Sunday, July 3, 2011

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

though there are several secondary causes of hyperpigmentation, the root cause is a concentration of melanin in a small area of the skin. Our skin cells produce melanin when they absorb the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Usually this absorption produces a tan that more or less evenly covers the body. Under some circumstances, melanin is overproduced in small areas creating brown spots or patches on the skin.

Being in the sun without adequate protection will increase the chances that hyperpigmentation will occur. Though a tan will mask the brown spots, tanning will make it more likely that brown spots will form in the future. Such spots are likely to show up as “age spots” when we get older.

Secondary causes of hyperpigmentation include injuries such as cuts, or inflammation such as that caused by acne or lupus. The skin’s natural response is to produce more melanin. This process is called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH. After the inflammation disappears, the new skin is darker.

Pregnancy also triggers melanin production, often on the face. The result is sometimes referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.” During pregnancy, the skin on the abdomen is often affected. Taking birth control pills can also trigger an overproduction of melanin.

Heredity also plays a part. People who are genetically programmed for fair skin are more prone to hyperpigmentation. The most common form for fair-skinned people is, of course, freckles.

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