Have you ever noticed areas of skin that are darker than the rest of your skin?
Those dark spots are hyperpigmentation: hyper means "over" and pigment means "color." Want some examples? Your new ankle boots rubbed against your skin in one tiny place as you walked around for a couple of hours and weeks late, you still have a dark spot there. You had acne that cleared up but the skin is a little darker there. Your shoulders have dark spots after sun exposure.
There are many, many examples of hyperpigmentation and a few different types, which we'll explain below. Spoiler alert: our products that target this condition were made to address all the types.
Many of Us Have a "Spotty" Record
Hyperpigmentation can affect people of any race or ethnicity, though it's often most noticeable on skin with lighter tones. Some types of hyperpigmentation become more common as we age, too.
Why Does It Happen?
Skin cells make a substance called melanin. It gives skin, hair and eyes their color. When cells make more than their usual amount of melanin, that's how hyperpigmentation happens.
Causes of melanin overproduction:
- acne, eczema, cuts, scrapes, even friction
- sun exposure
- certain medical conditions or medications
- hormone fluctuations
Types of Hyperpigmentation
There are three types of hyperpigmentation:
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, which is caused by irritation. In the examples above, the acne scar and dark mark on the ankle that was caused by ill-fitting boots are post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Though the skin has healed, the dark spot remains.
Age Spots are, as you can tell from their name, more common as we get older. They are sometimes called sun spots or liver spots (so called for the tan to dark brown color they share) and generally range in size from 1/10 of an inch to 1/2 an inch. They often appear on areas that have been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, so those who have fair or light skin, those who spent a lot of time in the sun or in tanning beds and those with a history of severe sunburns may be more likely to have age spots.
Melasma, which can appear freckle-like or as patches of darker skin, is often brought on by, among other factors, hormonal changes from life events like pregnancy (it's often called "the mask of pregnancy" because up to 50% of pregnant women), from certain medications including birth control pills and postmenopausal therapy, hypothyroidism and, again, genetics. Unlike the other types of hyperpigmentation, which tend to fade over time, melasma can be a chronic disorder in some people, getting lighter in winter and darker in summer.
How to Help Prevent Hyperpigmentation
In a Word: Sunscreen
For so many reasons, we should wear sunscreen every day—even on cloudy days, even in the winter, even when you are indoors. Look for one identified as "broad spectrum," meaning it blocks UVA and UVB rays. Other options include sunscreens called "physical blockers." These contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Beyond that, find a sunscreen you like using. You'll be more likely to use it consistently if you find it easy to apply, if it doesn't leave a white cast on your skin, if you like its scent (or lack of scent), if it doesn't run when you sweat, etc. With so many suExperts suggest using two tablespoons of sunscreen (or if using a spray, make the skin glisten evenly) to reach all areas of exposed skin and reapplying often. Don't skimp! It also helps to wear a large-brimmed hat and clothes that keep exposed skin to a minimum.
Don't pick at blemishes. If you get a scratch or cut that forms a scab, leave it alone. Don't rub too hard with products that physically exfoliate, like scrubs. Being gentle with your skin can prevent the irritation that causes post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
How To Target Hyperpigmentation
Many dark spots will fade in time on their own. Skincare can also help, if it targets the condition, as the following AllWell Beauty products do. But be consistent about sunscreen and not picking at your skin to prevent new hyperpigmentation as you address the old.
Daily Glow AOX Serum
- 87% showed improvements in the look of dark spots
- Vitamin C reduces several routes of skin discoloration
- Vitamin E helps prevent inflammation caused by UV light
- Niacinamide can prevent the transfer of melanin pigments to the top layer of the skin.
Illuminating 360° Eye Cream
- 81% noticed a reduction in the look of hyperpigmentation around the eyes.
- Like our serum, it contains niacinamide, which helps prevent new dark spots, and bisabolol, which is clinically proven to decrease melanin-related skin pigmentation caused by excessive UV exposure.
Botanical Radiance Face + Body Mask
- Made to be used anywhere on the body
- Formulated with inflammation-warding safflower oil, lavender oil, and clary sage oil
- 75% of participants in an independent clinical study experienced a visible improvement of hyperpigmentation when using the mask 3x weekly for 8 weeks
Have More Questions? Talk to Your Doctor
Seek out the expertise of a medical professional, if you want to know more about hyperpigmentation or any other skin issue.