What Can You Do About Hyperpigmentation?

Now, we’re not talking about a little smattering of freckles, but bigger, uneven brown patches on not only the face but hands, neck and shoulder areas. Having ‘fake freckles’ is a growing trend abroad in which people use makeup or tattoos in order to give an illusion of a freckled face. We are talking about ageing dark spots that are known as pigmentation, caused by sun exposure and specifically the UVA rays which penetrate deep into your skin and cause ageing.

Unfortunately, no concealer and colour corrector can shield you from the unrelenting shadows of hyperpigmentation. Around the world, millions of women are turning to skin whitening products and supplements in order to have fairer, pigmentation free skin. In today’s industry of skincare, there are many beauty creams, products and procedures that can help with sustaining a youthful, clear skin.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a condition that causes the skin to darken. It can occur in small patches, cover large areas, or affect the entire body. Whether the problem is superficial or deep dermal, it depends on the depth to which the skin has been affected. This condition usually isn’t harmful, but it can be a symptom of another medical condition, such as neurofibromatosis, Coeliac disease, Grave’s disease or mercury poisoning.

Hyperpigmentation may be the sign of a benign or relatively easily treated condition, or it may indicate the presence of a life-threatening condition such as melanoma. A directed history and physical examination offer clues to the underlying cause of hyperpigmentation. In some cases, a skin biopsy can rule out skin cancer.  A review of medication use, supplement use, and exposure to plants and ultraviolet radiation can help determine whether hyperpigmentation is caused by a medication side effect or a phototoxic reaction.

While prevention is best, once you have pigment spots there are steps, diet changes and medications you can take to help fade them and prevent their reappearance after you have identified the type and cause of your hyperpigmentation.

It is important to remember that any medicine will be more effective if you have healthy eating and exercise habits.

What Causes Increased Skin Pigmentation?

Human skin comes in a wide variety of colours, ranging from shades of dark brown to almost white. Although an individual’s skin colour is influenced by numerous factors, the most significant is its content of a pigment called melanin, produced by skin cells called melanocytes. Melanin also is the pigment responsible for determining hair and eye colour.A common cause of hyperpigmentation is an excess production of melanin. Several different conditions or factors can alter the production of melanin in the body.

The biggest cause is, of course, UV damage!  

Exposure to the ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes changes to the skin colour, stimulates melanin production causing skin reddening to change to darker, tanned skin.  UV induced skin changes include thickening of the outer layer of skin, freckles and moles and premature skin ageing, characterised by reduced elasticity, increased dryness and wrinkles. Once dark spots have developed, sun exposure can also exacerbate dark spots by making freckles, age spots, melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation spots even darker.


Certain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAiDs), antimalarials, amiodarone, cytotoxic drugs, tetracyclines, diuretics, heavy metals and psychotropic drugs can cause hyperpigmentation. Also, some chemotherapy drugs can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect.

Hormone Levels

Pregnancy changes hormone levels and can affect melanin production in some women. Hormonal influences are the main cause of a particular kind of hyperpigmentation known as melasma or chloasma.

Endocrine diseases

Endocrine diseases, like Addison’s disease and other sources of adrenal insufficiency, causes an elevation in hormones that stimulate melanin synthesis, such as melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH). Disease like hemochromatosis, which is an inherited condition, causes the body to contain too much iron. It can cause hyperpigmentation, making the skin appear darker or tanned.

What’s the Best Way to Treat Hyperpigmentation?

Although hyperpigmentation is harmless, it’s still a major concern in women and most of them wish to get rid of it. The best way to treat hyperpigmentation is to make sure you are both preventative and protective over your skin and general health.

The first step is to correctly identify the type of skin pigmentation you are experiencing. Keep in mind this issue can affect all parts of the body and not just the face.

Types of hyperpigmentation

There are several types of hyperpigmentation:


Freckles are diffused pigmentation in the form of flat, small tan or light-brown coloured spots. They appear on sun-exposed areas of skin, such as the face, neck, arms and shoulders. Freckles are generally harmless, however, with repeated sunburn, there is a risk they can develop into skin cancer.


Melasma is believed to be caused by hormonal changes and develops during pregnancy. Melasma is primarily due to female hormones. It affects so many pregnant women that it is also known as “the mask of pregnancy”. It’s more prevalent among people with darker skin. Areas of hyperpigmentation can appear on any area of the body. They appear most commonly on the abdomen and face.


