What Is Hyperpigmentation

December 20, 2019 5 min read 0 Comments

what is hyperpigmentation


Dark spots on the skin caused by sun damage? What is hyperpigmentation and why do most or some people have them? Are there ways on how to treat or get rid of hyperpigmentation? Who are at risk of developing this skin condition?



Hyperpigmentation is usually defined as a harmless skin condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the usual normal surrounding skin. This skin condition usually occurs when the skin produces more melanin than it should and it affects people of all skin types and entire parts or areas of the body by covering it.

Hyperpigmentation occurs as a direct result of an increased melanin synthesis brought by the increased hormonal levels in a human body.



  • Melasma
  • Sun spots
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • Age spots
  • Freckles

    types of hyperpigmentation


    Hyperpigmentation comes in different forms and they include conditions like melasma, sun spots or photoaging, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, age spots aka liver spots and freckles.



    This skin condition is characterized as “gray-brown” patches that appear on the cheeks, upper lip and center of the forehead which are frequently caused by hormones. Melasma is common during pregnancy stages. It is a chronic skin condition most common among pregnant women and when taking birth control pills. Melasma often stops or resolves after giving birth or discontinuing intake of pills for some women but sometimes it can also occur or show up in some women with no hormonal explanation. Melasma is also known as chloasma spots.



    This skin condition is also known as photoaging. Sunspot is one of the forms of hyperpigmentation which typically shows up later in life after exposing oneself to the sun’s UV rays for a long period of time. Sunspots or photoaging appear larger than freckles do and they look more like clusters of dark spots on the skin complexion.



     Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or rather known as PIH, is a scientific term used for the pesky dark spots which show up after a pimple goes away or heals. It also occurs after skin trauma such as an insect bite or scratch. Any form of irritation causes the melanocytes to be activated and create more pigments, hence resulting in dark spots where the irritation took place.



    Age or liver spots are common forms of hyperpigmentation that occur to sun damage. Dermatologists often refer to them as “solar lentigines” as they appear as small, darkened patches are usually found on the hands, face or other areas that are frequently exposed to the sun.



    These forms of hyperpigmentation are known as hereditary brown spots and most prominent on the nose bridge and cheeks. They are common at any age but start during childhood.


    As mentioned above, hyperpigmentation is caused by an increased melanin synthesis brought by the increased hormonal levels in a human body.

    Aside from this, hyperpigmentation also results from the following:



    Also known as solar lentigines or sun exposure. Our body produces more melanin to protect our skin from prolonged exposure to Mr. Sunshine and too much melanin production can cause dark spots or patches called age spots or sun spots to appear on our skin.




    People who have had skin inflammation experience having darkened skin. Skin inflammation includes acne, eczema, lupus and skin injury. Skin inflammation often leads to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.



    Hyperpigmentation can also result from reactions to certain drugs such as antimalarial drugs and tricyclic antidepressants in which some patches of our skin may turn gray. This skin condition may also be caused by certain chemicals in topical treatments.



    Medical conditions such as Addison’s disease and hemochromatosis are also certain causes of hyperpigmentation. Addison’s disease is a condition brought on by disruptions in the adrenal glands that prevent the normal secretions of corticosteroids whereas hemochromatosis is an iron overload disorder in which a person absorbs too much iron from consumption of certain food and drinks. When left untreated, hemochromatosis can possibly damage various body organs.



    Pregnant women are prone to suffer from hyperpigmentation due to the hormonal changes that pregnancy brings, affecting the melanin production.



    Medications such as chemotherapy drugs are said to also affect our skin’s appearance. How? They change your skin’s color to yellow or brown, yes, even your fingernails and toenails. Chemotherapy drugs can also cause your skin to become dry, itchy and irritated. Hyperpigmentation occurs 2 to 3 weeks after chemotherapy treatment begins and it fades away as new skin cells take the place of the dead cells approximately 10 to 12 weeks after finishing the treatment. However, this chemotherapy treatment (either oral or through IV), may cause skin darkening to be permanent.


    Certain chemotherapy drugs associated with hyperpigmentation include the following: Melphalan (Alkeran), Busulfan (Myleran), Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), etc.



    A study done or conducted in The Scientific World Journal shows that insulin resistance has something to do or is connected to dermatologic conditions such as hyperpigmentation or other skin disorders, representing metabolic alterations between the two. Another fact is that insulin resistance has an important role in homeostasis and physiology of the skin.



    Hyperpigmentation often forms or occurs after acquiring an injury or skin inflammation and can occur anywhere in the body. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH is one of the common sequelae of inflammatory dermatosis tending to affect darker-skinned patients with greater frequency and severity and it is also an acquired hypermelanosis that occurs after acquiring inflammation or injury arising that can arise in all skin types.



    People who frequently expose themselves to the sun’s UV rays for a long period of time without applying sunscreen and those who previously had skin inflammation are more likely to suffer from this type of dermatologic conditions.

    Hyperpigmentation is considered as a benign skin condition as well as a cosmetic concern more than as medical, which can be treated by having SPF or protection from the sun’s UV rays.

    Most people experience some hyperpigmentation for one reason or another, so even though it can take a huge toll on your self-esteem, there is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. And there are so many products and procedures out there to help. You just have to find the one that works for you! 

    Keep your head up!


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