Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation isn’t necessarily a condition but a term that describes skin that appears darker

It can:

  • Occur in small patches
  • Cover large areas
  • Affect the entire body

While increased pigmentation usually isn’t harmful, it can be a symptom of another medical condition. Learn about types of hyperpigmentation, causes, and how to treat it.

Types of Hyperpigmentation

Freckles

Freckles are usually small brown spots caused by sun exposure. They can occur anywhere, at any age, but are most common on the face, neck, chest, and hands.

Birthmarks

As their name suggests, these pigmentations are present at birth. They can be caused by clusters of pigmented cells or malformed blood vessels. Birthmarks may go away without treatment, stay the same, or change over time. They also may be present in different colors or contain different types of tissue.

Melasma

Melasma is the darkening of skin tone due to hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy. Patches of melasma are often gray-brown and occur on the cheeks, forehead, bridge of the nose, chin, and upper lip. This can also be a side-effect of taking birth control pills. Melasma may be worsened by sun exposure.

Rosacea

Patchy areas of redness that occur for no apparent reason, and which can flare up for weeks or months and go away. Common on the cheeks, chin, nose, or forehead, rosacea can be exacerbated by sunlight, temperature extremes, and an increase in blood flow to the skin. Rosacea can resemble blushing but more advanced stages are characterized by visible blood vessels, and an enlarged nose, chin, and oil glands.

Photoaging

Also known as age spots, liver spots, and solar lentigines, photoaging often results from years of prolonged sun exposure. Clusters of dark spots may appear in one’s late thirties or early forties. Sunlight affects the production of melanin, which results in uneven skin tone.

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)

It is often associated with acne; once a pimple heals, a dark spot may be left behind. PIH can happen due to any trauma to the skin. Even if you get a scratch or an insect bite, melanocytes, or pigment cells, can create more pigment in response to the injury.

Inflammatory conditions such as lupus and eczema can lead to PIH as well.

Factors responsible for Hyperpigmentation

  • Hormonal changes in the body
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Steroids intake
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Insulin resistance
  • Endocrine disease (Addison’s disease)
  • Trauma and injury
  • Chickenpox