If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, a term used to describe discoloration of the skin, you may be wondering what’s causing it and how to fix it. To understand your hyperpigmentation, you’ll first need to understand the basics of melanin. In simple terms, melanin is the substance that gives skin its color. For example, dark-skinned people have more melanin than light-skinned people. It is produced by melanocytes, which are cells that also act as the body’s natural sunscreen. While it’s not always possible to pinpoint the cause of your hyperpigmentation, you can narrow it down to a few culprits.
One of the major suspects of hyperpigmentation is natural sunlight. Exposure to ultraviolet sun rays can produce melanin. As more and more is produced, it causes your skin to become darker or tanner. Hyperpigmentation can be seen when existing freckles or spots on the skin appear more pronounced with sunlight or new spots or patches of dark skin appear. To prevent hyperpigmentation caused by sunlight, it’s important to limit your time in the sun, wear a SPF with a minimum of 15 year-around, and wear protective clothing when outdoors.
Abnormal levels of hormones can lead to a variety of illnesses and conditions. Fluctuations often occur during pregnancy, when taking birth control pills, or when taking certain medications. In some cases, hormones can produce melisma, a pigmentation disorder. It is more likely to occur in women who are pregnant and those with darker skin tones. This condition often appears on the chin, cheeks, forehead, nose, and upper lip and presents as brown or greyish brown patches.
This form of hyperpigmentation typically occurs after an injury, such as a scrape, cut, burn, or exposure to certain chemicals. Eczema, acne, psoriasis, and other skin conditions can also appear as hyperpigmentation due to inflammation of the afflicted area. The discoloration may last days, weeks, or even years – or can be permanent in some cases. Those suffering from inflammation that causes hyperpigmentation can try chemical peels, skin lighteners, or microdermabrasion to lighten the dark spots.
Illness and Medication
Various illnesses and medications are also known to cause hyperpigmentation. Especially those related to metabolic disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, and vitamin deficiencies. Certain medications can also lead to skin darkening, such as antibiotics, hormone treatments, antiarrhythmics, antimalarial drugs, and antiseizure medications. If you are experiencing hyperpigmentation caused by your illness or medication, consult with your doctor to find a solution.
Medline Plus: Skin – Abnormally Dark or Light