Hyperpigmentation is a dermatological disorder in which seemingly random areas of an individual's nails or skin become darker than his or her overall skin color. There are several different causes of hyperpigmentation, including sun damage, skin injuries, and diseases such as melasma, Celiac disease, and Addison’s disease. Hyperpigmentation treatment such as medication, topical solutions, and herbal preparations can help lighten the discolored areas.
All hyperpigmentation is caused by excessive production of melanin by cells in the skin. Melanin is the pigment which gives skin its color, and when melanin is overproduced by cells, it causes them to appear darker than those around them. Sunlight exposure can cause this effect, as well as many types of disease. One of the most common is melasma, which causes the formation of light brown or tan patches on the skin. This is a common occurrence in pregnant women.
Hyperpigmentation treatment for mild skin disorders such as melasma is quite straightforward. For many women, the darker patches fade after pregnancy, and no treatment is necessary. If not, the patches often respond to treatment with prescription hydroquinone creams. Women with melasma will also benefit from reducing their sunlight exposure, and using a high-SPF sunscreen whenever they are outdoors.
This type of hyperpigmentation treatment may also be useful for treating age spots, darker patches caused by acne, and freckles. In all of these cases hydroquinone can be applied to help lighten darker patches of skin. Avoiding sun exposure is also important, as even a small amount of exposure can cause enough melanin production to produce more patches of darker skin.
There are several other over-the-counter and prescription medications which can be used as a hyperpigmentation treatment. These include alpha-hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, and retinoids. Most of these preparations, including hydroquinone, are slow-acting, and must be applied for several weeks or months before hyperpigmented patches of skin begin to lighten. Use of these topical medications should be ceased immediately if the skin reddens and becomes painful or itchy.
While most forms of hyperpigmentation treatment involve the application of topical medications, a form of dermabrasion can also be used as a treatment. This is called cryosurgery, and involves the application of small amounts of liquid nitrogen to heavily pigmented areas of skin. This treatment works because melanin-producing cells are more sensitive to cold. When the liquid nitrogen is applied correctly, skin pigmentation can be successfully and permanently reduced. In some cases, however, the application of liquid nitrogen can have the opposite effect, and actually darken areas of hyperpigmentation.