Are You At a Higher Risk of Developing Hyperpigmentation?

Before we dive into whether you’re more prone to developing hyperpigmentation, we should first understand how hyperpigmentation comes about. 

How is Hyperpigmentation Formed?

  1. Melanin is the dark pigment that is produced by your skin as a response to assaults from the environment
    – These include UV radiation, infections, allergic reactions and wounds.
    – Melanin is also what gives your skin its natural colour.
  2. Melanin is formed by specialised, pigment-producing cells in the epidermis called melanocytes (see image below)
    Each of these cells touches many other epidermal cells – keratinocytes – in order to distribute melanin.
  3. When the skin is damaged, it triggers a defensive reaction
    – This sends signals to melanocytes to start taking measures.
    – As a result, melanocytes release melanin, which works its way up to cap off the top of a skin cell’s nucleus.
  4. If melanin is continuously and unevenly produced within skin, it will cause hyperpigmentation
    Even after the initial damage has subsided, dark spots and discolouration can form.

You’re at a higher risk of developing hyperpigmentation if:

1. You’re Asian

  • Asian skin develops dark spots earlier than other types of skin.
  • This is because Asian skin is hyper-reactive to the sun; it more easily responds with melanin pigment than other skin types.
  • Damage to Asian skin more easily produces signals that affect the whole network of cells. This leads to melanin production and distribution in skin.

2. You’re always out in the sun without protection

  • Sun damage is the biggest culprit of hyperpigmentation.
  • When stimulated by UV rays, the normal activity of your skin’s internal cells (melanoctyes) becomes hyperactive, causing the overproduction of melanin pigmentation.
  • As a result, over time, skin forms these age spots or dark spots.

3. Your skin is scarred, infected, or affected by other forms of irritation

  • Various forms of irritation can lead to dark spots.
  • These irratations include as abrasions from over-cleansing the skin, cuts, scrapes and wounds, allergic reactions, skin infections and especially acne blemishes.
  • Some doctors’ procedures, such as laser treatments, have the potential to cause hyperpigmentation.

4. You’re pregnant

  • The hormonal changes within your body during pregnancy could also be contributing to the darkening of your skin.
  • Most of the time, women with darker skin are more prone to this than women with lighter skin
  • The increased pigmentation usually fades after you give birth, but there is also a chance that it never goes away.

What Kind of Abnormal Pigmentation Can I Expect?

It depends on your natural skin tone. For example, if you have more melanin, then you may be more likely to get dark spots from irritation or blemish scars. If you have lighter skin then dark spots form where there has been sun damage.

These risk factors are only a general indication. Hyperpigmentation can happen to anyone, but is generally a harmless skin condition. There’s no need to panic and there are treatment options available. For a more in-depth piece on hyperpigmentation, check out “Hyperpigmentation: Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment Options”.


Tell us about your experience with hyperpigmentation. How did it come about, and did you manage to get rid of it?


Edited by: The HealthWorks Team
Contributed by: Dr Daniel Yarosh, The Estée Lauder Companies, Senior Vice President Basic Science Research

Share a Thought

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.