8 Treatment Options For Hyperpigmentation
Any time acne disrupts the natural balance of your skin, it can be hard to return to normal after the breakout is over. Many people experience scarring and irritation, but there’s another troubling effect of acne: hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when dark marks are left behind on the skin after a pimple heals. These marks are part of the top layer of skin, and they can give the skin an overall appearance of being blotchy and discolored. And if you’re living with hyperpigmentation, you should know that there are ways to eliminate these unwanted marks.
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The Difference Between Hyperpigmentation and True Acne Scarring
Although hyperpigmentation and scars are both caused by acne and can look similar, they differ significantly. While acne scarring leaves behind damage to the skin, the marks caused by hyperpigmentation don’t actually damage to the skin. Both depressed and raised acne scars are a result of damage to our tissue.
Hyperpigmentation is a result of inflammation. These marks are caused by an overproduction of melanin during the healing process, which gives the area a dark appearance. The worse the inflammation, the higher the likelihood that there will be hyperpigmentation in that spot post-healing.
While hyperpigmentation is frustrating for those who live with it daily, it’s a skin condition that’s otherwise harmless. Fortunately, the fact that it doesn’t actually damage the skin means that there are plenty of options to reduce its impact and help maintain even skin tone.
Here are eight treatment options to eliminate or reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation on your skin.
The most important tool in your arsenal for maintaining even skin tone and diminishing the appearance of hyperpigmentation is sunscreen. Any spots of hyperpigmentation will darken when they’re exposed to the sun.
So, the best thing you can do for spots of hyperpigmentation is stop them from getting darker. This will make them easier to remove. This makes sunscreen an absolute must.
If you’re wearing sunscreen every day, you’ll need to make sure you’re not using greasy, heavy, or pore-clogging formulas. Light, moisturizing sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block the sun’s rays are best.
2. Topical Retinoids
If you’re seeing a dermatologist for your hyperpigmentation, one of the first treatments that they’ll try with you is likely a topical retinoid. This is a type of cream, liquid, or gel that contains at least 0.01% retinoid.
Retinoid is a chemical that helps promote the growth of new skin cells. This can help fade your hyperpigmentation over time. Retinoids can irritate the skin, so if you’re trying to fade small marks of hyperpigmentation, you’ll only need to apply it to the necessary areas.
Hydroquinone is another popular treatment for hyperpigmentation and dark spots on the skin, and it’s been used successfully for decades. It works by inhibiting an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is associated with the production of melanin.
Hydroquinone is available in some over-the-counter creams, but it can be prescribed by a dermatologist if you need a more concentrated formula. You’ll need to use it for a few months before you really see results. When applying the cream, be careful not to blend it into areas outside of your hyperpigmentation, as it will lighten normal skin over time.
4. Kojic Acid
Kojic acid works by inhibiting certain factors that contribute to the darkening of skin. It should be used as a spot treatment only, and is often combined with hydroquinone for maximum efficacy.
Kojic acid is potentially irritating to skin, so it’s best to start with an extremely small dose and eventually work up to a larger dose over time. It’s also a good idea to apply it first to a patch of skin on the body rather than the face, and wait one or two days to see whether irritation develops. Talk to your dermatologist before beginning to use this to treat your hyperpigmentation.
5. Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are one of the least invasive ways to treat hyperpigmentation. A common ingredient in many skincare products, AHAs work by speeding up the exfoliation process, which helps slough off dead skin cells and regenerate skin faster.
A dermatologist can give you prescription for a treatment with a higher concentration of AHAs for hyperpigmentation. These products are designed to leave skin smooth and soft, and will help even out skin tone.
6. Laser Treatment
If you’re dealing with large patches of hyperpigmentation that don’t seem to fade no matter what treatments you try, you may want to consider lasers. A laser treatment is designed to break up the pigment particles that are contributing to hyperpigmentation. It’s done in a dermatologist’s office, and will usually take a series of treatments to get results.
The benefit of laser treatment is that it’s non-invasive and only causes mild discomfort. There’s no need for sedation, and treatments are usually over in half an hour or less. However, laser treatments can be quite costly.
7. Chemical Peels
Another way to reduce the appearance of dark spots is to encourage cell turnover through a chemical peel. There are several different types of chemical peels that range in intensity from light to deep, and you can have them done at a dermatologist’s office.
Chemical peels help increase collagen production and promote the growth of new skin cells as the acid works to remove the damaged upper layer of skin. Salicylic acid and mandelic acid are both beneficial for people with hyperpigmentation and can be applied in moderate amounts to treat hyperpigmentation with minimal discomfort.
Microdermabrasion is a procedure that can be performed by a dermatologist to remove dead skin cells sitting on the top layer of skin. This helps speed up cell turnover, and the procedure can immediately lighten the appearance of hyperpigmented areas.
Many dermatologists recommend a series of microdermabrasion sessions spaced a few weeks apart. This will improve the overall look of skin and even out skin tone. Unlike more intense dermabrasion, side effects from microdermabrasion are usually minimal.