Do you observe freckles, age spots, or larger areas of darkened skin? Did you notice skin patches darker than the surrounding skin? Watch out; it could be hyperpigmentation.

It occurs when the skin produces excess melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.

  • 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.

Please scroll down to learn about types of hyperpigmentation, its causes, and how to treat it.

Types of hyperpigmentation

There are several types of hyperpigmentation, the common ones being melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

  • Melasma: Melasma is believed to be caused by hormonal changes and may develop during pregnancy. Areas of hyperpigmentation can appear on any body site, but they occur most commonly on the stomach and face.
  • Sunspots: Also called liver spots or solar lentigines, sunspots are common. They're related to excess sun exposure over time. Generally, they appear as spots on areas exposed to the sun, like the hands and face.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This results from injury or inflammation of the skin, and acne can be a common cause of this type of hyperpigmentation.

Do you know how to identify hyperpigmentation symptoms, and what are the risk factors?

Here are a few ways to identify:

Darkened areas on the skin are the main symptoms of hyperpigmentation. Patches can vary in size and develop anywhere on the body.

Sun exposure and inflammation are the most significant risk factors for general hyperpigmentation, as both situations can increase melanin production. Therefore, the greater your exposure to the sun, the greater your risk of increased skin pigmentation.

Depending on the type of disorder, other risk factors for hyperpigmented patches may include:

  • Oral contraceptive use or pregnancy, as seen with melasma.
  • Darker skin type, which is more prone to pigmentation changes.
  • Drugs that increase your sensitivity to the sunlight
  • Trauma to the skin, such as a wound or superficial burn injury

What causes hyperpigmentation?

A common cause of hyperpigmentation is an excess production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives skin its color. It's produced by skin cells called melanocytes. Several conditions or factors can alter your body's melanin production.

Certain medications can cause hyperpigmentation. Also, some chemotherapy drugs can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect. In addition, pregnancy causes changes in hormone levels and can affect melanin production in some women.

A rare endocrine disease called Addison'scan produce hyperpigmentation that's most obvious in areas of sun exposure, such as the face, neck, hands, and areas exposed to friction, such as elbows and knees.

Hyperpigmentation directly results from an increased hormone level in your body, increasing melanin synthesis.

Excessive sun exposure can also cause an increase in melanin.

How is hyperpigmentation diagnosed and treated?

A dermatologist can diagnose the cause of your hyperpigmentation. They will request your medical history and give you a physical exam to determine the cause. In some cases, a skin biopsy can narrow down the reason.

Topical prescription medication can treat some cases of hyperpigmentation. This medication usually contains hydroquinone, which lightens the skin.

However, prolonged use of topical hydroquinone (without any breaks in usage) can cause darkening of the skin, known as ochronosis. So, it's best to use topical hydroquinone only under the care of a dermatologist so that they can properly guide you on how to use the medication without any adverse effects.

Using topical retinoids also assists with lightening dark spots on the skin.

Both medications can take a few months to lighten darkened areas. Home care also includes using sunscreen. Sunscreen is the most critical factor in improving most causes of hyperpigmentation.

  • a physical blocking sunscreen, preferably with zinc oxide as the main active ingredient
  • at least an SPF of 30 to 50
  • broad spectrum coverage

How is hyperpigmentation prevented?

It's not always possible to prevent hyperpigmentation. However, you can protect yourself by:

  • using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
  • wearing hats or clothing that block sunlight.
  • Avoid the sun during the time of the day when it's strongest, typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hyperpigmentation is not harmless; However, it is crucial to identify the underlying condition and get treatment as soon as possible. However, if it is due to environmental conditions, self-care is the best aid to avoid hyperpigmentation.

It is also one of the reasons for embarrassment for people who are beauty conscious. For all self-conscious people, you must take extra self-care, especially during summer, to avoid hyperpigmentation.