Hyperpigmentation Vs. Hypopigmentation: What’s the Difference?

freckled-shoulderThough their names sound the same, hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation share a number of key differences. However, something similar about the two is that they are both cosmetic skin conditions that change the color of the skin. While skin tone is genetic, we can develop areas of the skin that are lighter or darker than the rest of our skin. There are various reasons why this happens and some of them are preventable. The dermatologists and physician assistants at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta want you to help you learn more about what hyper- and hypopigmentation are and what you can do to prevent or treat changes in your skin tone.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is when the body overproduces pigment which occurs in age spots, darkened acne scars, and other patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding skin. Some commonly affected areas are the forehead, cheeks, upper lips, and chin. This skin condition is completely harmless and has no other symptoms, but can often be an unwelcome cosmetic concern. However, most hyperpigmentation can be treated and improved over time.

There are various types of hyperpigmentation including sun-induced, hormone-induced, and post-inflammatory. Sun-induced is caused by overexposure to harmful UV rays. As a defense mechanism, the body will produce extra pigment to protect the skin which causes age and dark spots to appear. Practicing sun safety and regularly wearing sunscreen of at least 30 SPF can help prevent this type entirely.

Hormone-induced, or melasma, is often seen in women who are pregnant or taking oral contraceptives due to the way the body responds to estrogen and progesterone. This type can be temporary and for some may fade after giving birth or stopping oral contraceptives.

Post-inflammatory includes acne scarring and can also occur after a burn, scrape, cut or because of incorrectly administering cosmetic procedures. Since this type of hyperpigmentation can vary in cause and severity, we recommend seeking medical advice from one of our licensed professionals about how to go about receiving treatment.

What is Hypopigmentation?

As you may have guessed, hypopigmentation is when the body’s skin cells start to lose pigment due to a decrease in melanin production. This condition is normally caused by a specific skin condition or by trauma to the skin. Similar to hyperpigmentation, this condition is harmless and has no other symptoms.

There are many types of hypopigmentation, but the most common kinds include vitiligo, albinism, skin trauma, skin cancer removal and at sites of inflammation. Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition where small patches of the skin lose pigment which results in white spots on the skin. Since there is no clear cause for vitiligo, it can be difficult to predict and prevent. Another skin condition, albinism, works in a similar way and is characterized by the absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes.

Skin trauma from causes such as burns, blisters, injuries, inflammation or infection can result in the skin losing pigment. This loss varies in severity and the loss of pigment isn’t always permanent. Additionally, skin cancer removal can result in hypopigmentation on the removal site. If you are experiencing any type of hypopigmentation, it’s important to wear sunscreen because these white patches are highly susceptible to UV rays.

If you are interested in learning more about the treatments we offer for these skin conditions, contact Dermatology Associates of Atlanta to schedule an appointment today. Make sure to give us a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well for more insights about our skincare services and treatments.