Hyperpigmentation occurs when melanocytes produce excessive melanin in one area, or when melanin is not distributed evenly in the epidermis.
Common causes of hyperpigmentation are sun damage, excessive amounts of oestrogen, ageing and pollution.
- Brown uneven patches of skin visible on the surface.
- Overproduction of melanin and the unregulated distribution of the melanin granules result in the deposits of brown patches on the surface.
- Hyperpigmentation may also occur post-inflammatory as a result of healing following injury to the skin.
- Melasma occurs during pregnancy due to the overproduction of oestrogen being unable to be adequately processed by the liver. These brown patches usually disappear after birth when hormones settle down.
- Pollution and UV radiation combine to create age spots in mature skins.
How do we address this skin condition:
- Prevention is the key with this condition.
- Avoid extended exposure to direct sunlight or apply a sunscreen over griffin+row Nourish or Enrich before exposing yourself to the sun.
- Stay out of the sun completely while your skin is healing, such as following surgery or injury.
- Use antioxidant rich skincare, such as griffin+row, as this will help neutralise the effects of free radicals in UV radiation and airborne pollution.
- Cleanse twice a day to remove pollution from your skin, including nanoparticles which settle on your skin, are invisible to the naked eye and wreak havoc on your skin.
- Once dark spots are present, medical options may include laser treatment or surgery. Most of these treatments are temporary at best and may in fact exacerbate the condition. It is therefore highly recommended that medical advice is obtained from a dermatologist before spending hundreds of dollars on treatments that have no evidence of their long-term effectiveness.
griffin+row Cleanse works well at efficiently removing makeup and airborne pollution from your skin, without upsetting your skin’s natural acid balance.
Hyperpigmentation comes in many shapes, forms and sizes. It can plague skin types because of age, as a consequence of a skin condition and even as a result of sun exposure. Hyperpigmentation can be treated effectively with changes to a person’s lifestyle and skincare routine.
Hyperpigmentation is not inevitable. Following a preventative skincare regimen can help to avoid its contraction. Hyperpigmentation does not have to be permanent. Using appropriate skincare to treat and refresh skin can help reverse its effects. Hyperpigmentation may not be a standalone skin condition. Identifying an individual’s unique triggers and causes will help design an effective anti-hyperpigmentation skincare routine.
What is hyperpigmentation?
A person’s natural skin colouration is determined by unique and specific expression of a pigment called melanin. There are two types of melanin humans express – a red/yellow pigment called pheomelanin and a brown/black pigment called eumelanin. The type of melanin granules produced alongside the size, number and distribution of melanin producing organelles i.e. melanosomes determines an individual’s skin colour1. The number of melanocytes – melanosome producing cells, has no correlation to skin tone. Melanocyte cells produce melanosome organelles which distribute themselves inside of skin cells to produce melanin pigment granules.
Skin colouration is genetically determined however may be temporarily changed on exposure to sunlight with melanin exhibiting mild to moderate photo protective effects2. Initial exposure to sunlight causes a temporarily surface re-distribution of melanin granules3, with long term exposure causing an increase in melanin manufacture.
In cases of hyperpigmentation melanin granules are over produced and unevenly distributed resulting in a patchy, uneven skin tone.
What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation has many causes. Effective treatment of hyperpigmentation can only be made when the primary cause has been identified and therefore the best treatment plan evolved. Causes of hyperpigmentation range from;
- Sun exposure
- Hormones e.g. melasma often nicknamed the ‘mask of pregnancy’
- Age e.g. age spots/liver spots
- Acne/spots/wounds – post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Medication e.g. oral contraceptives
- Sun exposure
- Hormonal changes (age, medication, pregnancy)
- Damage (may be caused by acne, eczema, harsh skincare treatments or similar)
- Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Solar lentigos
Solar lentigos are caused by exposure to sunlight specifically UVA which may penetrate directly to the depth of melanocyte cells. Recent studies show other environmental factors such as air pollution may play a contributory role5. It is noted that the melanogenic potential of melanocytes is elevated in areas of skin affected by solar lentigos. UVA light is believed to cause the release of pigmentation controlling factors as is evidenced by the ability to tan, however, UVA light can also cause DNA damage therefore adversely affecting or overpowering natural processes in targeted areas of skin6. Solar lentigos are most commonly referred to as age or liver spots.
Melasma is a form of pigmentation expressed as a consequence of a change in hormones and accompanied sensitivity to sunlight. Melasma may be experienced during puberty as a result of contraceptive medication or pregnancy.
What does hyperpigmentation look like?
The size, look and texture of hyperpigmentation is in some part determined by its cause. Areas of hyperpigmentation will appear markedly darker than areas of surrounding skin. In cases of hyperpigmentation these often resolve as roughly edged circular spots up to a centimetre in size. In cases of melasma i.e. hormone induced pigmentation, these patches may expand to cover what is referred to as the butterfly area of skin – T-zone and cheeks.
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is determined mostly by the area of trauma. In acne lesions post inflammatory hyperpigmentation resolves as a small area of darkened skin a few millimetres in size. In cases of skin trauma caused by eczema or direct contact, the area of hyperpigmentation often takes on an area similar in size to the initial area of trauma.
Which skin types are most prone to hyperpigmentation?
Darker skin types are known to have an increased risk of hyperpigmentation relative to those with pale/Caucasian skin types. Dark skin type including those of Asian, Mediterranean, African and Latin descent have an increased pigmentation risk.
How can hyperpigmentation be treated?
