Is it Hyperpigmentation or Melanoma?

Is it Hyperpigmentation or Melanoma?

Noticing a brown or black spot on your skin that wasn’t there before can be scary. Sometimes, these spots are nothing more than hyperpigmentation, a common and harmless—but somewhat alarming—condition where small sections or patches of your skin take on a darker color than the rest of your skin. Hyperpigmentation is nothing more than concentrated deposits of melanin, which can collect randomly in one spot (or several spots) on your skin.

Unfortunately, the harmlessness of hyperpigmentation sometimes leads individuals who have the condition to ignore dark spots on their skin. If these spots are just concentrations of melanin, you really don’t have to pay much attention to them. However, one symptom of melanoma—the most severe and dangerous type of skin cancer—is brown or black spots or moles on the skin. Without careful attention to detail or medical consultation, it’s easy to mistake melanoma for simply hyperpigmentation (and vice versa).

The Differences Between Hyperpigmentation and Melanoma

Fortunately, there are subtle differences in moles or spots caused by hyperpigmentation and moles or spots. These differences fall into five different categories, which are easy to remember because they bear the initials of ABCDE. In assessing moles or dark spots, these initials refer to asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and elevation. Read on to discover more about the signs in each of these categories that can indicate melanoma rather than hyperpigmentation.

  • Asymmetry: Generally, hyperpigmentation patches (be they freckles, moles, or simple dark spots on your skin) are symmetrical in shape and size. A noticeably asymmetrical dark spot on your skin is worth consulting a doctor about, as it may be a sign of cancer.
  • Border: In addition to symmetry, dark spots caused by hyperpigmentation will have smooth edges that are easy to distinguish. Spots or moles with more jagged or irregular borders are more likely to be cancerous.
  • Color: In hyperpigmentation, melanin deposits can range from light to dark brown. Spots or moles that are black or rusty red in color appear more commonly in melanoma patients. With that said, melanoma spots can also be a more regular brown hue, so use color as a supplement to other identifying factors, instead of using it as your sole decider.
  • Diameter: Moles or dark spots with large diameters—or with diameters that seem to be expanding—are cause for alarm. Most dermatologists say that any skin spots bigger in diameter than a pencil eraser are worth having checked out by a medical professional.
  • Elevation: When it comes to assessing whether moles or spots are hyperpigmentation or melanoma, flatter is better. While some harmless moles are slightly raised, extremely elevated moles are often a sign of a more dangerous skin condition.

All of these factors can help you to determine, on your own, whether the dark spots on your skin are more likely to be the result of hyperpigmentation or melanoma. If you have a mole that is small, with a smooth border, symmetrical, flat, and light brown, chances are pretty good that you don’t have any reason for concern. When in doubt, though, consult your physician. It is invariably better to be safe than sorry when it comes to possible signs of skin cancer.

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The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please speak to your doctor to treat any medical condition. Information on this site is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

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What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

A common skin disorder is hyperpigmentation, or a darkening of the skin pigment. Many different diseases, disorders, and actions can lead to hyperpigmentation. By knowing what is causing your dark spots or other skin pigment changes, then you can find the best way to return your skin to its normal color. It is possible to treat and repair the damage that causes hyperpigmentation.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of melanin, the pigment in the skin cells. It can happen to just a small area, creating a freckle or spot, or it can cause problems on a large area of the body. Some people also have hyperpigmentation over their entire body. Typically, hyperpigmentation is not dangerous, making it solely a cosmetic concern. However, it could be symptomatic of another disorder that may be serious. Therefore, you should discuss any hyperpigmentation symptoms with your doctor to ensure there is not a serious condition underlying your skin disorder.

How Does it Develop?

One of the most common forms of hyperpigmentation is sun spots. These are the small to medium spots on your skin, typically the hands or face. They are caused by sun damage to the skin cells that creates an increase in melanin production in just one area of the body. Another common reason for this skin problem is melasma, which is a specific type of hyperpigmentation that arises during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes. Other disorders that affect your hormones, such as Addison’s disease, can also cause a change in melanin production. If you take certain medications, then you may experience hyperpigmentation as a side effect. Freckles are also a form of hyperpigmentation. Injury to the skin is another reason for hyperpigmentation development.

Read: What is the Difference Between Freckles and Age Spots?

How Can You Treat Hyperpigmentation?

