000.

Average Cost of Treating Hyperpigmentation: depending on your chosen treatment method, eliminating dark spots can cost you an average of $85 to $3,750.

Medicare/Medicaid: Not usually covered

Private Health Insurance: some plans may cover some of the fees

Financing: may be offered by some companies

Factors affecting the Cost of Hyperpigmentation:

-          How large the pigmented areas are

-          The area of treatment (face/hands etc)

-          Whether the hyperpigmentation is diffuse or focal

When asking for a quote, ask the clinic for the total cost including all fees and charges and whether any rebates, specials or discounts apply.

How to Find the Best Hyperpigmentation Doctor/Specialist

Treating hyperpigmentation requires medical treatments which should be administered by a qualified doctor, dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon specializing in skin pigmentation. When searching for a Hyperpigmentation specialist, make sure you research their qualifications, credentials, training and experience. Being board certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery does not indicate that a doctor is trained and experienced in the type of treatment you seek.

Be sure to ask your doctor which procedures they specialize in, where they trained and how many treatments they’ve performed. Obtain lots of before and after photos of patients they’ve treated for the same area using your preferred technique.

Even if a doctor has the right credentials, this does not mean they will be good at performing Hyperpigmentation. Apart from researching their formal qualifications and training, try to find customer reviews to see the overall satisfaction rate of your potential doctor. Independent recommendations are invaluable for assessing the best dermatologist or surgeon who is most experienced in the treatment. Don’t be tempted to opt for the cheapest cost without considering the above factors. A cheap center may not offer the experience you desire. Also, you may wish to consider whether you feel more comfortable with a female or male physician.

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