We all want skin that’s evenly toned and uniform in color. But oftentimes, a variety of factors come into play that make our skin look red, splotchy, dark or discolored. Not all hyperpigmentation is equal, and there are many reasons for it to show up on the skin. In order to properly treat it, and get rid of it for good, you need to know what caused it in the first place.
When it’s acne related…
Why it happens: Acne, and the inflammation that comes along with it, can cause hyperpigmentation on the skin, even long after the blemish has healed. Although inflammation is part of the cycle of a breakout that can’t be completely eliminated, the more inflamed the follicle becomes, the more likely the blemish is to scar. Inflammation is a natural response mechanism ignited by the body that is necessary for a pimple to heal and fade. Known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), the physical texture of the skin isn’t affected, just the color of it. The deeper the inflammation, the darker the discoloration and the longer it will take to fade.
How to get rid of it: Topical products that work to lighten and brighten, like REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask ($59), may reduce how dark a spot may be, especially if you are prone to post-acne discoloration. Hydroquinone, salicylic acid and retinol may also be recommended. Chemical peels can also clear up some acne scars and work best on dark spots. If your spots are flat and red, one to two sessions of a redness reducing laser like VBeam or IPL can help.
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When it’s sun related…
Why it happens: UV rays produce excess melanin, which is deposited in the skin. These spots, which are usually light to dark brown, and occur on the face, chest and hands, can make the skin look much older than it really is.
How to get rid of it: The best way to treat sun-related discoloration is with a retinoid and IPL or a fractional laser resurfacing treatment. IPL works by sending a beam of light through skin that seeks out melanin. As the light is absorbed by the pigment, it breaks up the pigment so it’s less visible on the skin, and a series of treatments is needed to make a difference. Lasers deliver a beam of fractionated energy to the skin to incite a wound-healing response and correct hyperpigmentation.
When it’s hormonal…
Why it happens: Pregnancy, birth control and menopause can all cause a spike in melanin production. In fact, one reason why hyperpigmentation is one the rise is because more birth control is being prescribed than ever before. Many doctors correlate the surge in hyperpigmentation to things like birth control and hormone replacement therapy due to sudden shifts in hormone levels. The surge in hormones coupled with sun exposure causes the skin to darken in color from light to medium brown.
How to get rid of it: Often referred to as melasma, hydroquinone and Retin-A are often prescribed by doctors to treat the hyperpigmentation. Other treatments that are effective include salicylic, lactic or glycolic peels and IPL, as well as using vitamin C products, like Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster ($128), at home.
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