Hyperpigmentation is a term used to describe a typically harmless condition of the skin in which certain areas are noticeably darker than the rest of the skin. Hyperpigmentation occurs when the body produces an excess of pigment called melanin. Although hyperpigmentation is not harmful to the body, it can be anxiety producing for those who have it because it is an obvious, visible condition of the skin. When melanocytes, or melanin-producing cells in the bottom layer of the skin’s epidermis, do not function properly, hyperpigmentation can occur. A high concentration of melanocytes or hyperactive melanocytes can be a factor.
The many causes of hyperpigmentation include skin inflammation, acne, too much sun exposure, genetics, hormone changes or imbalances, and medications, to name a few. Although there is no true cure for hyperpigmentation, the overall appearance of the skin can be dramatically improved by the use of lightening techniques to even out the skin to a certain degree. It is important to prevent hyperpigmentation before it happens by wearing sunblock on a regular basis, washing, exfoliating, and moisturizing regularly, and seeing a dermatologist at the first signs of any unusual spots or discolorations of the skin. It can also be helpful to seek out skin products that include alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) which can remove layers of dead skin that have too much pigmentation.