Hyperpigmentation, go away
February 3, 2014 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I've had hyperpigmentation around my mouth and chin for as long as I can remember. It usually looks like a shadow, but I think it's getting darker and I'm beginning to feel really self-conscious about it. I also have very dark circles under my eyes, despite getting more than enough sleep. Any idea what's causing this, and what I can do?

My dermatologist last year suggested taking antioxidants, using fluoride-free toothpaste, and applying lemon juice and whitening creams, but they don't seem to have helped. I use sunscreen regularly and my exposure to sun is on the low side.
posted by redlines to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know whether or not this is a fluke, but I've been using a vitamin C serum for a few months and a hyperpigmentation/freckle has disappeared. I was surprised as the spot had been quite noticeable (to me) and has been there (and darkening) for several years. The serum is Trader Joe's Antioxidant Facial Serum (picture here), and I think it's around $10/ounce (quite cheap, comparatively). Probably any fairly strong vitamin C serum would be worth a shot for you, however (assuming it is packaged in an airless pump - vitamin C degrades really quickly when in contact with air).
posted by ClaireBear at 1:09 PM on February 3, 2014

Do you have PCOS or Type II diabetes/Insulin resistance? Those cause dark pigmentation too.

posted by Setec Astronomy at 1:12 PM on February 3, 2014

If you're on hormonal birth control, that can also cause or make worse hyper-pigmentation.

You may want to consider Intense Pulsed Light treatments. IPL can lighten over pigmentation and the effect can be semi-permanent or permanent depending on the person.

The dark circles may be made worse by allergies or sinus congestion. Nasal/sinus irrigation can help with that if congestion is the underlying issue.
posted by quince at 1:19 PM on February 3, 2014

Pff, lemon juice. What is this, the Regency Period?

A tretinoin prescription helps (.025% to start), and you can buy it online, but it's much cheaper through a prescription plan. In the meantime, or if your doctor won't prescribe it, I've found that monthly, then bi-weekly, glycolic acid peels at home have evened out my skin coloring, including undereye discoloration. I get it from Amazon. 35 is the introductory strength; it tingles and itches a bit and you're a little sensitive after, but I just slather on the best Oil of Olay night cream after and enjoy the glow. Amazon doesn't seem to carry the little bottle of it that I first tried, but the SkinLabs site does.

I love this stuff. I've never been so evenly WHITE. And the SO thinks I'm some sort of badass.

Oh it's not great if you have acne, too, as it will burn the tops off. If I'm broken out I don't use the stuff, or I avoid the breakouts. Also, the peels themselves have never made me break out.
posted by Sayuri. at 2:16 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was in my late 30s this happened to me - the same type of brown discoloration they used to call the "mask of pregnancy" about a thousand years ago. It progressed and nothing I could come up with changed it for the better. A couple of years later I was having some other unrelated health and anxiety problems and my doctor insisted on hospitalizing me for tests because he said I "didn't look right" to him and he'd known me for many years. The tests proved that I had a megaloblastic/macrocytic anemia (not iron-deficiency anemia) and I was started on Vitamin B-12 shots and high-dose folic acid. Within a few months, all the discoloration had vanished, along with back pain I'd blamed on a long-ago car accident and other things.

Pernicious anemia - a lack of what's call intrinsic factor in your stomach acid - can cause this, but so can other things. My doctor took me off the Dilantin and phenobarbital I'd been on for 15+ years for petit mal epilepsy "with a grand mal component." I'd had one grand mal seizure when I was 19 and years of petit mal seizures, but after all those years of Dilantin therapy I'd developed the type of anemia associated with the drug. Fortunately, I had apparently outgrown the epilepsy and only had very rare petit mal seizures after that. I was on the B12 injections for about five years - same for the folic acid.

As I understand it, it's more likely to be the folic acid deficiency that's responsible for the facial discoloration. If I were you, I'd ask for B12 and folic acid levels to be done or, if you can't get that done, I'd start taking a good strong dose of folic acid orally and a B12 under your tongue each day.

Nothing I did from a topical standpoint did any good at all. YMMV, but this may be worth a shot. You don't say how old you are, but if you're of childbearing age, you want to be certain that you have an adequate level of folic acid in your system before you get pregnant because it's protective against neural tube (brain/spine) defects in a fetus.

Good luck to you.
posted by aryma at 11:56 PM on February 3, 2014

Paula Begoun has some information about addressing hyperpigmentation with topical treatments.
posted by neushoorn at 2:53 AM on February 4, 2014

Furthering neushoorn - I get dark discolouration on my upper lip (really awesome for a tall lady). I use Paula's Choice RESIST AHA dark spot eraser on my upper lip only and cover it in a ton of sunscreen and it has helped a lot.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 8:27 AM on February 4, 2014

Perhaps Retin-A prescribed by a dermatologist
posted by harperdrew at 2:09 PM on February 4, 2014

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