Hyperpigmentation is a common, typically harmless condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin.
If you see a sudden patch of darkened skin, do not automatically assume it's hyperpigmentation. Be sure to see a dermatologist and have them check it out.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when an excess of melanin (the brown pigment that produces all skin color) forms deposits in the skin. Hyperpigmentation can and does affect the skin color of people of any race.
What are considered forms of hyperpigmentation?
There are a few common forms of hyperpigmentation I see in the studio often.
- Age or "liver" spots (Photoaging)
- Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
Age or "liver" spots occur due to sun damage. Clusters of dark spots may appear in one’s late thirties, early forties or beyond. Sunlight affects the production of melanin, which results in uneven skin tone.
These small, darkened patches are usually found on the hands and face or other areas frequently exposed to the sun. This is one reason why it's incredibly important to wear sunscreen daily.
Melasma (pregnancy related) or chloasma (non-pregnancy related) spots are similar in appearance to age spots but are larger areas of darkened skin that appear most often as a result of hormonal changes.
Pregnancy can trigger overproduction of melanin that causes the "mask of pregnancy" (melasma) on the face and/or darkened skin on the abdomen and other areas.
Women who take birth control pills may also develop hyperpigmentation (chloasma). Their bodies undergo similar hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy when taking the pill. If the disadvantages of the pigment outweigh the advantages of the birth control pills, talk to your doctor about stopping the pill.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) is often associated with acne. Once a pimple heals, a dark spot may be left behind.
However, 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.
Additionally, inflammatory conditions such as eczema or lupus can lead to PIH as well.
Note: Freckles and birthmarks are also considered hyperpigmentation. Freckles are inherited and birthmarks are present at birth. Both need to be protected against any further changes or damage from the sun.
Now that you know what is considered hyperpigmentation, find out what treatments work for treating hyperpigmentation and if you might be a candidate for specific treatments.
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