At Dr Haus Dermatology, we’re all about helping our patients, subscribers and other readers learn more about common skin conditions. As we saw in a previous post, knowledge is power – understanding a little about a new skin condition or flare-up is key to preventing stress that can sometimes make matters worse.
Obviously, there is no substitute for a definitive diagnosis but, in the first instance (perhaps before a first appointment), it’s always reassuring to have at least some idea of what the problem might be.
Skin hyperpigmentation covers a broad spectrum of concerns and is one of the most common reasons for visits to the dermatology clinic. In this article, we aim to explore the subject in more detail and to give you some distinctions that may be helpful for you or someone you know.
Hyperpigmentation could be defined as a darkening of the skin from its regular baseline colour, from whatever cause. It may occur in the form of diffuse, generalised skin darkening or localised spots or patches.
In a manner of speaking, a sun tan is a type of generalised hyperpigmentation – the same mechanism involved in producing that very welcome change of colour, is also involved in producing unwanted localised hyperpigmentation (e.g. blemishes, freckles and other skin imperfections).
While most lesions do not pose any serious medical threat, hyperpigmentation causes anxiety, and can be upsetting from the psychological point of view.
In essence, the sun, along with some other predisposing factors. Melanin is the skin’s pigment (brown in colour), which is normally produced in response to the sun (UV light) to protect against sun damage. But in the case of hyperpigmentation, melanin production goes into overdrive and is deposited irregularly in the skin, giving the appearance of dark spots or patches.
This melanin over-production can be triggered by existing sun damage, acne or other skin scarring, or inflammation carried over from a past flare-up of eczema or psoriasis (also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). Hyperpigmentation can sometimes also be caused by minor leakage from weak blood vessels, usually seen on the lower limbs. These lesions are known as pigmented purpuric dermatoses.
Melasma is a particular category of hyperpigmentation (covered in a previous post), that is linked to hormonal fluctuation. It is relatively common and affects mainly women, especially during pregnancy. Melasma typically presents on the forehead, nose, cheeks, chin and upper lip.
If dark spots appear on the skin from out of nowhere, it is almost certainly hyperpigmentation caused by previous over-exposure to the sun.
Normally, your dermatologist will cast an experienced eye over the affected area and ask questions about incidents in your medical and lifestyle history that may be relevant.
A hand-held microscope, known as a dermascope (or dermatoscope), might be used, but other sophisticated diagnostic techniques include digital imaging platforms, which provide an instant, pain-free and accurate view beneath the skin’s surface are also often used.
One of the baseline recommendations made by most dermatologists would be to apply daily, broad spectrum sun protection (sunscreen of SPF30 or higher) on affected areas. Topical treatments, such as hydroquinone, retinoids, corticosteroids, azelaic acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and/or oral medications may also be prescribed. Hyperpigmentation laser treatment is very often deployed, with reliably good results.
Most hyperpigmentation issues can be quickly, simply and effectively resolved. The one exception to this is melasma which, though classified a chronic condition, can be effectively managed over time. Melasma triggered by pregnancy often disappears soon after giving birth.
Dr Haus, our clinic founder, has over 20 years’ experience of treating hyperpigmentation conditions. Trained in Brazil, where there are many different tones and types of skin, and plenty of sun, he has what might be considered the ideal professional pedigree for hyperpigmentation treatment. However all of the dermatologists at our clinic are experienced at diagnosing and treating hyperpigmentation conditions and so rest assured, you will always be in good hands.
Dr Haus Dermatology in Harley Street was the first practice in the UK to offer patients ‘elos’ technology, a state-of-the-art platform that delivers laser, light and radio frequencies to treat hyperpigmentation. Other laser treatments include the Erbium and Fraxel modalities. Microneedling and drug delivery, with application of special serum, is another powerful tool in the Dr Haus Dermatology treatment kit.
If you, or someone you know, are troubled by the appearance of a new blemish, lingering skin discolouration following inflammation, or any kind of unusual skin pigmentation symptoms, contact us at Dr Haus Dermatology. It is always good practice to have skin changes checked to exclude more serious conditions, especially if you have a history of over-exposure to the sun.
Whether you are an existing patient or have found your way to this article because you have a pigmentation problem that is causing concern, we will be happy to hear from you at [email protected].
We look forward to welcoming you to our clinic as soon as possible.