If you’re bothered by patches of discoloured skin, whether caused by acne, eczema flares, sun exposure or even pregnancy, you’ll be wondering what you can do to get rid of them.
The good news is not just that most hyperpigmentation will eventually fade, but there are things you can do to help it along!
It can take a painfully long time, but in most, though not all, cases the particles of pigment that caused the change in colour will gradually get reabsorbed into your body.
Factors that determine that process include how long the hyperpigmentation has been there, how deep the pigment has settled or how severe the trauma to the skin was, and how well the skin has been looked after in the meantime.
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation, which is more prevalent on melanin-rich skin of colour, can occur after trauma, injury, inflammation or sun exposure, and is characterised by darker or discoloured patches of skin; these are flat, not raised like moles or scars, and can occur anywhere on the body, in spots, blotches, or patches.
Pregnancy-related melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that occurs on the face during pregnancy, for example; another kind is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and occurs after inflammatory damage to the skin, such as acne or eczema flares.
What happens is that damage or inflammation causes pigment to be over-produced or released into the deeper layers of the skin, down in the dermis itself. The process is a bit like the way a tattoo is made by depositing ink deep below the epidermis, where the skin doesn’t endlessly renew and repair itself as it does at the surface.
In the normal course of events, the pigment will gradually disperse and the hyperpigmentation will fade.
Some injuries or damage are unfortunately so well-established and the pigment so deeply deposited that the pigment will never completely disperse.
What can you do to help?
The best strategy for managing discoloured skin is to look after it as well as possible, so that the skin’s natural cycle of repair and regeneration can do its work!
- Avoid inflammation! That means managing acne or eczema outbreaks with good, non-irritant skincare, and finding strategies for avoiding your breakout triggers. It also means not picking at or popping spots!
- Protect skin from the sun: avoid further damage with high factor, hypoallergenic sunscreen, even on less than sweltering days.
- Moisturise regularly! Keep your skin hydrated, soft and supple by being meticulous about moisturising. Lipid-rich balms will strengthen the skin’s barrier function and keep it resilient against sun damage.
- Nourish your skin - try applying nourishing EFA-rich oils to the area, to furnish your skin all the nutrients it needs to build new cells and maintain its defences. These will help regulate skin cell turnover. Rosehip, hemp & sea buckthorn are all good choices.
- Value yourself - in all your flaws! Hyperpigmentation is incredibly under-acknowledged as an issue, especially for young women of colour. So if you’re on social media, seek out #skinpositive influencers who won’t make you feel bad about yourself and your own unique, precious and lived-in skin.
If you’re seriously worried about hyperpigmentation, consult a dermatologist about more high-tech options, but please don’t try any skin-lightening creams at home, because there is a significant risk of causing further damage.
Read our article about hyperpigmentation on skin of colour: Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation: My Flaky Relationship With My Skin Disorder by Alaa Hassan.
Recommended products to look after skin affected by hyperpigmentation:
Skin Salvation balm with beeswax, hemp & chamomile (from £7.99 for 30ml): a rich balm to moisturise skin during an inflammatory episode
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream with shea butter, hemp & calendula (from £13.99 for 100ml): a lighter cream for daily maintenance.
Balmonds Intensive Hand Cream with sea buckthorn berry & hemp (from £10.99 for 50ml): a more intensive cream containing GLA-rich superfood, sea buckthorn berry oil.
Balmonds Rosehip Scar Oil with rosehip, lavender & chamomile (£18.99 for 50ml): an oil rich in antioxidants, nutrients and regenerative EFAs, developed to reduce the appearance of scars, discolouration and uneven skin tone.
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.