Your skin is a very delicate organ and hyperpigmentation is often a result of environmental or internal factors damaging it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help prevent hyperpigmentation from occurring or work to reduce the appearance of it. Here, we chat with a derm about what causes skin pigmentation and how to get rid of dark spots.
To gain more insight on hyperpigmentation, we chatted with Deirdre Hooper, a New Orleans-based board-certified dermatologist and an associate clinical professor in the Department of Dermatology at both Louisiana State University and Tulane University. Here she breaks down everything you need to know about hyperpigmentation.
What is hyperpigmentation and how do you get it?
Hyperpigmentation is dark patches on the skin triggered by inflammation-trauma, acne and UV damage.
Are there certain skin types that make someone more susceptible hyperpigmentation?
Darker skin types are more likely to develop hyperpigmentation from acne and trauma to skin (picking at pimples and skin). All skin types develop pigment as part of the aging process, but I usually see more freckle-type splotches in lighter skin types and more overall unevenness in darker skin types.
How is hyperpigmentation different from melasma or dark spots?
It’s not, really. All of these are forms of hyperpigmentation. A board-certified dermatologist can help you distinguish exactly what your issue is. There are nuances to treatment, but all types of hyperpigmentation, in all skin types and colors, are helped by using sunscreen.
What kind of relationship does sunscreen have with hyperpigmentation?
Sunscreen is hugely important in preventing hyperpigmentation. It prevents the accumulation of photodamage that leads to brown spots and PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation), which is the hyperpigmentation that develops after acne.
Your skin cells respond to UV light by producing more melanin as a self-protective mechanism, and SPF blocks the light that injures the cells. All pigment, including a tan, is a sign of damage and injury. You can’t ever get a totally fresh start for skin once that happens, so you should set yourself up for a lifetime of better skin by using SPF every day. Using sunscreen is absolutely preventative and pays dividends for brighter, clearer skin for a lifetime.
What kind of sunscreen should people look for if they have hyperpigmentation?
All you need to look for is one that contains at least SPF 30 and is broad spectrum so that you are protecting yourself from not only UVB rays, but also UVA rays (the ones that penetrate windows and cause more skin damage). Easy ones to use that I recommend are Unseen and Superscreen.(Editor’s note: All Supergoop! sunscreens offer broad spectrum protection)
Aside from sunscreen, what’s the best way to prevent and treat hyperpigmentation?
See a board-certified dermatologist when it comes to how to treat hyperpigmentation. I find that a combination of prescription products, lasers and chemical peels offer the best success. When you are shopping for an over-the-counter product, look for antioxidants, like vitamin C and niacinamide. There are some gentle OTC peel pads containing AHA and BHA that can be effective with long term use. Over-the-counter hydroquinone at 2% is a good start, but if you aren’t seeing success after three months, see a derm.
+Have more questions about how to treat hyperpigmentation? Leave them in the comments and we’ll get Deirdre’s answer!