Sunspots, also called liver spots or solar lentigines, are common. They’re related to excess sun exposure over time. Generally, they appear as spots of hyperpigmentation on areas exposed to the sun, like the hands and face.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a result of an injury to the skin, such as a cut, burn, chemical exposure, acne, eczema or Psoriasis. It occurs when the skin is left darkened and discoloured after the wound has healed.


Epidermal or superficial brown birthmarks such as cafe au lait spots and congenital melanocytic naevi.

So you’ve figured out the type of pigmentation causing you trouble.

What’s next?  

The science behind skincare products has come a long way but there’s still no such thing as an instant fix.

Ultimately, caring for your skin is simply personal. Great skin is not simply only a matter of DNA, your daily habits, in fact, have a big impact on what you see in the mirror.

When it comes to a gorgeous, glowing complexion, there are quite a few steps you can (and probably should) include in your skin care regimen.

Applying your skin care products in the proper order ensures that your skin receives the full benefits of each product.

  1. Cleansing — Washing your face
  2. Toning — Balancing the skin
  3. Serums- antioxidant serums, which provide a variety of benefits—from blunting your skin’s inflammatory response to neutralizing damage from UV rays and environmental pollutants
  4. Eye creams– keep the eyelid skin elastic and can improve or prevent against some fine lines or collagen loss
  5. Spot treatment– reduces dark spots on the skin
  6. Moisturizing — Hydrating and softening the skin
  7. Sunscreen — SPF for UV protection

The goal of any skincare routine is to tune up your complexion so it’s functioning at its best, and also troubleshoot or target any areas you want to work on.

Chemical Peel

You could always consider a chemical peel, which has been used for years by beauty therapists as an effective superficial skin pigmentation treatment that’s low cost, and safe.

Face peels works by gently removing the top layer of the skin (affected by pigmentation) in a peeling motion.

Prevent & Lighten #Hyperpigmentation

To prevent hyperpigmentation, or to stop it from becoming more prominent, many people use topical lightening agents such as brightening creams, lotions and facial oils after face peels. Your lotions and creams should  include ingredients that lighten the skin, such as:

  • azelaic acid
  • corticosteroids
  • hydroquinone
  • kojic acid
  • retinoids, such as tretinoin (however, never use it during the day as it causes hyperpigmentation by directly acting on melanocytes and burns the skin)
  • vitamin C
  • Niacinamide

Antioxidant Skincare Products

Embracing antioxidant skincare products may help to repair some of the DNA damage that has been done by your hormones, sun or scarring and helps repair your skin from within. Vitamins A, C and E can have an almost a bleaching effect when it comes to hyperpigmentation.

Superficial pigmentation can be treated at home with specialized products purchased from skin care salons. But sometimes, you need to combine it with some supplements to help treat the condition from the inside as well, especially for deep dermal pigmentation with internal triggers.

Glutathione containing supplements can help in reducing the dark spots over time. Glutathione is an antioxidant naturally found in human cells that neutralizes free radicals, boosts the immune system and detoxifies the body by reducing oxidative stress. It can also cause skin lightening by converting melanin to a lighter colour and deactivating the enzyme tyrosinase, which helps produce the pigment.

You can’t correct or prevent either without sun protection!

We’ve been constantly reminded of the importance of diligent sunscreen use too many times to count, but that’s because it’s basically the optimal way for staving off any sun-induced ailment. It is recommended to apply an SPF 30 or higher that is a “broad spectrum sunscreen” every two hours, even if you’re just going to be inside sitting near a window. It also can’t hurt to double up on the protection with a moisturizer that contains SPF.


Sleeping in your makeup isn’t exactly the best idea. When you sleep in a full face of makeup, it can mix with the dirt and oil on your skin, leading to clogged pores and clogged pores can lead to breakouts and blackheads.

Cosmetic procedures

Some cosmetic procedures can also lighten areas of skin to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Skin tone can play a role in the intensity and length of hyperpigmentation treatments. Those available procedures include:

  • laser therapy
  • intense pulsed light (IPL)
  • chemical peels
  • microdermabrasion
  • dermabrasions

Our ability to recover from sun exposure and the response to sun exposure becomes heightened when we grow older, plus the capacity to remove excessive reactive pigmentation decreases over time. Whatever route you choose, a prevention plan is essential to enjoying your results and guarding against re-emergence of dark spots. A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight many diseases.  

Remember, it’s the overall pattern of your choices that counts and makes a difference.

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