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  • Mary Dealy

Hyperpigmentation - causes and treatment of dark patches of the skin

Updated: Jan 14



Hyperpigmentation, or dark spots on the skin, is one of the most common dermatologic conditions. From a clinical standpoint it is harmless and nothing more than an aesthetic nuisance, however it is a chronic condition and may worsen over time. Individuals who have this condition often feel self-conscious, and it effects their self esteem and quality of life. The good news is there are effective ways to treat and prevent it.


Hyperpigmentation results from production of excess melatonin, or the natural pigment that gives our skin, hair and eyes their color. A number of factors can trigger an increase in melatonin production, including excessive sun exposure, hormone fluctuations as in pregnancy, some medical conditions such as thyroid disease, and certain medications. Regardless of the cause, treatment is the same - however in order to understand the treatment, we need to understand what causes this condition.


Hyperpigmentation is caused by an excess of an Tyrosinase, the enzyme in your skin responsible for creating melanin. In order to make melanin, our skin cells (or melanocytes) create an enzyme called Tyrosinase. This enzyme is a key element in melanin production. However, the above mentioned conditions cause the skin cells go on over drive and make an excess of Tyrosinase - resulting in an excess of melanin and thus hyperpigmentation.


The most effective and common medication used in treating this condition is hydroquinone.


Hydroquinone works by inhibiting the activity Tyrosinase, and therefore decreasing the melanin production, and resolving hyperpigmentation. Used in prescriptive concentrations and under medical supervision, hydroquinone is a safe and effective treatment for most pigmentation conditions. This is prescribed in a skin cream either by itself or combined with topical steroids, retinol, glycolic acid, or specific vitamins.

It is very important to know that Hydroquinone should not be used for a long period of time (no more than 6 months), only under medical supervision, and with careful and compliant dosing. Using it for too long or too often may have a rebound effect and cause instability in the melanocyte cell, causing worsening pigmentation.


It is also important to be aware that while hydroquinone is improving the discoloration, it is also making the skin more photosensitive. Therefore it is imperative that proper sunscreen (SPF 30 or over and frequent reapplications) be used.


There are also non-hydroquinone treatments available and for many this is a great option. Discuss treatment options with a clinician who is trained in hyperpigmentation treatment.


Once the pigment is under control, a healthy maintenance system should then be put in place. The purpose of this treatment is to stabalise the cells in order to prevent them from being active all the time. This program should include vitamin C, retinol, melanin inhibitors and antioxidant vitamins E and C.


At BeautoxSkin, we are medical clinicians that are trained to treat this common and pesky skin condition. We use scientifically based ZOskinhealth hydroquinone and non-hydroquinone products and peels with excellent results. Book a free skin care consultation at www.beautoxetc.com


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