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June 18, 2020
Hyperpigmentation refers to any darkening or discolouration of the skin compared to that of the surrounding tissue. This decolouration can come in various shades and shapes depending on the type. While most people find its appearance undesirable hyperpigmentation is actually there to help protect the skin. The colour change occurs when the pigment melanin accumulates at the skin’s surface after being signalled by the surrounding skin cells. When skin cells are exposed to stressors such as UV light from the sun, damage from a rash, acne or a change in hormonal homeostasis, they call for protection in the form of melanosomes carrying melanin. The accumulation of melanosomes around cells makes the skin appear darker. The melanin can help absorb some UV light and can decrease the risk of cellular damage. Unfortunately, by the time melanin reaches the surface of the skin, its often too late to prevent damage from occurring (that’s why staying out of the sun is always best).
Hyperpigmentation presents in several varieties with key physiological causes such as blood vessel dilation, inflammation, or an increase in estrogen. The four most common types of hyperpigmentation are post inflammatory erythema (PIE), post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), age spots, and melasma. Each type and the depth within the skin it resides influences how reversible the discolouration may be.
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