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What is Hyperpigmentation aka Brown Spots aka Age Spots

Before you consider skin bleaching creams also known as skin lightening creams, you should know a bit about skin pigmentation and how it impacts your skin. Skin pigmentation disorders may include hyperpigmentation, vitiligo to melasma, to name just a few.

Pigmentation is part of what gives the skin it’s color, it is what determines your skin’s susceptibility to damage that may be caused by exposure to UV rays.

Let’s go over some must know facts about pigmentation:

  1. Melanin, which is produced by cells called melanocytes, through a process called melanogenesis, is responsible for your skin’s pigment (color). There are approximately 2,000 melanocytes per millimeter of skin. Despite some myths, the above is true for all races, all skin colors, across the board. There is the same amount of melanocytes present in dark skin as there is in light skin, the only difference is the size of the cells and the activity that happens within these cells. In other words, some may suffer from hyperpigmentation, some from Vitiligo and so on.
  2. Melanin, or skin pigment, is primarily determined by genetics, but can also be a result of exposure to the sun, certain medications or hormones.
  3. Excess exposure to the sun impacts the melanin in two ways: First, by increasing the production of melanin within the cell (such as when one gets what is known as a sun tan). Second, by creating oxidative stress- what this means is that existing melanin oxidizes which results in rapid darkening.
  4. There are three types of pigment changes that can occur: hyperpigmentation, which means that the skin becomes darker; hypopigmentation, which means that there is no melanin or an absence of color; and demarcation, which means uneven pigmentation, which may be a result of certain treatments, or excess picking or scratching.

Excessive melanin production can occur from systemic (within the body) and extrinsic (outside the body). Hyperpigmentation can occur in any skin type- oily, dry, dark and light.

There are three types of hyperpigmentation:

  1. Surface aka epidermal, which will appear light brown.
  2. Dermal, a deeper brown, or ashen gray and more solid, or
  3. combination of both levels, which typically appears as dark brown.

Skin that has more pigment is typically more prone to hyperpigmentation, and when exposed to chemicals, medications and overexposure to the sun, the skin becomes more vulnerable to hyperpigmentation. Systemic causes can include pregnancy (hyperpigmentation as a result of pregnancy is called melasma), hormonal changes, birth control pills, estrogen intake and the use of antibiotics. Acne and inflammation, can also cause hyperpigmentation, especially in darker skin types.