Hyperpigmentation does not have to be an inevitable consequence of genetics, it also does not have to be accepted. With prevention, hyperpigmentation can be lessened and even avoided. With appropriate skincare, existing areas of hyperpigmentation may be decreased and even resolved.
There are 2 primary methods of pigmentation prevention;
- Daily sun protection
- Use of antioxidant rich skincare
griffin+row Exfoliate is a natural muslin cotton cloth that will exfoliate your skin gently and evenly to remove the top layer of dead cells from your skin, giving your skin a glowing and radiant look, and also aiding the absorption of the antioxidant-rich moisturiser into your skin.
- Skin lightening actives
For treatment of deep reaching hyperpigmentation or ongoing treatment of hyperpigmentation caused by hormone imbalance, skin lightening actives may be appropriate. Skin lightening actives interact with the biological steps required to manufacture melanin. Many skin lightening actives treat hyperpigmentation by inhibition of an enzyme named tyrosinase9. The tyrosinase enzyme is rate limiting, meaning if it is indisposed, melanin creation will not occur. Other controversial skin lightening actives cause cytotoxicity of melanocytes rendering then inactive.
Which skin lightening actives are used to treat disorders of hyperpigmentation?
Skin lightening treatments vary from shelf available to over the counter to prescription. They range in concentration from those designed for mild hyperpigmentation to products designed for deeper reaching melasma. Their safety profile and side effects go from minimal to causing alternate disorders of pigmentation.
- Niacinamide ( also paired with N-acetyl glucosamine)
- Vitamin C
- Kojic acid
In addition to these four well known skin lightening and brightening actives, many skincare preparations also use ingredients such as;
- Azelic acid
- Retinoids – (vitamin A) safety concerns regarding sun sensitivity
- Ellagic acid – naturally found in fruits and vegetables/ found in skincare within pomegranate extracts
- Liquorice extract
An effective anti-pigmentation skincare routine should feature both methods of prevention – daily use of sun protection and an antioxidant rich moisturiser alongside a preferred method of hyperpigmentation treatment.
- Brenner, M. and Hearing, V. J. (2008), The Protective Role of Melanin Against UV Damage in Human Skin†. Photochemistry and Photobiology, 84: 539–549. doi:10.1111/j.1751-1097.2007.00226.x
- Gilchrest, B. A., M. S. Eller, A. C. Geller and M. Yaar (1999) The pathogenesis of melanoma induced by ultraviolet radiation. N. Engl. J. Med. 340, 1341–1348.
- Routaboul, C., A. Denis and A. Vinche (1999) Immediate pigment darkening: Description, kinetic and biological function. Eur. J. Dermatol. 9, 95–99.
- Latest insights into skin hyperpigmentation. Ortonne JP, Bissett DL. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2008 Apr;13(1):10-4. doi: 10.1038/jidsymp.2008.7.
- Nakamura, M., Morita, A., Seité, S., Haarmann-Stemmann, T., Grether-Beck, S. and Krutmann, J. (2015), Environment-induced lentigines: formation of solar lentigines beyond ultraviolet radiation. Exp Dermatol, 24: 407–411. doi:10.1111/exd.12690
- Comprehensive analysis of melanogenesis and proliferation potential of melanocyte lineage in solar lentigines. Yamada T, Hasegawa S, Inoue Y, Date Y, Arima M, Yagami A, Iwata Y, Abe M, Takahashi M, Yamamoto N, Mizutani H, Nakata S, Matsunaga K, Akamatsu H. J Dermatol Sci. 2014 Mar;73(3):251-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2013.11.005. Epub 2013 Nov 14.
- Wagener FADTG, Carels CE, Lundvig DMS. Targeting the Redox Balance in Inflammatory Skin Conditions. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2013;14(5):9126-9167. doi:10.3390/ijms14059126.
- Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. Epidermis and Its Renewal by Stem Cells.
- Disorders of hyperpigmentation. Pandya AG, Guevara IL. Dermatol Clin. 2000 Jan;18(1):91-8, ix.
- Draelos, Z. D. (2007), Skin lightening preparations and the hydroquinone controversy. Dermatologic Therapy, 20: 308–313. doi:10.1111/j.1529-8019.2007.00144.x
- Research, Center for Drug Evaluation and. “About the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research – Hydroquinone Studies Under The National Toxicology Program (NTP)”. www.fda.gov.
- Gehring, W. (2004), Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 3: 88–93. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2130.2004.00115.x
- Hakozaki, T., Minwalla, L., Zhuang, J., Chhoa, M., Matsubara, A., Miyamoto, K., Greatens, A., Hillebrand, G.G., Bissett, D.L. and Boissy, R.E. (2002), The effect of niacinamide on reducing cutaneous pigmentation and suppression of melanosome transfer. British Journal of Dermatology, 147: 20–31. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04834.x
- Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: etiologic and therapeutic considerations. Callender VD, St Surin-Lord S, Davis EC, Maclin M. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2011 Apr 1;12(2):87-99. doi: 10.2165/11536930-000000000-00000
- Positive regulation of melanin pigmentation by two key substrates of the melanogenic pathway, L-tyrosine and L-dopa. Słominski A, Moellmann G, Kuklinska E, Bomirski A, Pawelek J. J Cell Sci. 1988 Mar;89 ( Pt 3):287-96.
- Final report of the safety assessment of Kojic acid as used in cosmetics. Burnett CL, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, Hill RA, Klaassen CD, Liebler DC, Marks JG Jr, Shank RC, Slaga TJ, Snyder PW, Andersen FA. Int J Toxicol. 2010 Nov-Dec;29(6 Suppl):244S-73. doi: 10.1177/1091581810385956.