There is often confusion between hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. Hyperpigmentation refers to the darkening of the skin, while hypopigmentation refers to the lightening of the skin. A person’s skin may change colour either way due to factors such as injury and illness. Below are the key differences between the two.
Hyperpigmentation and the Skin
Hyperpigmentation in the skin is caused by an increase in melanin, the substance responsible for colour. Certain conditions like Addison’s Disease and pregnancy can increase the production of melanin. Another cause for hyperpigmentation is sunlight exposure, which can darken areas which already have hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by various medications, including some antibiotics, contraceptive pills, antiarrhythmics and antimalarial drugs.
This condition is something we see often at Rejuvenation Clinics of Australia. Melasma, or otherwise known as Chloasma, or the ‘mask of pregnancy’, is characterised by tan or brown patches, most commonly found on the face, especially on the forehead, upper lip or lateral cheeks. Melasma often occurs in pregnant women as a result of hormonal changes. However, men can also develop this condition. Melasma sometimes goes away after pregnancy. It can also be treated with certain prescription creams such as hydroquinone, or skincare serums that target pigmentation, such as those containing SymWhite (a pigment inhibitor derived from pine trees) or Vitamins B and C which have been show to help even out and regulate skin tone.
If you do have melasma, it is best to limit your exposure to sunlight, especially between the hours of 10 am to 2pm, when the sun’s UV rays are at their peak. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and use sunscreen with an SPF 30+ or higher at all times, as sunlight will worsen your condition. Sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are also a necessity for anyone with Melasma.
It is best if you consult with our qualified practitioners before treating the condition yourself.
One good way to treat hyperpigmentation is the M22 IPL Laser. It is a newer version of IPL technology used in the cosmetic medical industry and it is extremely effective at treating an array of skin conditions, including hyperpigmentation and sun damage. However, we must stress that the M22 IPL Laser does not suit hormonal hyperpigmentation like melasma.
As the M22 IPL laser uses certain wavelengths of intensified light to target skin imperfections, it is safe and effective at minimising the appearance of uneven pigment, skin tone, unwanted hair and vascular lesions. The good thing about the M22 IPL laser is that it offers patients to tailor their treatment to a variety of skin care needs with one visit and treatment system.
Eileen, one of our patients at Rejuvenation Clinics of Australia was recently treated with the M22 IPL Laser below is a series of photos showing how her skin improves overtime:
Hypopigmentation and the Skin
Hypopigmentation, otherwise known as skin depigmentation, is the absence of normal amounts of melanin in the skin.
The most common causes of hypopigmentation is damage or trauma to the skin. This can include:
- Burns or other trauma to the skin.
Hypopigmentation is more difficult to treat. There are some topical prescription medications that may help, as well as some laser treatments, such as the Fraxel Restore laser. Improvement can be slow and it may depend on the nature of your skin’s condition.
Some skin conditions which have elements of hypopigmentation include:
- Vitiligo: An autoimmune disorder in which the pigment-producing cells are damaged, causing smooth, white patches on the skin. There is no cure for vitiligo, but there are several treatments including ultraviolet light treatments corticosteroid creams and cosmetic cover-ups.
- Albinism: A rare inherited disorder caused by the absence of enzymes which produce melanin. This results in a loss of pigmentation in the skin, eyes or hair. There is no treatment or cure for albinism, but people with it should use sunscreen at all times, because they are more likely to get sun damage and skin cancer.
- Pigmentation loss as a result of skin damage: Skin infections, burns, blisters or other traumas to the skin may result in a loss of pigmentation in the affected area. As this type of pigment loss is not permanent, there are cosmetics that can be used to cover the area, while the body regenerates the pigment.
If you are concerned with either hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, it is best to come to RCA for a thorough consultation with one of our experienced practitioners.