Skin darkening, or hyperpigmentation, is a relatively harmless skin condition, though it can make those who have it self-conscious about their appearance. This common skin disorder occurs when an excess of melanin is produced, causing dark patches of skin, often on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip, or nose.
Hyperpigmentation affects both men and women. The most common underlying cause of skin darkening is hormonal change. However, rosacea, lupus, sun damage and skin cancer can all cause skin darkening.
The following conditions may put you at a greater risk for developing patches of dark skin:
- Addison’s disease
- Hormone therapy for menopause
- Oral contraceptives
Occasionally, darkened skin is a sign of a more serious medical problem that cannot be treated cosmetically. Some changes in skin tone, like the changing color or shape of a mole, may indicate skin cancer. Still other dark skin patches, especially those that are butterfly-shaped dark, may be evidence of lupus. Therefore, it is best that you see a doctor if you notice that your skin has darkened.
If you suffer from the more common kind of hyperpigmentation that is caused by hormonal change, there are many non-surgical treatments available. Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser resurfacing and intense pulsed light (IPL) are effective treatments that are often used to target skin imperfections like skin darkening.
Vitamin C-serums and skin-lightening creams that contain hydroquinone are also proven treatments for hyperpigmentation. If you suffer from rosacea it may help to avoid certain trigger foods like spicy foods and alcohol, and to incorporate the use of topical prescription medications in your treatment protocol.
Regardless of what caused your skin to develop darker patches, your treatment plan should include sun protection. Minimize sun exposure and apply sunscreen regularly. A good sun block should contain both a chemical and physical block, an ingredient that sits on your skin’s surface as a protective barrier against the sun.