Hyperpigmentation of the skin is caused by an increase in levels of melanin, the substance in the body that provides color (pigment) to the skin.
Regardless of race or whether you are a woman or a man, hyperpigmentation can affect you, and can appear in small shapes, cover large areas or even cover the whole body. Although increased pigmentation is usually not harmful, it may be a symptom of another condition.
There are several types of hyperpigmentation, and every type is classified according to the cause that triggers it.
How many types of hyperpigmentation are there?
Melasma, sunspots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation are the most common types.
Melasma or chloasma – is a common condition that affects mostly women. It is characterised by the presence of brown spots that most commonly appear on the face (or stomach) and is thought to be caused by (and can develop during) pregnancy. Although the face and stomach are most commonly affected, areas of hyperpigmentation can appear on any area of the body.
Hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure as spots on sun-exposed areas such as the hands and face. This happens when the sun hits the skin and melanocytes are stimulated to produce more melanin to absorb UV rays.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a result of injury or inflammation of the skin. A common cause of this type is acne. Also can be caused by psoriasis, burns, chafing or even professional skin care treatment.
Lentigo is another type of hyperpigmentation being known as brown spots that appear with ageing or as a result of liver dysfunction.
There are also some conditions that can cause hyperpigmentation such as hyperthyroidism, Addison’s disease – slow adrenal insufficiency or Cushing’s syndrome – hypercorticism.
How is hyperpigmentation diagnosed and treated?
A dermatologist can diagnose the cause of your hyperpigmentation. They will ask for your medical history and give you a physical exam to determine the cause.
There are several types of treatment. These include either topical application of different substances or other non-surgical procedures:
Hydroquinone – skin-lightening agent
Mandelic acid or AHA- used in the treatment of many severe skin conditions, including all types of hyperpigmentation
Niacinamide – works by preventing the transfer of melanin to keratinocytes, the cells in the outer layer of the skin.
Kojic acid – It is a naturally occurring derivative of certain fungal species that have similar effects to hydroquinone in treating hyperpigmentation.
Wearing sunscreen is the most important factor in improving most causes of hyperpigmentation.