Dark patches on the skin are a common cause for concern. These patches may not be very harmful but they can affect a person’s self-confidence and emotional health. Patchiness is usually the result of excessive sun exposure. Hyperpigmentation is usually used as an umbrella term for all such skin conditions. However, not all dark patches are the same.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation refers to the presence of dark patches of damaged skin triggered by external stressors. Of these, sun exposure is the most common trigger. This triggers the overproduction of melanin in the lower layers of the skin that travels upwards and results in dark patches or spots. The deeper the melanin, the harder it is to treat hyperpigmentation. These patches can be seen in all skin types and tones. They can be big or small and be present in varying densities. Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by cuts in the skin or scars left behind by acne. Using a good sunscreen can help prevent hyperpigmentation. Chemical peels and laser therapy could also help.
What is Melasma?
Melasma is also characterized by dark patches on the skin. However, these are not caused by external factors but are the result of a hormonal imbalance. Women between the age of 20 to 50 years are most susceptible to melasma as an increase in estrogen levels causes this condition. Darker skin tones are more susceptible to this condition than lighter skin tones. It is often seen during pregnancy and may also be a side effect of certain types of birth control pills. Certain types of contraception could also trigger this condition. This condition can be aggravated by sun exposure. For this reason, in some cases, it is aggravated in the summers and reduces in the winter. Another difference between hyperpigmentation and melisma is that the dark patches seen in the latter condition tend to be symmetrical and concentrated around the forehead, cheeks, upper lip, arms and shoulders.
Unlike hyperpigmentation, melasma can be difficult to treat. This is because genetics play a large role in hormone-related conditions. As with hyperpigmentation, the use of a sunscreen is crucial to controlling this condition. This should be applied every two hours even if one is indoors. Some types of skin peels have been known to be beneficial for this condition. Phytic acid peels not only help lighten dark patches but also deactivate enzymes responsible for them.
Superficial melasma is light brown in colour. As the depth is increased it becomes dark brown to Coca-Cola and greyish in colour and becomes difficult to treat. Medicine are having good results in superficial melasma. For deeper once Iontophoresis and lasers give better results. Deep melasma is difficult to treat.