Get flawless skin without dark spots and patches

Are you noticing small, dark spots on your face or any other parts of your body? Don’t know what they are and how to treat them? Read this article by Dr Shuba Dharmana, a celebrity cosmetic dermatologist and our expert who explains the causes, treatments and tips to prevent the occurrence of these dark spots called hyperpigmentation.

What is hyperpigmentation?

The pesky dark spots and patches on your skin is what is called as hyperpigmentation – a term used to describe a darkly pigmented patch of skin. Our skin and hair are characterized by a melanin pigment in the cells which gives them their colour. When this pigment is produced by the cells in excess, it leads to hyperpigmentation. (Read: Bleach your skin with potato to remove dark spots)

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Whenever there is any skin injury or disease, the skin produces excessive melanin and this causes post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is commonly seen with some skin diseases like acne, eczema and also with scratching. Certain botched skin procedures can also cause hyperpigmentation.  Age spots, sun spots, liver spots, freckles also are types of hyperpigmentation that occur due to sun exposure. (Read: Why do we have acne)

 Melasma – a type of hyperpigmentation

Sun exposure also causes a butterfly pattern of hyperpigmentation patch seen on the cheeks and nose called melasma. Some of the other causes of melasma include pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations, birth control and hormonal therapy. It is a difficult to treat condition which often needs aggressive sun protection.

Other causes of hyperpigmentation include Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism and usage of certain medicines like minocycline.

Why should you visit a dermatologist?

It is important to visit a dermatologist to find out the exact cause of the pigmentation. If you have moles changing shape, colour, size, you must seek a dermatologist’s opinion immediately.

Once the problem is diagnosed, your dermatologist will try and treat the condition that is causing the pigmentation like skin disease, acne, etc. The hyperpigmentation itself can also be treated after the condition causing it is resolved.

How can one prevent hyperpigmentation?

Avoid scratching and get the skin condition diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist. It is important to avoid the triggering and causative factors. Avoid sun exposure, use a 30+SPF sunscreen providing broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays during all seasons, wear wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, use scarves and walk in shade. (Read: How to choose the best sunscreen)

What are the treatments available?

Skin lightening creams: Ointments with hydroquinone, kojic acid, azelaic acid, retinol, etc can be used but only through a prescription from a dermatologist as they have a potential to cause irritation, rebound hyperpigmentation and skin rashes.

Laser treatments: Some laser treatments like Q-switched, IPL, fractional lasers, etc will lighten the discoloration and may be used with or without home treatment and peels.

Chemical peels: Exfoliation with peels helps reduce pigmentation and even out the skin tone. There are several types of peels in the market, the milder ones like glycolic, mandelic, lactic, etc help in superficial exfoliation of the skin layers whereas some others such as TCA and phenol peels are stronger and penetrate more in the skin layers causing more exfoliation and peeling and are meant for more stubborn pigmentation such as melasma.

A series of peels are often required to lighten the pigmentation. Stronger peels on darker skin have a potential to cause side effects and hence must be properly administered by a dermatologist experienced in peels. This is often done usually after prepping the skin with creams and ointments.

Combination treatments: Combining 2-3 modalities helps better in reducing pigmentation. So after or during treatment with a skin lightening cream, your doctor might suggest a course of peels and laser treatments depending on your skin condition.

Maintenance after treatments

It is important to prevent sun exposure and use skin lightening creams prescribed by your doctor.

These treatments mentioned are permanent provided adequate sun protection and maintenance is followed. If not, some stubborn pigmentation problems like melasma and even sun spots come back.

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