What is Hyperpigmentation?
Whether you suffer from it or not, everyone has seen someone with hyperpigmenation. First off, what is hyperpigmentation? Thetextbook definition states, "Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of an area of the skin or nails caused by increase in melanin." The amount of melanin one has in their skin is based on genetic predisposition and is activated by heat.
Certain skin types have more melanocytes, or the cells that produce melanin, and the ability to produce melanin than others. It is the melanin that acts as a protectant from heat or damage to the skin. That is why people with very fair skin and light eyes are more suscpetible to skin cancer and sun burns because they have far less melanin production than an African American, who has a very large amount of melanin production.
Your body tries to defend the inflammation to your skin tissues by sending out an arsenal of melanocytes. Melanin pigments are formed from your body's process of metabolizing an amino acid called tyrosine. It is this tyrosine that is involved in EVERY protein of the body, especially in the hormone-secreting and hormone-regulating organs and what is eventually converted into melanin.
Causes of Hyperpigmentation
The thing about hyperpigmentation, is there are quite a few contributing factors, other than just sun exposure. The main predecessor to hyperpigmenation is a result of an inflammatory response. What are some of the things to cause an inflammatory response?
When the skin is exposed to UV radiation, the cells of the skin become damaged. The production of melanin is stimulated by the exposure of these UV rays, especially UVB radiation. When you get a sunburn, your skin has been severely damaged and inflamed. It doesn't take a sunburn however to cause an inflammatory response to the skin. Even minimal UV exposure can be enough to trigger the onset of melanocytes to produce melanin. Constant stimulation of of the melanocytes from sun exposure will eventually lead to permanent hyperpigmenation.
Heat from Internal or External Factors
Sometimes even just taking hot showers, using steam rooms or saunas can cause enough heat to the skin to cause an inflammatory response to the skin tissues. When your skin absorbs the heat, your body tries to defend against the the damage, leading to the melanin production. Typically when the skin cools down, this type of hyperpigmenation will subside as well.
Pregnancy/Hormones/Birth Control Pills
Again, the hormone regulating and producing organs have a high amount of tyrosine - the amino acid which converts to melanin. You've all heard of pregnancy mask. You can see how an increase in hormones in the body can cause an increase in melanin production. Luckily, this type of inflammation is only temporary, so the hyperpigmented areas you get as a result of hormones are only temporary as well.
When you use lasers (direct heat), chemical peels, waxing, or microdermabrasion, you run the risk of causing either a burn or a trauma to the skin. When either of those happen, your body tries to defend it by producing an inflammatory response.
Acne causes inflamed skin due to the overgrowth of bacteria. That's why your skin tends to get a redness or the brown coloration during an acne flareup.
Antibiotics, heart medications, non-steroidal drugs and other medications can actually cause a photo-toxic inflammation to the skin. Sometimes you've read that a certain medication may cause sun sensitivity.
Diseases: Addison’s Disease, Adrenal Gland insufficiency
What Your Skin Does in Response to Inflammation: Hyperpigmentation
Whenever your skin tissues absorb and hold heat, your body tries to defend it by sending out melanocytes to produce the melanin. Have you ever noticed that some people tend to get an increase in hyperpigmentation around the areas they tend to sweat the most? For instance, above their upper lip, their underarms, chest (especially between the breasts)? When you sweat, your skin holds onto the perspiration, which then heats up your skin. The response? Your body thinks the heat in your skin needs to be counteracted and your skin needs protection, so it begins producing melanin.
How to counteract hyperpigmenation using all natural organic products? Stay tuned for Part 2 - The Truth About Hyperpigmentation.