There are a few different steps to treating hyperpigmentation. If an illness such as Addison’s disease or some other specific condition such as pregnancy causes it, then you should discuss with your doctor ways to control the hormones or other factors that contribute to the increase of melanin. If you believe it is caused by medicine, then discuss trying another medication instead. Wearing sunscreen and minimizing sun exposure can prevent hyperpigmentation due to excessive exposure to UV rays.

Once you have the cause under control, you can treat the areas of dark skin with a skin lightening cream. However, you want to ensure you do not use creams with harmful or toxic ingredients, especially if you are pregnant or have a medical condition. Common lightening ingredients and bleaches, including kojic acid and hydroquinone, can cause more harm then good, even if they work. Therefore, you should focus on using natural ingredients that will not only lighten your skin, but also help your skin to heal and look its best.

Licorice root extract and vitamin C are two powerful ingredients that nourish the skin, helping it to heal itself, while also expediting the lightening of the dark spots. If you find that your problems do not improve even with treatment, then you can discuss more invasive treatments with your doctor. You do not have to live with your hyperpigmentation; you can get your skin back to looking its best.

Have a question about your scar or dark spots? Leave a comment and we’ll be happy to answer.

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What Causes Age Spots?

What Causes Age Spots?

As you age, certain changes to your skin are almost inevitable, such as wrinkles and age spots. Although you cannot completely avoid the natural aging process, there are certain actions you can take to prevent and mitigate the problem. By recognizing what causes age spots, you can reduce your risk and find the right product to reduce the appearance of dark spots on your skin.

What are Age Spots?

Age spots are small to medium brown spots that appear on the skin, primarily the face and hands, as you age. They are often referred to as liver spots. They are caused by UV damage to the melanin production of the skin cells, which causes certain skin cells to appear darker than others. Age spots can range in size between miniscule to more than a 1/2 an inch, and will appear as tan, brown or black in color. They can also group together, which creates a more significant appearance. They are typically harmless and benign, making them mostly a cosmetic problem. However, if an age spot grows or changes rapidly, then you should get it checked out by a dermatologist to ensure it is not cancerous.

Read: What’s the Difference Between Freckles and Age Spots?

How Do Age Spots Develop?

Age spots develop due to excess UV exposure, either from the sun or tanning beds. They appear in the areas that have been most exposed to the sun, including the face, hands, and shoulders. Melanin is the pigment in skin cells that provides it with its color. UV light accelerates the production of melanin, which is what leads to tanning. However, the UV rays also damage the skin cells. Over time, this damage alters the production of melanin in the skin cell, causing high concentration of melanin in a particular area, which creates the age spots. Age spots are more common in those with pale skin, but those with a darker skin pigment can also develop age spots, as well.

How to Treat Age Spots?

The best way to treat age spots is prevention, which includes wearing sunscreen whenever you are in the sun, avoiding tanning beds and other excess exposure to UV rays. If you already have developed age spots, then you can treat them with a skin lightening cream. When choosing skin lightening creams, avoid dangerous and potentially toxic ingredients such as kojic acid and hydroquinone. Instead, choose all natural ingredients, such as licorice root extract and vitamin C, which will not only lighten the skin, but also keep it healthy. If the age spots do not respond to treatment, then you can discuss more invasive procedures, such as laser therapy or dermabrasion, with your doctor.

You can take precautions when you are young to avoid getting age spots as you age. Once you do begin to develop some unsightly age spots, you can start treatment to reduce their appearance. Just remember that it takes time for the skin to heal and return to normal once you have begun treatment.

Have a question about your scar or dark spot? Leave a comment and we’ll be happy to answer!

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What is the Difference Between Freckles and Age Spots

What is the Difference Between Freckles and Age Spots

Freckles and age spots both involve brown spots of skin, especially on the face. However, they are typically referred to, treated, and thought of differently. Age spots and freckles do have some similarities; however, they are two different types of hyperpigmentation that can be treated similarly.

What Makes the Skin Darken?

The skin darkens due to damage to the skin cells, especially the cells that produce melanin or pigment. Everyone has a regular pigment that his or her skin produces, whether fair or dark skin. When the skin cells DNA becomes damaged, either due to the sun, trauma or age, then the melanin production can be damaged. This can lead to hyperpigmentation, or dark spots.

What are Freckles?

