Quite simply, hyperpigmentation is over-pigmentation of the skin, leading to skin darkening which can be somewhat of a beauty bother for some of us. Hyperpigmentation can be widespread (known as ‘diffuse’) or can be localised to small areas, particularly after we’ve had inflammation in the skin from blemished or other skin complaints. The Geeks are here to shine some light on this cosmetic concern and see what we can do to tackle it head on!

The Causes of Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is essentially over-production and deposition of the skin’s pigment melanin. Melanin colours both our skin and our hair, and comes in a number of different form, which account for differences in hair and skin colour between different people. Everyone known that exposure to the sun’s UV rays ups our melanin (hello tan!), but overdoing it on a regular basis can lead to hyperpigmentation of the skin which we see as age spots!

Other causes of localised hyperpigmentation include inflammation, like after an angry spot has finally taken its leave! The inflammatory process, which involves a lot of signalling molecules and mediators, can stimulate the melanin-producing cells in the skin to produce and deposit more melanin in the skin, leading to skin darkening in these areas.

Getting to the Root of the Problem
If there’s a clear cause of hyperpigmentation, like acne or other skin conditions, then it’s super important to tackle these problems first.  Because these can cause hyperpigmentation, there really isn’t much point in trying to tackle the pigmentation without first controlling the cause!

Tackling Localised Hyperpigmentation
For mild hyperpigmentation that you want to have a go at treating at home, there are a surprising amount of options out there for you!

The first recommendation for hyperpigmented skin is to protect it from UV rays because these are so well known to induce melanin production. Sunscreens and sun blockers (we’re thinking hats and shawls people!) are a first point of call. Sunscreens like titanium dioxide that work to physically block UV rays (rather than chemically absorb them) are the recommended approach.

A lot of you will already be familiar with the use of alpha and beta hydroxyl acids in cosmetics, which have become very popular indeed in the last few years! Glycolic acid is perhaps the most famous and widely-used of these, and is often included in products that claim to brighten and renew the complexion. AHAs in particular have been shown to improve the appearance of hyperpigented skin, with a load of studies showing topical application has significant benefits. A lot of this research has focussed on photoaged skin and related hyperpigmentation, and these agents have even been shown to help improve the appearance of wrinkles too.

A science-savvy way to tackle hyperpigmented areas of skin is to try and block the production and deposition of the skin pigment melanin. Molecules like glabridin, which is contained with liquorice root extract, block an enzyme called tyrosinase which is key in producing melanin. Blocking this enzyme means melanin production is reduced, producing an overall skin-lightening effect. Other ingredients like niacinamide (also known as nicotinamide) work by blocking melanin in a different way. Niacinamide works by interfering with the transfer of melanin-containing packages (called melanosomes) from the melanin-producing cells to the rest of the skin, again leading to an overall skin-brightening effect.

There are a whole load of other options out there too, from green tea extract and vitamin C to soy and coffeeberry – but we don’t have time to go into them all! If you’d like the low down on any of these by themselves then please do get in touch!

More Severe and Diffuse Hyperpigmentation
More severe, or very diffuse hyperpigmentation that’s starting to become a real worry is something you should go and chat to your GP about! They might refer you to a dermatologist, who can prescribe a more targeted treatment regime for you and also recommend other things to try! Don’t be shy – they’re there to help!

Wrapping up Hyperpigmentation
We hope we’ve shed a little light on the basis of hyperpigmentation and how to go about trying to tackle it! If you’ve used anything at home that’s worked particularly well then please let us know so we can share it with everyone else too! For mild cases, products containing alpha hydroxyl acids and ingredients that interfere with melanin accumulation are definitely a great place to start!

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