According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are a number of causes that can be attributed to hyperpigmentation. Some of these causes are environmental while some are due to underlying health conditions that require examination by a doctor. The following list of causes isn’t exhaustive but it is meant to give you an idea of what may be the reason for the dark spots on your own skin.
Skin inflammationInflammation is a general term that describes the immune system’s response to infection or trauma. Inflammation in the skin often causes redness, heat, pain, and rashes to form. Relatively mild events such as a bug bite, acne, or a cut can lead to inflammation. While inflammation itself is a good thing—it means your immune system is working properly—it can cause pigment-producing cells to create more melanin, thereby leaving behind a dark spot after the wound has healed. While inflammation is an unavoidable part of the wound-healing process, taking measures to clean and dress your wound with bandages will speed up the process and reduce scarring and hyperpigmentation. If you have an acne breakout or attain a bug bite, avoid squeezing or scratching the affected areas at all costs as this can cause further trauma and increase the risk of dark spot formation.
UV (ultraviolet radiation) from sunlight is a well-known culprit of hyperpigmentation and dark spot formation in the skin. While some sunlight is healthy for the human body, extended stay in the sun, most commonly seen when sun tanning, can trigger melanin production as a way to protect your skin against the UV rays. The increased melanin production can either lead to a nice tan or to unwanted dark spots on the skin. While dark spots in themselves are not harmful, other blemishes that are cancerous can develop on the skin. It’s always a good idea to use sunscreen if you think you’ll be outside for extended periods of time and see a dermatologist if you suspect a blemish to be cancerous.
Melasma is the phenomena of brown patch formation on the skin, typically the face, which often occurs in women during pregnancy. This change is due to hormonal changes in pregnant women and has been given the name “mask of pregnancy.” While melasma can occur in men, with sun exposure and genetics being the likely culprit, women are affected much more frequently. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, melasma has also been linked to use of birth control pills in women because these contraceptives cause hormonal changes in the body. The use of skin lightening creams can be used to reduce the hyperpigmentation effects of melasma.
Medical conditions and prescription drugs
Some underlying medical conditions such as cancer, Addison disease, and hemochromatosis can lead to hyperpigmentation. Addison’s disease, for instance, occurs when the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones. Certain drugs, including some antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, have also been associated with hyperpigmentation. As with melasma, you can try using a skin lightening cream to reduce the discoloration of pigment changes in the skin.