March 12, 2016 Your skin tends to keep a certain colour. But what happens if parts or all of your skin change in colour? There are many reasons this may happen, so a doctor should always be consulted when skin pigmentation changes to make sure it is nothing serious. If your change in pigmentation is found to benign, here are some tips to remedy the problem: Hyperpigmentation Hyperpigmentation is when the skin becomes darker than normal. The most likely cause of this is UV damage. This can come from excessive unprotected exposure to the sun or tanning booths. You might not notice the effects of this overexposure until many years after it occurs, so the avoidance of UV rays is essential at all ages. Using sunscreen and avoiding sun or tanning booth exposure are the best ways to prevent hyperpigmentation. Once it has occurred, the most commonly used treatment is a cream called hydroquinone. This is a lightening agent that will help lighten your skin color and bring the affected area back to the same colour of the rest of your skin. Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation This is a particular type of hyperpigmentation that results from one of a number of possible factors. Common causes include: Allergic reactions Insect bites Burns Cosmetic procedures If you think you might have this form of hyperpigmentation, a visit to a dermatologist is usually required for a definitive diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, you will likely be put on medication to deal with the underlying inflammation. Once that has been resolved, topical creams like hydroquinone or azelaic acid may be prescribed. Of note, these topical remedies may sometimes irritate your skin to the point of actually worsening the hyperpigmentation. Of utmost importance is the use of sunscreen to help prevent worsening of the problem. You may also need to take a vitamin D supplement, as sunscreen prevents the body from absorbing vitamin D from sunlight. Hypopigmentation As you might expect, hypopigmentation is a lightening or fading of skin colour. Like hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation can be caused by damage to the skin. Several conditions that may also prompt this skin disorder include: Vitiligo Tinea versicolor, which is a fungal infection of the skin that can cause lightening. Seborrheic dermatitis, better known as dandruff. If you have hypopigmentation, your options are fairly limited. Powerful steroid creams and/or laser treatments are the most common regimens. Should these fail, dyes are available that attempt to match or blend the hypopigmented area with your natural skin colour. Skin discoloration is not always just a cosmetic concern. It may require prescription treatment and monitoring by a doctor. You don’t have suffer needlessly. Check with your doctor to see if there are options available to give you back the skin you desire.