The term hyperpigmentation refers to excessive darkening of areas of the skin in relation to surrounding areas. These dark spots can be as small as freckles or large patchy areas.

Melanocytes in our skin cells normally absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays and produce melanin, the substance which tans our skin. In some areas there may be more melanocytes or hyperactive melanocytes that overproduce melanin. The deposits of melanin create a harmless brown patch on the skin.

One type of hyperpigmentation is melasma. In this condition, large patchy brown areas form on the face, most often on the cheeks, forehead and temples. Lentigines, sometimes called age spots or liver spots, form most often on the face and the back of the hands.

Almost everyone has some degree of hyperpigmentation. And because melanin reacts to sunlight, people who have had long exposure to the sun, such as the elderly, are more likely to exhibit hyperpigmentation. Our face, neck and hands are the areas we expose most to the sun so it should not be surprising that these areas are affected by hyperpigmentation. Because these are also the areas we expose most to the public, hyperpigmentation can become a problem for people who believe their appearance is marred by these brown patches.