We all know how being out in the sun for too long will eventually lead to tanned skin and sometimes even sunburn. But did you know that the sun’s effects go beyond the tan?
For some people, being constantly exposed to the sun also causes irregular pigmentation on their skin. These usually appear as dark spots or patches, which some people call sun spots.
Sun spots and other dark patches on the skin are collectively known as hyperpigmentation. Apart from the sun, numerous other factors can cause various types of hyperpigmentation as well. If you have dark spots on your skin and have been wondering what the possible causes may be, you should take a look at some of these causes of hyperpigmentation:
- Sun exposure
As highlighted, prolonged or constant exposure to sunlight is one leading cause of hyperpigmentation. UV rays from the sun stimulate the production of melanin in your skin to protect you from the harmful effects of UV exposure, which is what happens when you are sun-tanning. But when the production of melanin occurs unevenly, it results in the appearance of dark patches.
Hormonal changes in the body that are natural or induced by medications can also be a trigger for hyperpigmentation. Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that appears as brownish discoloured patches on the face, and is commonly caused by hormonal changes. It is most common in women, often showing up during pregnancy or those on hormonal therapies.
- Skin inflammation
Hyperpigmentation can occur due to an injury to the skin. Whether it is an injury, surgical scar, or acne, the inflammation often triggers melanin deposition as a natural response. This leads to the formation of a darker patch of skin after the area has healed.
- Reaction to drugs
Some drugs are causes of skin pigmentation. These are some NSAIDs, antimalarial medication, antipsychotic drugs, and those containing heavy metals, amongst others. Certain ingredients may accumulate and cause changes in skin colour, or react with melanin to cause darkening of skin. Most drug-related hyperpigmentation is cumulative, meaning they worsen the more the drug is taken.
- Medical conditions
Certain health conditions also contribute to pigmentation irregularities. For example, people suffering from autoimmune diseases, metabolic issues, and gastrointestinal problems are more prone to hyperpigmentation.
Some people get hyperpigmentation more easily than others, even if they were exposed to sunlight for shorter durations. Birthmarks are also a form of pigmentation that is considered genetic in nature.
Is there a way to get rid of hyperpigmentation?
In most cases, hyperpigmentation itself is not harmful to one’s health. However, some people may find that these dark spots affect their self-image, as some people associate sun spots with age. Whatever the reason, you’ll be glad to know that there are indeed ways to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation spots.
Over-the-counter creams containing hydroquinone, azelaic acid, vitamin C, kojic acid or retinoids can help to lighten the skin. Alternatively, you can consider clinical treatments. In Singapore, pigmentation removal treatments at aesthetic clinics frequently involve laser techniques like the Pico laser or Q-switched laser. Although laser removals are still more invasive and expensive than your average OTC topical cream, the results are much quicker and more guaranteed.