Hyperpigmentation is an obsession for me. I’m not going to lie, my body is covered from head to toe with - as I call them, “polkadots”. After years of outdoor activities in the Arizona sun, my skin is hyperpigmented and I’ve become an expert in treating and preventing it. So, what is it and how do we get rid of it?
Hyperpigmentation is where your melanocytes decide to go into overdrive in order to protect you. It’s actually a reaction caused by a variety of factors such as sun, heat, artificial light, acne, hormones and more. These internal and external factors turn your melanocyte cells on and they churn out more melanin to protect themselves.
As no surprise, sun is the biggest culprit. When skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, melanocytes are stimulated and produce more melanin to help protect the skin from burning. UV light from the sun and artificial light from devices and even lightbulbs can do the same – cause overproduction of melanin – especially in darker skin tones. What most people don’t realize is heat will also cause hyperpigmentation. Your skin doesn’t know if you are in the sun, sitting in a sauna or in a hot yoga class. All it knows is there’s a threat which triggers melanocytes to go into overdrive.
There are also internal triggers that kick these cells into action. Hormones or an increase of estrogen will cause brown patches to surface. Also known as melasma because it differs from regular hyperpigmentation and is hormone influenced. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 90% of people who get melasma are women (although, it is possible for men to get melasma as well due to factors such as genetic predisposition, illness, or certain medications). Melasma can flare on its own, but sun exposure can exacerbate it. And let’s not forget about acne, cuts or bruises leaving behind something called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
No matter what the source, the end result is the same: melanocyte cells get triggered and start over producing melanin resulting in dark, brown spots that don’t seem to go away. So, how do we fight these little monsters?
Sunscreen is the first line of defense. Mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide such as the OM4 SunSecure Mineral SPF are the best protection against the full spectrum of light. You can even use them indoors to protect you from HEV blue light from your devices.
The OM4 Dry Collection is the best option for reducing existing hyperpigmentation, and for particularly pesky spots, the High Alpine Brightening Isolate is the most powerful treatment, formulated specifically for the treatment of hyperpigmentation.
There’s no one-size fits all when it comes to treating your hyperpigmentation. Combating discoloration requires a commitment to both at-home products and in-office treatments. A good rule of thumb is to prevent rather than correct. So, take measures to prevent your skin from the triggers in the first place and you’ll keep a clear, even toned complexion.
Written by Jennifer Sposato