Freckles typically are small and occur on those who have fair skin, especially red headed people. They typically occur on children and fade as a person ages, although a person with hereditary freckles can have them for his or her whole life. Sun exposure typically causes them; therefore, the more time someone spends in the sun, the more freckles he or she will get. The freckles may also become darker after spending time in the sun without broad sunscreen protection. Freckles tend to be an inherited trait, especially as they go hand in hand with other hereditary traits, including red hair and fair skin. For those where it is inherited, the appearance of freckles is inevitable, however consistent use of sunscreen can help to minimize just how many and how dark they will be.

What are Age Spots?

Age spots tend to be bigger than freckles and occur due to aging, as the name implies. They can also be slightly raised. Typically, age spots occur on the hands and face, rather than the entire body – unless you’ve experience a severe sunburn, on your back or shoulders, then dark spots can appear in these areas as well.

Although sun exposure plays a significant role in the development of age spots, they tend to occur due to deterioration of the skin cells that is part of the natural aging process. The more time a person has spent in the sun, the more damage to their cells, which is why age spots are connected to sun damage. The years of sun damage can lead to more melanin production in a certain area, causing an age spot. This is why wearing sun protective clothing, as well as broad spectrum sunscreen is vitally important from an early age.

The Difference Between Freckles and Age Spots

The main difference between freckles and age spots is the age of the person and the size and location of the spots. Freckles are small, can appear anywhere, and are directly attributed to sun exposure in those susceptible; they are also inherited. Freckles can appear on anyone of any age, especially children. Age spots, are not hereditary,  can occur to anyone of any skin type, tend to develop on the hands and face, can also be larger in size and begins to be noticed in middle age.

Treatment of Dark Spots and Freckles

Whether a dark spot due to sun damage or freckles from the same or genetics, there are only two ways to minimize their appearance. Prevention with the use of sunscreen year round and generously applied every two hours and using a dark spot treatment. Make sure the sunscreen you are using blocks both UVA and UVB rays and that the treatment for dark spots is one that is effective with skin lighteners such as Vitamin C and licorice root extract.

Do you have a question about your scar or dark spot? Leave a comment and we’ll be happy to answer.

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Dermabrasion vs. Microdermabrasion

Dermabrasion vs. Microdermabrasion

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are two skin treatments that may sound similar, but they are actually two very different procedures. Dermabrasion works on more layers of skin, so it can treat deep wrinkles, scars, and hyperpigmentation. Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, only provides an intensive exfoliation that rejuvenates the skin, but does not work on skin problems that run deep. Before getting one of these treatments, you should understand the difference so that you get the right treatment for your situation.

What is Dermabrasion?

Dermabrasion is a treatment in which a dermatologist or plastic surgeon uses a special instrument to basically sand your skin. This allows new, smoother skin to replace the skin that has been treated. Dermabrasion is often used to remove scars on the skin, especially the face, such as acne scars or pox marks. It can also work on deep wrinkles and other skin problems. However, it cannot help with some skin problems, such as pigmented birthmarks, moles, or burn scars. It can also cause discoloration or scarring in those with darker skin. Dermabrasion is typically performed in a doctor’s office and requires some type of anesthetic. You might also be given medicine to help you relax.

What is Microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is performed by spraying small exfoliating crystals on the skin to remove the unsightly or damaged sin. It is basically an intensive exfoliation and skin rejuvenating treatment, rather than any type of surgery and does not require any anesthetic. It works best on skin problems such as age spots, dark spots, or dull skin, although it can also help with fine lines and wrinkles. It does not work on removing skin problems that effect many layers of skin, including stretch marks, wrinkles, scars, or deep acne scars. It only makes subtle changes, improving your complexion, and does not affect the skin’s pigment, so it is safe on all skin types and skin colors.

What is the Difference Between the Two?

Dermabrasion is more invasive than microdermabrasion. It affects deeper layers of the skin, so it can work on scars and other significant skin problems. However, it also means there is a longer healing time. You might feel a burning sensation for a few days, and you might be given medicine to help with the discomfort. The healing time lasts between 7 and 10 days, although the skin may remain pink for about six to eight weeks. You have to avoid sunlight until the pink color fades. Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, has a smaller window of healing. The skin will be temporarily pink, but within 24 hours it is well.

Because dermabrasion is a more invasive treatment, it also has more possible side effects. It could cause uneven changes in skin color that may be temporary or permanent, it might cause a scar, infection may occur, and there may be a darkening of the skin. Microdermabrasion on the other hand has minimal side effects, typically just the potential for irritation if the crystals get into eyes. Once you have undergone the treatment, be sure to take care of the skin to ensure it heals well and does not lead to more problems.

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