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Hyperpigmentation 101: Types and Treatments with Dr. Boakye

Updated: Jan 17

If you’ve noticed dark spots on your skin, you might just be struggling with hyperpigmentation. To help us (and you) put our best face forward, we wanted to dive into what hyperpigmentation is and how to treat it. In addition to doing a little research of our own, we checked in with skincare expert and Dermatologist Naana Boakye, MD, MPH of Bergen Dermatology to learn more.



WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION?

Dr. Boakye shares that hyperpigmentation is “complex” and refers to “discoloration on the skin due to an injury or by an inflammatory process such as a rash or even acne. [Hyperpigmentation] can be due to an increase in melanin, or iron deposits (hemosiderin) or carotenoids.” Depending on your skin tone, it may be challenging to avoid hyperpigmentation.


It’s important to note that there’s no single cause of hyperpigmentation, and that it can be the result of various factors. According to Healthline, the most common types of hyperpigmentation are melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

  • Melasma (also called the “mask of pregnancy”) is caused by hormonal changes and commonly appears on the stomach and face.

  • Sunspots (also called age spots, liver spots, or solar lentigines) happen overtime as a result of excess sun exposure.

  • Finally, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs as a result of injury or inflammation to the skin, such as acne.


WHO GETS HYPERPIGMENTATION?

According to Dr. Boakye, anyone can get hyperpigmentation, but “hyperpigmentation is common in darker skin tones due to the increase in melanin production.” Those who are acne-prone may also be more susceptible to hyperpigmentation, since an acne scar may sometimes “appear as a hyperpigmented lesion.”


HOW TO TREAT HYPERPIGMENTATION

If you’d like to get rid of your hyperpigmentation for good, Dr. Boakye recommends these simple lifestyle changes:

  1. Leave your skin alone! “It’s important to not pick at your skin because this can damage the barrier, leading to more melanin deposition and increased hyperpigmentation.”

  2. Wear sunscreen. “It's imperative to wear SPF protection daily between 30-50. Visible light, which constitutes about 50% of the sun rays, can worsen hyperpigmentation.”

When looking to treat your hyperpigmentation with a topical solution, there are various factors to take into consideration, including your skin type. Whether your skin is oily, dry, normal, combination, or sensitive, definitely impacts the way you should care for it.

In general, Dr. Boakye says that the key is to “always use a cream that can restore the skin barrier. Karite Creme Corp body cream is a fantastic option because it has plant-based ingredients such as 30% unrefined shea butter, glycerin and sunflower seed oil to hydrate and repair the skin barrier. Look for skincare serums that contain ingredients that address hyperpigmentation, brighten and even the skin, including vitamin C, kojic acid, niacinamide and azelaic acid.”

Dr. Boakye’s Key to Skincare Confidence

"Keep your regimen simple and use products that are safe, but effective. Lastly, protect your investment with sunscreen."


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