If you have unexplained dark patches of skin on your body, you may be wondering what they are and where they came from. Hyperpigmentation is the term used to describe areas of skin that are darker than the surrounding skin. The dark color is caused by melanin, which is the pigment responsible for the color of your skin, eyes, and hair. Excess production of melanin can leave dark deposits on your skin. Hyperpigmentation is a common, harmless skin condition that can affect people of all skin colors. Hyperpigmented patches may be various sizes and appear on any part of your body.
Keep reading to explore more about the dark side of pigmentation.
What Causes Skin to Darken?
There are several causes and risk factors that contribute to changes in melanin production. The most common cause of hyperpigmented patches of skin is exposure to sunlight. When you are exposed to the sun’s rays, melanin acts like a protective shield: it absorbs ultraviolet radiation to prevent your skin from being harmed by overexposure. A tan is the result – but a tan is never healthy, because it means sun damage has already occurred. Over time, frequent sun exposure can cause dark, pigmented patches that won’t fade after a few days like tans do.
Other causes of hyperpigmentation include:
- Hormonal changes (during pregnancy or on birth control medication)
- Skin inflammation
- Skin injury or trauma (like a wound or burn)
- Medication reaction
- Some medical conditions (like Addison’s disease)
You are at high risk for developing areas of hyperpigmentation if you spend a lot of time in the sun without using skin protection like sunscreen, hats, and long sleeves. Additionally, you are at higher risk if you have dark skin, which is more sensitive to changes in pigmentation.
Common Forms of Hyperpigmentation
There are 3 common forms that most hyperpigmentation takes.
- Liver spots, also called sunspots or solar lentigines. Liver spots are hyperpigmented patches of skin that develop from overexposure to sunlight. Liver spots appear on the hands, face, neck, and other areas that are frequently open to the sun. They usually develop with age, after decades of sun exposure.
- Melasma, also called chloasma or “the mask of pregnancy.” Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal changes that affect melanin production. It often appears as large, dark patches of skin on the forehead, face, or stomach during pregnancy. Melasma may also develop if you take oral birth control pills. For many people, melasma disappears on its own once the hormonal imbalance is corrected.
- Skin injury or skin inflammation. Inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or acne may leave dark marks on the skin after a breakout or flare up. Injuries like cuts, burns, or surgical wounds may also leave darkened areas of skin after the wound heals. To help prevent hyperpigmentation from forming, don’t pick or scratch acne and injuries.
For all forms of hyperpigmentation, sun exposure worsens existing pigmented areas. Sunspots, melasma, acne marks, freckles, birthmarks, age spots, injuries, and scars can all become darker from frequent contact with the sun’s rays.
The best treatment for hyperpigmentation is prevention. And the best form of prevention is taking steps to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every day and cover up with hats and long sleeves if you are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors. Try to avoid direct exposure during the hottest hours of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Other treatments may help lighten areas of hyperpigmentation. Please note that cosmetic procedures may require several sessions to see results.
- Prescription creams (with ingredients hydroquinone, tretinoin, or corticosteroids)
- Laser treatments
- Chemical peels
Speak with your doctor or dermatologist to discuss the treatment that may work best for you.
Ageless Allure Medispa Has Cosmetic Procedures to Help Hyperpigmentation
At Ageless Allure Medispa, we offer laser treatments, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion treatments that may be able to help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Visit our treatment pages to learn about the services we offer and contact us today to schedule your session.