Living With Dark Skin Patches
Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition where dark patches develop due to excess melanin production. Hyperpigmented spots can occur in small patches or cover large areas of the body. While harmless, hyperpigmentation can signal an underlying cause. Hyperpigmentation can be caused by certain medications, conditions, sun exposure, hormone fluctuations, and a rare endocrine disorder called Addisonís disease.
Type of hyperpigmentation
Before discussing treatment options, a dermatologist will determine the type of hyperpigmentation present. A few of the common types of hyperpigmentation include sunspots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Also called liver spots or solar lentigines, sunspots are caused by overexposure to the sun. Sunspots typically appear in areas most exposed to the sun, such as the face and hands.
Hormone changes during pregnancy can cause melasma. This is a skin condition characterized by patches of discoloration on the face, neck, and forearms.
This type of hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin becomes injured. One common occurrence is after an acne-related injury.
Diagnosis and treatment
A dermatologist can determine the cause of hyperpigmentation by reviewing the patient’s medical history and performing a physical exam. Doctors may perform a skin biopsy to identify an underlying cause of hyperpigmentation. Topical prescription medication containing hydroquinone can lighten the skin. Frequent use of topical medicines containing hydroquinone without breaks can darken the skin over time. Consult with a dermatologist to develop a safe treatment plan.
Custom skincare medication
Prolonged use of hyperpigmentation medication can worsen dark spots. Compounding pharmacies can formulate personalized drugs containing the right amount of hydroquinone, as well as some topical retinoids to lighten the dark spots and improve the effectiveness of the medication. Topical treatment can take months to take effect.
Topical treatment ingredients
There are a few common elements of compound hyperpigmentation creams. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and absorb deep into the epidermis to reduce melanin but can increase sun sensitivity. Hydroquinone reduces melanin in the skin and works best with retinoids. Kojic acid is derived from fungi and is used to reduce the production of melanin. Methimazole is an anti-thyroid medication that can block the formation of melanin on the skin.
Playing hide-and-seek with the sun
While the compound medication gets to work, patients should take active steps to reduce sun exposure. Broad-spectrum sunscreen between SPF 30-50 is recommended. Hats and sun-blocking clothing, as well as avoiding the sun during peak hours, can significantly reduce hyperpigmentation. A comprehensive treatment plan can reverse the darkest spots and stop further melanin production. For more information, speak with a dermatologist or pharmacist to learn about customized skincare treatment.