Melanin is the natural pigment that gives your skin color. From the palest skin tones to skin that is dark and rich, the concentration of melanin in your skin is part of what makes you uniquely you. Over time, however, irregularities can develop causing clusters of pigment to form on your skin making it either darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation) than the surrounding skin.

Pigmentation irregularities, while a normal part of the aging process, can affect your appearance, whether on face or body. Our dermatologist at Piedmont Plastic Surgery & Dermatology can help you find solutions to pigmentation irregularities and restore an even skin tone.

Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation occurs when there is an increase in the amount of melanin produced by your body. This increase in production can be triggered by several factors including:

  • Age
  • Hormones
  • Sun exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Adolescence
  • Addison’s disease

Areas of hyperpigmentation can appear on any location on your body, but most frequently appear on areas which receive greater amounts of sun exposure – often the face.

Hypopigmentation

Conversely, hypopigmentation is caused by a decrease in the amount of melanin produced by your body. Hypopigmentation may be present at birth or may develop as you age. Types of hypopigmentation include:

  • Skin damage resulting from blisters, burns, infection, or other trauma
  • Vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder in which smooth, white patches form on the skin
  • Albinism, a rare disorder of the skin characterized by an absence of melanin produced by the skin

The Importance of Sun Protection

While there is usually no treatment needed for health reasons for either hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, it is imperative that all individuals use adequate sun protection when venturing out-of-doors. Those with hypopigmentation are at a greater risk for skin cancer due to limited or absent melanin. Those with hyperpigmentation should be careful to use sunscreen in order to prevent further sun spots from developing, and to prevent a worsening condition.