When it comes to our skin, we all want to be “flawless.” So,
when we were told that by simply living our lives we could be causing
hyperpigmentation (better known as dark spots or melasma), we kind of
freaked out. Stress causes a bevvy of issues, but it can also cause uneven
skin tone? Ugh. We consulted dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, of his namesake
dermatology practice, to get real about how we’re secretly letting
hyperpigmentation into our (skin’s) lives.
In case you needed a better explanation for hyperpigmenation, Dr. Gross
added a new moniker for it: “Warning flags—created by your
body to inform you that it is injured or under attack.” It all starts
with Melanin (the protein that gives your skin color) and how its production
goes into overdrive as your body’s way to protect itself via darkened
spots on your skin. No one is born with hyperpigmentation—which
include freckles—mind you, they appear because of a genetic pre-disposition
of your skin behaving that way in response to environmental aggressors.
So please keep in mind that those environmental aggressors might actually
include your own behavior…
… Like Not Wearing Sunscreen. Your tan is actually a broad form
of hyperpigmentation, technically. “When the skin is assaulted by
repeated exposure to UV rays, it can cause brown spots and hyperpigmentation
from overproduction of melanin,” Dr. Gross explains. “Since
brown spots are created by the sun – think of it as your skin talking
to you, and telling you that it has had too much exposure.” Time
to seek shade or reapply that SPF.
… Using Skincare Treatments That Are Too Aggressive. If a skincare
product has ever made your skin turn red, that’s grounds for possible
discoloration in its aftermath, no matter what your skin type or tone.
The visible aftermath of that irritation is known as Post-inflammatory
Hyperpigmentation (PIH). Think of the redness caused by a product as another
warning flag for a possible hyperpigmentation cause. Also as unfair as
it may seem—certain products made to treat hyperpigmentation can
actually cause it if it’s too strong for you, or if you apply it
more excessively than instructed.
… Picking At Scabs And Improper Wound Care. All those who suffer
from acne scars, listen up—if you wouldn’t pick at a healing
wound, don’t pick your acne. Believe it or not, one of the ways
your body responds to injury involves overproducing melanin. “Your
body responds to injury via inflammation which triggers melanin production
and can result in a brown patch,” Dr. Gross explains. Acne scars
are a prime example of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. They result
when there’s too much collagen in a targeted area like a healing
wound, leading to a bump or raised area on top of the dark spot it leaves
… Smoking Cigarettes. In case you were looking for another reason
to quit cigarettes (other than the fact that they could kill you with
regular use after time), they’re ruining your skin. All of the toxic
chemicals in cigarettes deplete the antioxidants in your body as well
as produce more free radicals. Those free radicals damage your skin cells,
which then replicate more damaged skin cells, so your likelihood of forming
dark spots increases exponentially the more you smoke.
… Stress. Yup, yet another way stress messes with your body and
skin. When you’re stressed out, your body can send your hormones
out of whack, triggering responses that lead to breakouts and rashes,
while leaving you vulnerable to other ailments as your free radical numbers
increase. It’s definitely in your best interest—inwards and
outwards—to take time to zen out once in a while.
Other than always wearing sunscreen, ditching cigarettes and offending
skin care products, and refraining from picking at your skin, it’s
possible that you may still be plagued with hyperpigmentation beyond your
own devices. In this case, Dr. Gross recommends gentle chemical peels,
like his Alpha Beta Professional Peel, as a non-invasive method, or laser
treatments specifically made to destroy darker pigments effectively for
much more stubborn cases of hyperpigmentation.
If either of those options don’t appeal to you, vitamin C serums/treatments
and gentle chemical exfoliators are other tried and true methods.
Originally featured on StyleCaster.com