If you’re bothered by dark spots due to hyperpigmentation on your skin, one thing is clear: Today there are more options for erasing that harmless but irksome discoloration than ever before.
What exactly is hyperpigmentation? It’s any patch of skin that looks darker than your natural skin tone because the brown pigment melanin is being overproduced. Hyperpigmentation can be seen in liver spots (or age spots) and sunspots, as the Cleveland Clinic notes.
4 Factors That Can Cause Hyperpigmentation
According to the Cleveland Clinic, these are the most common causes of hyperpigmentation — and they can affect people of all skin tones to varying degrees.
Skin trauma — such as acne, eczema, bug bites, cuts, scrapes, even scratching or friction from, say, vigorous rubbing — can set off inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, can send pigment-producing cells into high gear, leaving behind a dark spot after the injury has healed. When inflammation is the cause of discoloration it is often referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
2. Sun Exposure
According to the Mayo Clinic, the sun’s UV rays trigger extra melanin production as a way to defend your skin from damage. That extra melanin is what gives you a tan. But when sun exposure is frequent or excessive it can make dark sunspots appear. Although sunspots are not cancerous, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, sun-exposed skin may develop precancerous blemishes that look similar to sunspots. For this reason, it’s important to have your skin checked yearly by a dermatologist.
Often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma is characterized by brown patches that commonly form in women with fluctuating hormone levels, such as during pregnancy. This type of hyperpigmentation most often occurs in women, but can also occur in men. It is thought to be triggered by a combination of sun exposure, genetics, and hormonal changes, since it has also been linked to the use of oral contraceptives, per experts at the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD). Additionally, according to the Cleveland Clinic, other hormonal medications used for birth control and menopause symptoms may cause melasma, as well as other types of medications discussed below.
4. Medical Conditions or Medication
Hyperpigmentation can be caused by Addison’s disease, an adrenal gland disorder that can increase melanin production. Certain drugs, including antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antimalarials may all increase the risk of hyperpigmentation, according to a book published by StatPearls in July 2022. Some chemotherapy drugs can also cause temporary hyperpigmentation, per the advocacy group Cancer Connect. In the case of chemotherapy drugs, associated dark spots usually resolve 10 to 12 weeks after treatment ends as new skin cells replace dead ones.
The Best Ways to Treat and Prevent Future Hyperpigmentation
Today, there are plenty of dark-spot correctors to choose from — but it’s just as essential to tackle them preventively. The following scientifically proven steps can help.
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