What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation occurs because of excess production of melanin.
Hyperpigmentation occurs because of excess production of melanin.

Hyperpigmentation occurs because of excess production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives the skin its color and is produced by the skin cells called melanocytes. Some of the causes of hyperpigmentation include:

  • Excess sun exposure
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medical conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Allergies
  • Chemical or physical injury
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hormonal causes
  • Aging
  • Certain ethnic races
  • Repeated contact with cosmetic products
  • Prolonged exposure to a variety of topical products
  • Contact with plants containing furocoumarins
  • Constant scratching or other minor trauma to the skin
  • Exposures to moderate heat or infrared radiations

Some of the medical conditions causing hyperpigmentation include:

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of the skin more than the surrounding areas. It can

  • occur in small patches.
  • cover large areas.
  • affect the entire body.

Although hyperpigmentation doesn’t cause any harm, it may be a symptom of another medical condition.

There are several types of hyperpigmentation. The most common ones include:

  • Melasma: It typically affects the sun-exposed areas of the face or stomach. It is common in people with darker complexion who live in places with intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure.
  • Sunspot: Sunspots or solar lentigines are tan to dark brown spots that occur on sun-exposed areas such as the face, hands, forearms, upper chest, and upper back. It usually occurs due to chronic sun exposure.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: It occurs due to an injury or inflammation to the skin. Acne is the most common cause of this type.

How is hyperpigmentation treated?

The general approach to hyperpigmentation treatment involves:

  • Sun protection: People with pigmentation should prevent sun exposure between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Some of the common ways to combat sun exposure include:
    • Avoiding unnecessary stepping out in the sun
    • Seeking shade
    • Wearing protective clothing
    • Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30
  • Cosmetic camouflage (hiding the pigmented areas using cosmetics)
  • Chemical peels
  • Topical therapies
  • Laser therapy


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