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Hyperpigmentation

Medical Dermatology

Learn more about the different types of pigmentation disorders and how they can be treated. For more details, visit LL Cheong Skin & Laser Clinic.

Age
or "liver"
spots are
a common
form of
pigmentation

What are the causes of pigmentation?

Pigmentation disorders, also known as hyperpigmentation, refer to a group of conditions that cause patches or larger areas of skin to darken. Hyperpigmentation occurs due to an overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their natural colours. It can affect anyone regardless of race and skin colour.

As with many skin conditions, the causes and symptoms of pigmentation vary:

  • Liver Spots – Also known as age spots, this pigmentation condition is caused by aging and sun damage, and typically appears on areas of the body most exposed to the sun, including the face, shoulders, arms and hands. These spots are harmless and come in a range of light to dark colours.
  • Freckles – Freckles are small brown spots that can appear anywhere on the body, but especially on the face, shoulders and arms, which get the most sun exposure. This skin trait tends to be hereditary and is caused by a combination of genetics and prolonged exposure to UVB rays.
  • Melasma – This is a harmless condition that causes dark, discolored patches on the skin, often on the face. Most people develop melasma on the forehead, cheeks, chin, bridge of the nose and upper lip, though it can also appear on the neck and forearms. Pregnancy, sun exposure, hormones, stress and thyroid disease are said to trigger melasma.
  • Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation – This type of discoloration is caused by inflammation, irritation, friction and trauma resulting from acne breakouts, burns, use of chemical exfoliants, and cosmetic procedures such as microdermabrasion, deep chemical peels, IPL and laser.

Underlying medical conditions, hormonal changes and certain medications can also contribute to pigmentation problems.

How can pigmentation be treated?

While skin discoloration caused by hyperpigmentation is harmless, it can seem unsightly to some people. Fortunately, there are numerous safe and effective treatments available to address pigmentation:

  • Sunscreen – Pigmentation is commonly caused by damage from too much sun exposure. Sunscreen can minimize the formation of dark spots and pigmentation, as well as prevent existing spots from becoming darker and more noticeable.
  • Whitening Creams – Containing ingredients such as hydroquinone, niacinamide, kojic acid and licorice extract, these creams may help to whiten skin and lighten pigmentation over time.
  • Microdermabrasion – This method uses tiny “crystals” to exfoliate the skin, which is further sanded away using a special applicator. It is minimally invasive and works to remove dead skin cells and other impurities to make way for newer and healthier skin.
  • Chemical Peels – This treatment involves applying a special chemical on the desired area, causing the epidermis to peel off. More intensive treatments use stronger concentrations to penetrate the dermis for more dramatic outcomes.
  • Ablative Laser Treatments – This method uses a special laser to remove targeted aged and sun- damaged layers of the skin. Considered as one of the most effective means to reduce pigmentation, it can also be used to treat wrinkles and acne scars.
Dr Cheong La

Meet yourDermatologist

Our skin physician, Dr Cheong Lai Leng, is a Ministry of Health certified dermatologist who emphasizes an individualized approach to address your specific concerns whether they are medical, surgical, or cosmetic while maintaining the highest standards for quality and attention to your comfort.

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