What are the Most Common Hyperpigmentation Causes?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2016
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Hyperpigmentation, in which dark spots appear on the skin, can be caused by a broad spectrum of things. When hyperpigmentation appears, it should be examined by a dermatologist who can determine whether the dark spots are focal or diffuse, and who can start exploring causes. Some hyperpigmentation causes are benign, and not a cause for concern, while others are more serious. Melanoma, for example, is a cancer which presents in the form of dark blotches on the skin, while freckles are caused by benign activity among melanocytes, the cells which produce dark pigment.

Some congenital or chromosomal conditions can cause hyperpigmentation. For example, some forms of trisomy, in which people inherit three chromosomes instead of a pair, can cause dark blotches on the skin. Likewise, birthmarks are another form of hyperpigmentation, whether they take the form of port wine stains or stork bites. Some people are also born with a natural susceptibility to freckles, in which case sun exposure will cause freckles to appear.

Certain types of poisoning are also potential causes. Hyperpigmentation may occur in the skin or nails as a result of exposure to toxins, whether the toxins are ingested or applied topically. Another cause is an acute condition like Addison's disease, hyperthyroidism, hemochromatosis, or neurofibromatosis. Another of the common hyperpigmentation causes is pregnancy. Many pregnant women develop a distinct dark line on their bellies, and pregnant women can also experience melasma, in which dark patches appear on the face.


Sun exposure is a hyperpigmentation cause as well. Mild sun exposure can cause freckles to appear, but people can also develop more dangerous forms of hyperpigmentation, such as spots which could lead to melanoma, or actual cancerous spots. The liver spots associated with age are an example of hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure. Certain medications are also hyperpigmentation causes, with the medications either increasing susceptibility to sunlight, or causing blotches in the skin.

The first step in hyperpigmentation treatment is fully studying the marks and exploring the potential causes. In some cases, a doctor may recommend a simple dermabrasion to remove the dark spots if they are aesthetically undesirable, but benign. If the hyperpigmentation is caused by an underlying problem, whether it's exposure to toxins or an acute disease, treatment may be provided for this condition to see if the hyperpigmentation resolves. When the hyperpigmentation causes are malignant, as with melanoma, more aggressive steps will need to be taken to treat the hyperpigmentation itself.


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Post 7

My baby has dark legs and hands compared to birth. What causes it and what is the treatment to get rid of this darkness?

Post 6

@Azuza - I think you're right. I know I would have no way of self diagnosing a dark blotch on my skin (although I think in the case of melasma from pregnancy, a separate doctors visit is probably not required.)

Anyway, I actually read about a strange case of hyperpigmentation awhile back. This guy basically poisoned himself with a supplement he was taking. Colloidal silver is very popular, and most people use it without any problems. However, this guy was making his own and he eventually took so much of it his skin turned kind of a dark blue! And the worst part is, the condition isn't reversible.

Post 5

I had no idea there were to many different causes of dark skin spots! It seems like anything from cancer to poison can cause changes in the skin. And of course various other diseases can cause hyperpigmentation too!

I think it would probably be a good idea to get checked out by a doctor if you experience hyperpigmentation. I feel like this would be the only way to know exactly what the cause is.

Post 4

@simrin - I get skin sun spots, also known as freckles, if I spend time out in the sun too. I actually kind of like them! Usually they fade during the winter, but I kind of wish they would stay all year round.

Anyway, I think you should take a lesson from Anne in the Anne of Green Gables series. She had freckles, and she was always trying to get them to fade somehow. In fact, once she actually dyed her nose green while trying to get rid of the freckles. Eventually, she just learned to accept them.

If your doctor says your hyperpigmentation is just freckles, just try to learn to love them!

Post 3

Can hyperpigmentation be caused by acne and problem skin?

I do get out in the sun sometimes, but I use an SPF face and body lotion when I do. Despite this, I have started getting hyperpigmentation on my face. My brother has them too, but he's always outdoors without any sunblock so I think his are caused by being in the sun too much.

I do have acne-prone oily skin though and my face generally has 5-6 breakouts at any time. Do you think that this could be a cause of the hyperpigmentation? If so, how?

Post 2

@simrin-- I think you should have your dermatologist check out the dark spots before deciding to do anything with them.

There are cosmetic products that claim to get rid of or prevent hyperpigmentation. I personally don't use them because I don't believe hyperpigmentation to be a bad thing. Hyperpigmentation is basically your body telling you that "in order to deal with the amount of sunlight that I'm exposed to, I'm going to turn as dark as I can for minimum damage."

This is not a bad thing! But it does need to be taken as a warning sign and you do need to avoid the sun more than you have been. Unless there is another underlying cause such as disease, it sounds like you're doing everything you can to prevent further skin hyperpigmentation.

Post 1

I have really fair skin and even though I don't have freckles naturally, I develop them very quickly when I'm outside. I wear a strong sunblock daily, but I'm still getting freckles and brown spots on my skin.

I don't know what else I can do to avoid them. Everyone keeps suggesting that I stay out of the sun as much as possible and wear SPF lotions, which I'm already doing.

Do you think that the hyperpigmentation of my face is due to something else?

Are there any cosmetic products I can use to prevent them or get rid of them?

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