More on what causes hyperpigmentation, if it goes away on its own, and what melasma is.
Can sun exposure cause hyperpigmentation?
Yes. The sun and UV radiation not only form new dark spots and discolorations but make existing hyperpigmentation darker and even more visible. (It also contributes to skin aging and damage that results in dull, uneven, and wrinkled skin.)
How does pollution cause hyperpigmentation?
Pollution and free radicals can cause oxidative damage to the skin. As skin attempts to protect and defend itself from these external aggressors, melanocytes may overproduce melanin and form hyperpigmentation and discolorations.
Does hyperpigmentation go away on its own?
Yes and no. While some forms of hyperpigmentation are permanent many types will fade over time. A dark spot that is a few shades darker than your skin may fade within 6-12 months while a discoloration deeper in skin) may take years to fade on its own, which is why a good skincare routine can help.
Does exfoliating skin help visibly reduce hyperpigmentation?
It depends. Healthy skin cell turnover is essential in helping visibly diminish dark spots and hyperpigmentation but over-exfoliation or harshly scrubbing the skin can cause irritation that may worsen or intensify hyperpigmentation. (Which is why our family’s suggestions to “scrub really hard” wasn’t actually good advice!)
How can you help prevent hyperpigmentation?
In addition to a skincare routine that treats hyperpigmentation, defend skin from the direct causes of discoloration and dark spots by:
- Wearing sunscreen (or hats) every day
- Caring for acne to help prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Avoiding touching the skin, especially blemishes or bug bites
- Using gentle active ingredients that won’t exacerbate inflammation
Is melasma hyperpigmentation?
Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation which is very stubborn to treat. It can cause unwanted pigmentation deep in the dermis (which is much harder to treat and may appear darker or greyer than epidermal melanin), usually in sun-distributed areas on the face.
It happens from a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, UV exposure, and changes in hormones (such as during pregnancy or from hormonal contraceptives).
Common treatments include topical retinoids, combination creams (retinoid, steroid, hydroquinone), lasers, chemical peels, and even oral tranexamic acid. These can be effective if used appropriately, but overly aggressive treatments can further aggravate the condition.
Often sun exposure after treatment can cause the pigmentation to return briskly, so wear tinted sunscreens for prevention of recurrence.