Hyperpigmentation and melasma are two very well-known terms that come up in the skin industry. But here at Mederm Esthetics & Laser Clinic, we know that they are often misinterpreted as the same thing. At a glance, they often are mistaken for the same thing when in fact they are different. They both are two unwanted types of skin conditions and the reason why they are mistaken as the same thing is that they’re both skin conditions that affect the face. They both produce dark and discolored patches of skin. They both become aggravated when spending a lot of time in the sun. But in spite of these similarities, hyperpigmentation and melasma are two separate and distinct conditions with their own types of symptoms. In addition, they require separate treatment methods for the best healing and continuous results.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition that produces areas of skin that take on a darker color compared to the rest of your skin. It’s a very widespread skin condition that affects millions of people of distinct backgrounds and cultures. The symptoms associated with hyperpigmentation can vary from tiny patches of darkened skin to big, more apparent hyperpigmented skin.

Age spots are the most well-known type of hyperpigmentation. These grow as a result of too much sun exposure. Age spots are known to be found on the face, hands and upper back—which are all parts of the body that are usually unprotected from considerable amounts of UV rays. Looking at hyperpigmentation from a health standpoint it is nothing to be concerned about. But it is bothersome and unappealing. Essentially, it’s triggered by the body producing too much melanin, which is an essential skin pigment that’s role is regulating your skin color.

Most skin hyperpigmentation is the result of UV exposure. It’s also a possibility for the skin to become very dark, and cause a hyperpigmented tone because of a deep cut, scrape or other force that impairs the skin.

What is melasma?

Melasma is a skin condition that results in particular areas of your skin developing more pigmentation than other areas. It has a tendency to affect the face, even though it’s also expected for melasma to also affect the neck, arms and other areas on the body.

When first looking at it, melasma can appear to look like hyperpigmentation. Nevertheless, its observable symptoms and what causes it are both actually distinct. Overall, melasma is in a league of its own as it is more complex and tougher to treat. While hyperpigmentation is the consequence of too much sun exposure, melasma can arise for a number of reasons. In fact, scientists still aren’t fully sure what causes melasma to form, but there are many well-researched ideas. The most well-known triggers are:

  • Hormones: Melasma is more common in women than in men and seems to flourish as a result of high levels of estrogen. These hormones could be part of the reason why melasma gets triggered and produces the growth of dark, discolored skin.
  • Pregnancy: Melasma is most frequent during pregnancy, possibly due to increased estrogen and progesterone levels.
  • Genetics: Some people are more prone to melasma than others. Melasma tends to occur with families and is more common in people that contain darker skin tones. For example, a known statistic is that 40 percent of Southeast Asian women experience some type of melasma.
  • Sun exposure: In addition to hormonal factors, scientists deem that melasma can be triggered by UV exposure. Many people that experience melasma notice harsher symptoms during the summertime and a decrease in their melasma during other seasons when the sun isn’t as strong. 

Melasma also tends to affect distinct parts of the body compared to hyperpigmentation. Although it’s could appear anywhere on the skin that’s exposed to the sun, it generally appears on the cheeks, forehead, upper lip and chin. Be sure to visit Mederm Esthetics Laser Clinic in Vaughan where we can answer all your questions related to melasma and hyperpigmentation.