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If you get to a certain age, you may develop hyperpigmentation – areas of darker skin -  age spots, scars or melasma. Hyperpigmentation may be caused by inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, acne or hormones. Sun exposure also plays a large role in its development. Individuals with medium to dark brown skin tones are at greater risk of developing hyperpigmentation, most likely as a result of more melanin (skin pigment). Although generally not cause for medical concern, the condition can have an emotional impact if you are affected by it.

How To Treat

The first line in treating hyperpigmentation is a [Link Removed] is far more effective.

Exfoliating agents such as salicylic acid and glycolic acid may be added to remove melanin in the epidermis. This exfoliating effect helps to increase the penetration of other ingredients. Vitamin A derivatives (retinoids like retinal, retinoic acid and retinol), which have a mild peeling effect, act in a similar manner. They may also inhibit tyrosinase. Lastly, vitamin C, at sufficient concentrations ([Link Removed] ) may be used to help lighten the skin and enhance the efficacy of hydroquinone.

Hyperpigmentation disorders are difficult to treat, particularly in dark-skinned individuals. The goal is to reduce the hyperpigmentation without causing undesirable hypopigmentation (loss of skin color) or irritation in the surrounding normally pigmented skin. Although treatment can take a long time, combining therapies can help to increase the efficacy of agents.

Is Hydroquinone Safe?

Despite the fact that hydroquinone is the treatment most widely recommended by skin care professionals, many individuals are concerned about its safety. The most common concern is exogenous ochronosis, which is a bluish/black discoloration of the skin. This is a rare side effect reported amongst women in South Africa who were using very high concentrations over large surface areas. Although hydroquinone is used extensively in North America, there have only been 30 reported cases of exogenous ochronosis in North America.

Other side effects may include skin irritation, allergic contact dermatitis, and nail discoloration. Practical experience shows that skin irritation is likely the largest safety risk associated with hydroquinone.

Hydroquinone 4% is available at PharmacyMix and  may be found in [Link Removed] .

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti-aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed].
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