Hyperpigmentation-What is it | Dr Chen Tai Ho | Malaysia

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Hyperpigmentation – What Is It?

by | Jan 20, 2015

Hey all, I hope you’ve had a great week and are ready and rested to face the new week ahead. Today I want to explore the topic of hyperpigmentation and what it really is. These tend to appear in dark patches across your skin and can occur on any part of the body, but it is more likely to appear on the areas which are most exposed to the sun.
Breaking Down Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is when your skin produces a large amount of pigment known as melanin. This is excessive and may begin to show up as dark patches anywhere on your body. Melanin is usually produced by your skin depending on the colour tones; fair-skinned individuals will have much less melanin in their skin than darker-skinned individuals. The primary function of melanin is to offer your skin protection, usually from the sun and also explains why those with fair skin are more prone to sunburn!
People with less melanin in their skin are more susceptible to sunburn (pic from menshealth.co.uk_
It may also be concentrated in tiny spots in selected body parts; these are known as “age spots”. Although different in name and appearance, the make-up of the conditions are more or less the same.
Melanin is produced by melanocytes and is a harmless substance that is crucial for your skin. However, hyperpigmentation and age spots occur when an abnormal number of melanocytes begin the production of melanin, or when they are hyperactive. This leads to the dark patches or spots that appear on your skin which do not cause any harm but may not be aesthetically pleasing to the individual.
What Causes It?
Contrary to popular belief, hyperpigmentation does not only occur due to overexposure to the sun. It is true that this is a big factor, however there are also other causes that may cause your skin to produce melanin at an unusual rate.
An example of hyperpigmentation on the face (pic from trinityvistaderm.com)
If your parents were susceptible to hyperpigmentation or age spots, chances are that you may experience this skin condition at some point in your life. Picking at the skin can also cause it to produce melanin, while hormonal changes may also send your melanocytes into a frenzy. You should also take precautions if certain medications seem to trigger hyperpigmentation; this can include antibiotics, hormone treatments and more. Skin injuries or other inflammations may also cause melanin to be produced. Last, but obviously not least, overexposure to the sun is the main cause and it goes without saying that you should not be out in the sun for too long.
And perhaps most surprisingly, did you know that your laptop may cause hyperpigmentation? Placing it on your lap for extended periods of time exposes your thighs to the heat that your laptop produces, which may result in a form of hyperpigmentation known as “erythema ab igne”. It may appear as patches of discoloration on the skin, often in a net-like pattern. However, you don’t need to worry about it developing overnight! It takes months of using your laptop, and only if it is placed on your lap for many hours during the day. This should be fairly easy to counter!


It may be wise to use your laptop on a table (pic from livescience.com)
In my next posts, I will outline some ways in which you can prevent hyperpigmentation and age spots. Prevention is always better than cure so stay tuned!

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