Hyperpigmentation of the skin, a more common problem than you might think

Donna Gould, 43, can’t remember when insect bites didn’t leave black spots on her skin. Ten years ago, she finally decided to talk to her doctor about these spots. “The doctor told me that my skin type is prone to hyperpigmentation and the spots were actually a reaction of my melanin to inflammation”, she confides to Washington Post.

Hyperpigmentation is an umbrella term for common skin problems – melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PID), or sun spots – characterized by patches of skin that become darker. When parts of the body are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the hands or face, excess melanin is created and causes darkening of the skin. This natural pigment which determines the color of the skin, hair and eyes, reacts during exposure to UV rays, heat, as well as during hormonal changes or when taking certain medications.

Dark skin types more affected by the sun

Josh Zeichner, a New York-based dermatologist, says most forms of hyperpigmentation are not cancerous. On the other hand, each time a new spot is discovered, it is better to contact your dermatologist to assess its severity. In Donna Gould’s case, inflammation from acne or insect bites would have caused this darkening of the skin. This type of inflammation is more common in people with darker skin tone. Sure fitzpatrick scale, the classification system that scales skin colors from 1 to 6, Donna reached level 4.

IPH is not the only pathology this woman suffered from. Also suffering from melasma, partly due to her childhood spent near the sea, Donna, who lives in Florida, now takes all precautions with the sun. “If you suffer from melasma, you can avoid the heat and the sun 364 days a year, it only takes thirty minutes at the beach to ruin all your efforts”, explains Evan Rieder, American psychiatrist and dermatologist.

While melasma is very difficult to control, specialists still agree that sun protection is the best way to prevent hyperpigmentation of the skin. But it is not always easy to convince patients, let alone those with dark skin. “It is obvious that my patients with black skin are the most difficult to persuade of the value of sunscreen”, testifies Tiffany Clay, dermatologist in Atlanta. While sun protection remains the first line of defense against the sun, antioxidants can have many benefits as well. Vitamin C, for example, both protects against UV rays and prevents the production of abnormal pigmentation.

Donna, who has had numerous treatments, admits that the results, while positive, are often insufficient. “Improving my hyperpigmentation is a slow process so it can be frustrating and a little depressing at times.”

Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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