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What causes hyperpigmentation?

What’s hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation isn’t necessarily a condition but a term that describes skin that appears darker. It can:

  • 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. Learn about types of hyperpigmentation, 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 area of the body, but they appear 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 is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin. A common cause of this type is acne.

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 different conditions or factors can alter the production of melanin in your body.

Certain medications can cause hyperpigmentation. Also, some chemotherapy drugs can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect.

Pregnancy changes hormone levels and can affect melanin production in some women.

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

The hyperpigmentation is a direct result of an increased level of a hormone in your body that results in increased melanin synthesis.

Excessive sun exposure can also cause an increase in melanin.

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