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What is Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation?

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) causes darkening and discolouration of the skin. It usually shows up as spots, or as large patches on a person’s body. PIH is caused by an overproduction of the cells that normally produce brown pigment evenly across your skin. It causes these cells to produce too much melanin (brown pigment) which usually shows up in a concentrated area (hence the unevenness). Whilst it won’t happen to everyone, most skin types (3-6 on the Fitzpatrick scale) are at risk of it.

How Does PIH Occur?

PIH occurs from either an inflammatory reaction in the skin, or as a result from an injury to the skin. When there is an inflammatory reaction or an injury, our bodies will create extra melanin. If the extra melanin is produced in the upper layer of skin, the PIH will be a darker brown. Whereas if the extra melanin is produced in the lower layer of skin, a grey or blue discolouration becomes visible.

Although PIH can occur in all skin types, it is more common in people of Africa, Asia, Latin, and indigenous Indian background. Areas of the skin affected by PIH correspond with areas of previous inflammation or injury. When dark changes in your skin’s colour remain after the underlying problem has gone away, you have PIH. The most common causes are injuries such as scratches, burns, cuts, or bruises. Examples PIH causes include:

  • Skin infections
  • Laser treatments
  • Allergic reactions
  • Mechanical injuries
  • Reactions to medications
  • Phototoxic eruptions
  • Trauma (e.g. burns)
  • Inflammatory reactions
  • Acne/pimples
  • Injuries to the skin (including from sunburns, surgery, or intensive cosmetic procedures)
Treatment For PIH
1. Find the Cause & Stop it!

If you suspect that you may have PIH, it is important to search for the underlying cause and treat that cause. For example, when the discolouration is caused by acne, the acne must first be treated before PIH can effectively be treated. This is because if you don’t treat the cause, new PIH will continue developing. Therefore, it is crucial to minimise all new outbreaks with appropriate medications or treatments. Only then can the treatment for the PIH be effective.

2. Wait or Treat

Usually hyperpigmentation will gradually lessen on it’s own over time and return to your normal skin colour. However this is a long process that may take 12-24 months, or longer. Ensure that you are also using a broad spectrum suncreen daily to reduce further darkening. For those of us who don’t want to wait 1-2 years for our PIH to fade, there is a faster solution! Our Medlite Q-Switch (1064nm) has proven to be one of the best treatments in speeding up the fading process. Conveniently, it is the same laser that treats acne – so if acne is causing your PIH, it can treat two-in-one!

Please note that this is not a quick fix – it will still take time to see improvements. In our experience, significant results are usually seen within 8-10 weekly/fortnightly treatments.

As with all laser treatments, the frequency & number of treatments will depend on your skin type and affected area. Within your consultation, one of our experienced therapists will design a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

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