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Hyperpigmentation

The word hyperpigmentation refers to excess, undesired pigment in the skin due to the over-production of melanin by overactive pigment cells called melanocytes.  However, various factors can provoke melanocytes to go into overdrive, such as sun exposure, hormonal issues and certain medications.

Causes of Hyperpigmentation:

  • Pregnancy can trigger overproduction of melanin that causes the "mask of pregnancy" (melasma) on the face and darkened skin on the abdomen and other areas.
  • The birth control pill or HRT may also cause hyperpigmentation with a similar kind of hormonal change that occurs during pregnancy or the decrease of production of oestrogen.
  • Skin diseases such as acne may leave dark spots after the condition clears.
  • Injuries to the skin, including some surgeries.
  • Sun exposure, following the use of deodorant soaps, scented toiletries, and various cosmetics can also produce this mottled pigmentation. This is called a phototoxic reaction and is due to ultraviolet radiation being absorbed by the chemical substance (perfume, cologne and other types of fragrance) on the skin. This pigmentation often extends down to the sun-exposed areas of the neck.

What's the difference between melasma, freckles and age spots? And what causes them?

Melasma

Melasma is a dark skin discoloration that appears on sun-exposed areas of the face. It is often associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is especially common in pregnant women, women who are taking birth control pills (oral contraceptives) and women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause. It is also aggravated by sun exposure and may become permanent if not treated early.  Melasma doesn’t cause any other symptoms besides skin discoloration but may be of great cosmetic concern.

Freckles

Freckles are small peppery brown spots arising on the face and other sun-exposed areas. They are usually seen in children and in fair-skinned people. As a person ages, they generally fade away. "Sunburn freckles" are another variety often seen in some people, and these appear larger and darker than standard freckles, with a medium-brown colour. The edges are irregular, but the pigment is even throughout the area.

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