What is Hyperpigmentation and what causes the blotchiness?
Posted by Renay Robertson on 17 February 2020
Thanks to the harsh New Zealand sun, most of us have some degree of Hyperpigmentation. But what is it? How is it caused? And, Can it be treated?
What is hyperpigmentation?
Pigmentation is the natural colouring of our skin which is determined by a pigment called melanin. Melanin is made by our melanocyte cells. When our melanocyte cells become damaged they overproduce melanin causing darker patches to appear on our skin which is referred to as hyperpigmentation, age spots and liver spots.
Common causes of hyperpigmentation:
Sun exposure is an incredibly common cause of hyperpigmentation in New Zealand. The sun’s harsh UV rays stimulate the production of free radicals* that in turn, stimulate the production of melanin. The excess melanin forms clusters, which result in uneven patches, forming liver or age spots, or general blotchiness on the surface of the skin. This type of hyperpigmentation is usually located in areas of the skin most often exposed to the sun, such as the hands, face, arms, shoulders and forehead.
*Free radicals are simple molecules with an electron missing. To try to become 'whole' again, they steal an electron from other molecules within the body and in so doing, cause small changes to our physiology each time.
Hormonal changes in pregnancy and menopause can also cause hyperpigmentation, as the hormones can stimulate melanocytes to produce more melanin. This is known as melasma and manifests with patches of hyperpigmentation on the face including the forehead, cheeks, upper lip and chin. There is often a family history of melasma and it usually first occurs during pregnancy.
Tips for avoiding hyperpigmentation
- Limit sun exposure
- Wear a good quality broad spectrum SPF 365 days of the year and reapply during the day. Tip – if wearing make-up, a great way to top-up is by using a mineral powder which will create a physical barrier to protect your skin.
- Avoid picking the skin. To prevent hyperpigmentation from forming after the skin has been injured, avoid picking at spots, scabs, and acne.
How to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and age spots
The uneven skin tone that hyperpigmentation creates causes us to look more aged than, well..., ageing itself. For this reason, it is common for us to want to treat it and reduce its appearance.
The best place to start is by booking a Skin Fit consultation with one of our expert skin therapists. They will assess your skin and develop a customised treatment plan for your skin and your budget - no one-size-fits-all membership plan needed.
References: Ultraceuticals; Medical News Today.