Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that makes some areas of the skin darker than others. Extra melanin creates spots or patches that look brown, black, gray, red or pink. The areas are not painful or itchy, but they can make people self-conscious. Several lifestyle changes and treatments can help, especially sun protection and skin care.
Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that makes some areas of the skin darker than others. “Hyper” means more, and “pigment” means color.
Hyperpigmentation can appear as brown, black, gray, red or pink spots or patches. The spots are sometimes called age spots, sun spots or liver spots.
The spots can occur in just one area of the body or all over.
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Hyperpigmentation can affect people of any race or ethnicity.
Skin gets its color from a substance called melanin, which is made by skin cells. When those skin cells are damaged or unhealthy, they can produce too much melanin. The melanin can clump, causing that area to appear darker.
Many things can lead to hyperpigmentation:
Other than dark spots, hyperpigmentation doesn’t cause any symptoms. If you have spots on your skin with any other symptoms, talk to your primary care provider or a dermatologist (skin doctor).
To diagnose hyperpigmentation, a healthcare provider may:
Depending on the reasons for hyperpigmentation, your healthcare provider may suggest some lifestyle changes:
Your healthcare provider may also recommend prescription or over-the-counter topical therapy (creams or ointments you put on your skin):
Other treatments may include:
Many products claim to lessen hyperpigmentation. Talk to your doctor to see what products are effective and right for you.
Read more about understanding the ingredients in skin care products.
Hyperpigmentation can’t always be prevented, but protecting your skin from the sun helps:
Hyperpigmentation is a lifelong condition. Treatments can help clear some dark spots and lessen others. But they might take a few months or a year to work. And other spots can appear over time, especially if you don’t protect yourself from sun damage.
The appearance of hyperpigmentation can make you feel self-conscious.
You should see a healthcare provider, such as a dermatologist, if your skin is:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Sometimes the skin produces extra melanin, or pigment. That can create spots or patches that look darker than the surrounding skin. Hyperpigmentation may make you feel self-conscious, but it’s a common condition. Lifestyle changes and treatments may help. Avoiding sun damage is one of the best ways to prevent and reduce hyperpigmentation.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/07/2021.
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