Hyperpigmentation: The Different Spots on Your Skin

Think those dark spots on your face or body have to be with you forever? Not so. Hyperpigmentation has a variety of causes. But with an array of treatments available, from the tried-and-true to groundbreaking, you can get rid of discoloration for good. In order to diminish hyperpigmentation you must always protect your skin from the sun, otherwise you run the risk of it returning. Once you find a regimen that works for you, stick with it—even if it requires a lifetime of maintenance— to prevent your discoloration from ever returning. 

If you see large dark patches then you have melasma.
Known as “the mask of pregnancy,” melasma is one of the harder types of hyperpigmentation to correct because it is tied to estrogen and progesterone (found in birth control pills) and can affect the deep dermal layers of the skin.

If you see isolated discoloration then you have sunspots.
Aptly named, sunspots appear from prolonged sun exposure over extended periods of time. In more mature skin, sunspots may be accompanied by skin that has a crinkly texture. Sunspots vary in size and color—they can be dark brown or gray, or almost black, and are usually flat, but bigger than a freckle. They’re normally found on the hands, sides of the face, chest and neck, and any other part of the body that’s regularly exposed to the sun. 

If you see clusters of small brown spots, then you have freckles.
Whether you had them as a child or developed them later on in life, freckles don’t have to be part of your complexion if you don’t want them to be. Freckles are small (about the size of a pinhead) and flat. They can vary in color from brown to red to tan and can be found on any part of the body that’s exposed to the sun, like the face, nose, shoulders and chest.

If you see spots after breakouts then you have post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Long after a breakout or inflammation has healed, its effects may linger with red or brown spots known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). PIH appears as spots that can be brown (if the excess melanin is produced in the upper layers of skin or if your skin is naturally dark), red or pink (if your skin is pale) or gray or blue (if the extra melanin is made in the dermis). Unlike acne scars, PIH is not pitted or depressed—the skin is still smooth to the touch. The more inflamed the breakout (think cystic acne, pustules or red bumps) the darker the spot; spots that fade in days or weeks contain less inflammation. The darker the scar, the longer it will take to heal.

Read three ways to clear hyperpigmentation here.

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