Hyperpigmentation is when some areas of skin turn darker than surrounding skin, and this phenomenon occurs quite frequently. It is a harmless condition, but may cause great distress to individuals who are worried about their appearance. Hyperpigmentation occurs when an abundance of brown pigment, called melanin, is produced in the skin. People of all races can be affected by this skin condition.
Age Spots/Liver Spots
Liver spots or age spots are a type of hyperpigmentation. They typically occur as a result of skin damage caused by prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Doctors refer to these spots as solar lentigines. They dark, small spots are typically located on one’s face and hands, however any section of skin exposed to the sun is fair game.
There are two kinds of spots that are similar to age spots, but they affect a bigger area of skin. These are known as chloasma or melasma spots and, though they resemble age spots, they are affected by hormonal changes. Some pregnant women produce an excess of melanin and they develop chloasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy on their abdomens and faces. Women who are on birth control pills are susceptible to hyperpigmentation since their bodies react, hormonally, like they were pregnant.
There are other causes of skin color change that are not the result of hyperpigmentation. For instance, acne can result in a darkening of skin, as well as surgery or skin injuries. Additionally, freckes are simply darkened section of skin on the arms and face and are a hereditary condition.
Any pigmented patch of skin can get even darker when further exposed to the sun since melanin absorbs UV rays from the sun so as to guard the skin from exposure. This process sounds confusing, but it is what happens in what we refer to as “tanning”.
There are many over-the-counter and prescription creams available that can lighten darkened sections of skin. They work by reducing melanin production so that the pigmentation can slowly face. Laser treatments are another option that can remove hyperpigmentation and can remove darkened areas without leaving any scars.
Photo Credit: Macky Franklin