Pigmentation is the coloring of a person’s skin. When you’re healthy, your skin color will look normal. If you’re ill or injured, your skin may change color, becoming darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation).
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. It 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.
The biggest risk factors for general hyperpigmentation are sun exposure and inflammation, as both situations can increase melanin production. The greater your exposure to the sun, the greater your risk of increased skin pigmentation.
Depending on the type of disorder, other risk factors for hyperpigmented patches may include:
- oral contraceptive use or pregnancy, as seen with melasma
- darker skin type, which is more prone to pigmentation changes
- drugs that increase your sensitivity to the sunlight
- trauma to the skin, such as a wound or superficial burn injury
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