Hyperpigmentation: Understanding Freckles, Acne Marks, Melasma, and Sunspots
Understanding Freckles, Acne Marks, Melasma, and Sunspots
Smooth, even skin tone is synonymous with healthy, beautiful skin. Unfortunately, hyperpigmentation such as freckles, melasma, sunspots, and acne marks are common skin issues that may not resolve on their own without intervention. There are many treatment options available for the correction of hyperpigmentation. In this two part series, we will learn more about hyperpigmentation and skin lightening creams.
Part I: Understanding Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is a buildup of melanin, the dark pigment that colors our skin, hair, and eyes. . The body uses melanin to protect the DNA of epidermal cells from harmful UV rays.
The Production of Melanin
Melanin is produced by the oxidation of the amino acid tyrosine. This process is triggered when the skin is exposed to the sun. UV B radiation triggers the secretion of a hormone that stimulates melanocytes, spider shaped cells found in the stratum basale (the deepest layer of the epidermis) to produce more melanin to protect the skin. Once melanocytes create melanin, the pigment is diffused into the surrounding skin cells called keratinocytes.
TYPES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION
There are many forms of Hyperpigmentation. Freckles, melasma, acne marks and sunspots are the most common. Each type of hyperpigmentation has a unique physiological process, but basically, hyperpigmentation is caused by the overproduction of melanin.
When the skin is exposed to the sun, UV B radiation triggers melanocytes to produce more melanin to protect the skin. The melanin builds up into a localized spot and diffuses into the surrounding skin cells called keratinocytes, producing a freckle.
Melasma is a common form of hyperpigmentation, especially in women during their reproductive years. While Melasma can occur anywhere on the body, it is typically found on the checks, jawline, forehead, and around the mouth. Melasma is most commonly caused by UV exposure from the sun. However, Melasma is also triggered by hormonal changes, such as those seen in pregnancy.
Brown spots, age spots, or liver spots are different names for the same type of hyperpigmentation known as solar lentigos. These spots usually occur on the face, neck, chest and the back of the hands. While age spots usually appear later in life, they are caused by sun exposure, not aging. Age spots occur when UV radiation causes melanocytes to multiply. Age spots are bigger than freckles, sharply defined, and usually black, brown, or grey in color.
ACNE MARKS / PIGMENTATION SCARS
Acne marks or acne pigmentation scars refer to the discoloration that remains after acne. These marks, technically known as macules, are flat spots of discolored pigmentation. They can range in color from pink to black. Dark acne marks that are brown or black in color are usually a result of Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH.)
What Causes PIH?
Sun exposure is not the only thing that triggers the production of melanin. During inflammatory injuries to the epidermis, such as acne, the skin synthesizes more melanin to aid in the healing process. PIH occurs when the body produces too much melanin in response to an inflammatory injury. PIH can occur in all skin types; however, it is more prevalent in darker skin tones. PIH typically dissipates on its own, but can take months to years to do so.
Part II: Hyperpigmentation Treatments with Kojic Acid
In part II of SKINNEY Medspa’s series, we will learn about the popular topical ingredient for lightening hyperpigmentation, Kojic Acid.