Many people suffer from pigmentary disorders, darkened areas of skin that are the result of abnormal clusters of pigmented cells caused by an increase in melanin. These disorders may be genetic or acquired. Have you noticed the appearance of darker spots or moles on your skin, or changes to existing ones? You may be experiencing a pigmentary disorder. The most common types include:

Café au lait spots

Café au lait spots are tan birthmarks caused by clusters of pigmented skin cells (melanin). Those that appear at birth have a higher risk of becoming skin cancer. Moles should be checked on a regular basis. Any sudden color change, pain, or bleeding warrants an immediate check with your doctor. Surgical removal of a lesion is the preferred treatment; laser surgery, surgical scraping, and cryotherapy (freezing) are not permanent solutions.


Lentigines, also known as age spots or liver spots, are harmless, oversized freckles. They are the result of photodamage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) release excess pigment in response to the harmful effects of sun exposure. If bothersome, camouflage techniques, topical creams, peels, and lasers may be used.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can occur when trauma to the skin ( pimple, burn, laser resurfacing, etc.) causes inflammation and increased blood flow to the area, stimulating the melanocytes to secrete more melanin, which causes the area to darken. Without treatment, it can take years to fade.


Hormones, genetics, medications, and environmental factors can cause melasma, darker patches of skin often seen on the cheeks, forehead, and above the lips. The melanocytes are hypersensitive to ultraviolet light and overproduce melanin in the affected areas. If the trigger isn’t hormone or medication related, topical creams, chemical peels, or laser treatments can be used to improve the skin color and tone.
Proper skin care is imperative in preventing pigmentation and complexion issues. Be proactive by cleaning, exfoliating, moisturizing, and protecting your skin with sunscreen. Most pigment blemishes can be camouflaged with makeup or treated via topical creams, steroids, antibiotics, chemical peels, laser treatment, or surgical removal. The team at Willamette ENT can help minimize or eliminate existing issues. Make your appointment today to discuss the best mode of concealment or treatment.