Summer is in full-swing! All those BBQ’s, picnics, and beach days mean lots of overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays, which can lead to a major summer-bummer: sun damage.
After years of soaking up the sun, it is not uncommon develop dark “sun spots” on your face, chest, shoulders, etc. Those pesky spots are caused by hyperpigmentation, and can be quite difficult to get rid of.
What is hyperpigmentation and how can you treat it? Keep reading to find out more!
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation refers to darkening patches of skin that are caused by an increased production of melanin (the cells that give skin it’s color). Hyperpigmentation can be localized to small areas (like small sun spots), or can affect entire areas, such as the face (like Melasma).
What causes hyperpigmentation?
Excess sun exposure is the most common cause for hyperpigmentation.
Sun exposure actually stimulates the body to produce melanin which is why you get a tan. As the body ages, the distribution of pigmentation cells in the body becomes less regulated, and as sun damage sets in, those cells (melanocytes) become less uniformly distributed in the skin. This leads to dots and spots (aka hyperpigmentation) instead of a uniform color.
Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by skin irritation from certain medications (antibiotics, the Pill, Retin A, etc) , pigmentation disorders like melasma, hormone fluctuations, or even by using laser treatments in people with darker skin types.
Is hyperpigmenation harmful?
Hyperpigmentation itself is not necessarily harmful, but it is extremely important to keep a close eye on any changes in your skin.
Sometimes, those dark sun spots can be pre-cancerous, so it is a good idea to have a dermatologist or plastic surgeon check them out. Hyperpigmentation can also be related to certain medical conditions, (diabetes, hormone deficiencies, pregnancy, and certain fungal infections), so it’s always a good idea get regular check ups with your primary care doctor if you develop new changes in your skin’s tone and texture.
How do you treat hyperpigmentation?
Stay out of the sun!
Since that’s not always that practical (or fun!), using a good sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 is the best way to prevent hyperpigmentation. I like Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55, because its lightweight and easy to wear every day. You can also protect your skin with clothing, hats, and umbrellas to minimize the amount of rays that reach your skin.
If you already have sun spots, there are treatments available. Keep in mind that the damage didn’t happen overnight, and neither will reversing it. Plan on a few months of using regular use of lotions, serums, and other treatments before noticing a result.
There are many choices on the market for treating hyperpigmentation, so it’s important to know what works. Look for products that use hydroquinone, kojic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid), azelic acid, ascorbic acids, or tretinoin. I find that a combination of targeted ingredients helps reduce spots more effectively than one ingredient alone. Most “spot treatments” and skin lightening products available over-the-counter do not have any of the known skin lightening ingredients, so make sure to check the labels! Murad Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Gel has both glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone to help exfoliate and treat areas of hyperpigmentation (Sephora, $60). Products available from a doctors office have stonger concentrations of these skin lightening ingredients, so its always a good idea to see what your Plastic Surgeon or Dermatologist recomment. It is also extremely important to use a high SPF in conjunction with the use of any treatments!
At Manhattan Aesthetic Surgery, we offer a series of MAS Magnifique facials for hyperpigmentation using professional grade concentrations of glycolic acid, kojic acid, and azelic acid (not available over the counter or at Day Spas). For the best results, we recommend a series of 3 treatments with use of our Sunspot Series Skincare packages with a Skin Lightening Serum in between treatments.
For more information about treating hyperpigmentation, schedule an appointment with the MAS team at http://www.ManhattanAestheticSurgery.com or give me a call at 917-703-7069. We love to answer your questions and help you stay well-educated on looking and feeling your best!
Shea Slaymaker, PA-C
Physician Assistant, Beauty Expert
Manhattan Aesthetic Surgery