Dark spots are a common complaint from people with dark skin tones. There are many reasons why the discoloration, known as hyperpigmentation, might occur. Fortunately, there are also a variety of treatment options to eliminate the hyperpigmentation and achieve clearer, more beautiful skin. 

Dr. Elyse Love, board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, offers her expertise on hyperpigmentation. From how you got it to how to get rid of it, Dr. Love provides the latest information on hyperpigmentation to help you look your best. 

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a condition that causes patches of skin to become darker than your natural skin tone. It is caused by an overproduction of melanin in the skin. Darker skin has more melanin. While this can limit sun damage in darker tones, it can also lead to hyperpigmentation for other reasons, such as injury to the skin and even bug bites. Dark spots can crop up on the face and other areas of the body. 

What Causes it?

While the most common cause of hyperpigmentation in lighter skin tones is sun damage, dark skin tones face a host of other risks for skin darkening. Some of the causes of hyperpigmentation might include: 

  • Acne
  • Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
  • Injuries like burns or cuts
  • Surgical incisions
  • Some cosmetic treatments 
  • Bug bites 

Once dark spots appear, they will likely require treatment to eliminate them. The board-certified dermatologists at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City offer different treatment options that allow them to customize your treatment to your precise needs. 

The Most Common Type of Hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is the most common cause of hyperpigmentation in dark skin, according to Dr. Love. PIH occurs as a result of an injury or inflammation. It can occur after a rash, pimple, or another inflammatory condition has healed. The trauma results in an overproduction of melanin in the area, which then leads to dark spots on the skin. While PIH can occur with any skin tone, darker tones are more prone to the problem. 

The Problem with Hyperpigmentation Treatment

While hyperpigmentation can be treated, it is a more challenging endeavor with skin with high levels of melanin. Because these skin tones are more vulnerable to PIH and other types of hyperpigmentation, some treatments could cause more harm than good. It is essential that you work with a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in treating dark skin tones to ensure your hyperpigmentation is treated safely and effectively.

Safe, Effective Treatment for Your Skin

Dr. Love explains that treating hyperpigmentation is a delicate balance of obtaining effective results without irritating the skin. Many brightening ingredients are mildly irritating, which can end up being detrimental to dark skin tones. An experienced dermatologist like Dr. Love will be able to select the ingredients that provide optimal improvement with less risk of irritation. Dr. Love also instructs patients on precisely how to use topical treatments to get the greatest benefit without unwanted side effects. 

When asked about the lightening treatments that are most effective at fading spots on deeper skin tones, Dr. Love provided a few different options. She uses varying combinations of ingredients depending on how deep the pigmentation is, how broad the pigmentation is spread, and the primary cause of the pigmentation. Her go-to products for dark skin tones include retinoids, hydroquinone, and azelaic acid.

Hydroquinone, often a favorite topical treatment for hyperpigmentation, should be used with extreme caution. Dr. Love warns it should only be used under the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist. While the ingredient is highly effective, there is a potential risk of exacerbating hyperpigmentation if used incorrectly.

In addition to choosing the right ingredients, the application process is also an essential part of the treatment plan. Dr. Love says hydroquinone-based products are the only products she uses as spot treatments to avoid lightening the natural skin tone. Other brightening agents work to normalize pigment production, and she recommends applying these to the entire face. This will help to even out skin tone but will not result in skin lightening.

Prescription topicals are not the only option for addressing hyperpigmentation. Dr. Love also has some over-the-counter products that work well on this concern. Her favorite over the counter products are Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense and Obagi Clinical Vitamin C with arbutin. If you combine prescription medications with these products, make sure your doctor knows what you are using over-the-counter to ensure your products don’t interact and cause negative side effects. 

Sun protection is also an important element in any hyperpigmentation treatment plan. Dr. Love recommends ISDIN tinted SPF 50 because it provides broad-spectrum coverage against UVA, UVB, and visible light without leaving a white cast on the skin. 

Beyond the Cream

For some patients, additional treatments might accelerate the treatment process. Spring Street Dermatology offers chemical peels and laser treatments for these patients. Our board-certified dermatologists have the experience and expertise to choose the procedures that will produce positive results without increasing the risk of additional PIH. We do have treatments that are safe and beneficial for dark skin. 

Get Customized Care and Superior Results with Our NYC Dermatologists

Spring Street Dermatology knows no two patients are exactly the same. Each one has precise concerns, as well as a unique skin type and tone that requires specialized treatment to achieve the best possible results. Our customized treatment plans are designed to produce optimal improvement for each of our patients, so you can be confident in your own skin. To schedule your consultation with a board-certified dermatologist, contact our New York City office today or call (646) 906-9614.


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