Talking Hyperpigmentation with Dr Vanita Rattan

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Hyperpigmentation is a complex issue and the methods to treat it can often be confused with skin bleaching and lightening. We spoke to Dr. Vanita Rattan, Consultant Aesthetician for Pharmaclinix about the truth on hyperpigmentation. What exactly is hyperpigmentation? Hyperpigmentation appears as dark patches on the skin. It tends to occur in sun exposed areas such as the cheeks and forehead, but it can also occurs following any trauma on the face or body. The mechanism of the condition is that the cells producing the pigment melanin are working overtime; thus, there is then a surplus of melanin. This melanin then leaks into the skin cells above it and gives rise to dark patches on the skin.

Is hyperpigmentation more prevalent in certain skin types? Are specific ethnicities more likely to suffer from it? And why? Asian and African skin types suffer from this condition predominantly because they have bigger Melanocytes (cells that produce the pigment melanin). Due to their size, they are much quicker in producing Melanin than those in white skins, where the Melanocytes are much smaller. Melanocytes are readily excited after any type of trauma. The main culprits are sun damage, acne and hormonal damage; once these cells are excited, it is difficult for them to stabilise.

Is Hyperpigmentaiton hereditary? Hyperpigmentation is not hereditary, however as a large percentage of those in the Asian and African community suffer from hyperpigmentation, it is not uncommon for several family members to be affected by it. In both my pregnancies, my skin darkened under my arms and on the back of my thighs, plus I had a thick line down my belly vertically that was so clear it was like I drew it on with a thick black marker.

Is this is a typical example of hyperpigmentation? Yes. Hyperpigmentation during pregnancy is very common. Pigmentation on the body usually disappears after pregnancy; however, sometimes women may be left with something called a pregnancy mask around the cheeks and forehead area.

Aside from hormonal changes, what are the other main causes? In addition to sun damage, acne and hormonal damage, any inflammation can cause hyperpigmentation - this can be following a cut, physical trauma or any pathology.

Is stress one of the causes? Stress may lead to acne which may cause hyperpigmentation, but it is not a direct cause.

How can it be best treated? The Hyperpigmentation Clinic is the only clinic in the country to specialise in Asian and African hyperpigmentation. Darker skins should avoid laser and glycolic peels as they can burn the skin, leading to further pigmentation. The treatments at The Hyperpigmentation Clinic use a unique mandelic based peel which produces two effects: it removes the top layer of dead pigmented cells, alongside calming the Melanocytes. Clients can expect to see a 50% reduction in hyperpigmentation after one treatment at the clinic.

Are there ways it can be prevented? The best form of prevention is protecting the skin from any trauma in the first place. For example, wearing a high SPF protection cream like PharmaClinix Sun Blockex (£39.99) at all times to prevent sunburn is essential. Keeping acne break outs to a minimum will also help to reduce the risk of developing hyperpigmentation; a great prevention and cure for acne spots is PharmaClinix Acnex® (£34.99).

For more information, visit Pharmaclinix.