I will be doing a summer series about something that rears its ugly head this time of year – those lovely brown spots on my face. Call them what you like – sun spots, age spots, liver spots, hyperpigmentation, melasma – I don’t know anyone who likes them. I refer to mine as my unwanted tenants. They’re very frustrating to deal with but prevention (sunscreen and limited sun exposure) is easier than trying to get rid of them later (and less expensive).
My plan for the series is to post every other Thursday through August and explain the different types of hyperpigmentation, why we have it, how to treat and prevent, how I use makeup to camouflage the discoloration, and anything else I can think of along the way. I’m also going to post photos of my unwanted tenants (although I doubt they’ll feel intimidated and vacate). I recently began using a product by Obagi to lighten the spots and will post photos of my results along the way. Below is the before photo of my left cheek (the right side is much worse but you’ll see that later). If you look closely you can see some spots and some clusters/splotches.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Every person has some level of pigmentation (color) in their skin. The cells that produce the color in our skin are called melanocytes. Hyperpigmentation occurs when there is an overproduction of pigment, or melanocytes, and appears either as individual spots or a cluster of spots that can look like a splotch. The technical term for “sun spots” is Lentigines and brown clusters or splotches are called melasma (my unwanted tenants).
What’s the cause?
There are many factors that contribute to hyperpigmentation. The two factors I’m most familiar with are sun exposure (a factor that we can control) and hormonal changes (birth control, pregnancy and menopause). The color intensity of hyperpigmentation increases during the summer because we have more exposure to the sun and the color decreases in the winter because we have less exposure. Hyperpigmentation varies in size and color and can appear anywhere on the body. While it’s usually seen on the areas with the most sun exposure, the most common areas are the face and hands. Hyperpigmentation is not usually cancerous but it’s recommended to have a body check with a dermatologist. Keep in mind they can see areas that you can’t – behind your ears, on your back, etc. – and will know what looks suspicious and what does not. Hyperpigmentation, like skin cancer, doesn’t discriminate. Darker skin tones also have hyperpigmentation and usually appears gray or ashy.
That wraps up Part 1 of the series. I would love your feedback, questions or experience with hyperpigmentation!