What Is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition characterized by patches of skin that become darker in color than the surrounding skin. This occurs when there is an overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. Melanin is produced by melanocytes, specialized cells in the skin.

Several types of hyperpigmentation occur, including sun-induced (solar lentigines) also known as sunspots or age spots, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), or melasma. Hyperpigmentation is typically harmless from a medical standpoint, but it can be a source of cosmetic concern for many individuals. Treatment options vary depending on the type and severity of hyperpigmentation and may include topical treatments such as hydroquinone, retinoids, or chemical peels, as well as procedures like laser therapy or microdermabrasion.

What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

Sun Exposure

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun stimulates melanocytes to produce more melanin, leading to tanning and sometimes the formation of sunspots or age spots.

Hormonal Changes

Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those that occur during pregnancy (melasma or “mask of pregnancy”), menopause, or while taking birth control pills, can trigger melanin production, leading to hyperpigmentation.

Inflammation or Injury

Skin inflammation or injury, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, cuts, burns, or insect bites, can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). In response to inflammation or injury, melanocytes may produce excess melanin, resulting in darkened patches of skin.


Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to developing hyperpigmentation. Certain ethnicities, such as those with darker skin tones, are more prone to developing certain types of hyperpigmentation, such as melasma.


Certain medications, including some antibiotics, antimalarial drugs, chemotherapy agents, and hormone medications, can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect. This is known as medication-induced hyperpigmentation.

Hormonal Disorders

Conditions such as Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome, which affect hormone levels in the body, can lead to changes in pigmentation.

Skin Trauma

Physical trauma to the skin, such as friction or repeated rubbing, can trigger melanin production and lead to hyperpigmentation, a condition known as frictional or traumatic hyperpigmentation.