Hyper pigmentation refers to skin that has turned darker than normal where the change that has occurred is unrelated to sun exposure. Hyper pigmentation is caused due to excessive production of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that is solely responsible for the color of the skin. Hyper pigmentation occurs due to the excessive secretion of melanocyte stimulating hormone that enhances the production of melanocytes. The melanocytes produce the pigment melanin. Hyper pigmentation affects the areas that are not exposed to light like the genital areas, armpits etc.
Hyper pigmentation may be caused by internal and external causes. Internal causes include hormonal imbalances such as pregnancy. An external cause for hyper pigmentation is sun exposure. Sots of brown may appear with sun exposure without the use of a sunblock.
There are a few types of hyperpigmentation that is based on the cause of the excess melanin and its appearance on the skin. These include melasma, age spots or liver spots, freckles, and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. It is also related with a number of diseases such as Addison's disease and other sources of adrenal insufficiency, in which the hormones induce melanin synthesis.
•Topical Whitening / Bleaching creams - Although Hydroquinone is one of the best-established topical agents for reducing skin pigmentation it is now a banned substance in most countries around the world. Their are excellent alternatives however, Arbutin, Kojic, Licorice, Vitamin C to name but a few. Most creams will take several weeks to produce results because even though the synthesis of new melanin is blocked quickly, the existing melanin takes a relatively long time to migrate out of the skin in the process of natural exfoliation.
•Hydroxy Acid Peels - They increase cell renewal rate and correct hyper pigmentation marks. Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble acids and can help remove hyperpigmentation.
•Laser resurfacing – Normal laser skin resurfacing works by evaporating the first few layers of damaged skin to leave behind a fresh, evenly toned skin. Hydroquinone or mild chemical peels are often recommended before laser resurfacing for best results.
•Intense pulsed light – IPL is a type laser that leaves no scares, can sometimes heals freckles or other mild sun spots without using peels or hydroquinone creams beforehand.
Skin hyperpigmentation is not a life threatening condition. Nevertheless, you should consult with your doctor to confirm that it is not melanoma, a form of skin cancer. In addition, you should see your doctor if you experience unexplained darkening or lightening or any skin sore or lesion that changes the color of the skin.