What is Hyperpigmentation? Here’s All You Need to Know

Uneven pigmentation (also known as hyperpigmentation) is a commonplace skin condition. Dark spots, also known as age or sun spots, or discoloration of the skin, emerge often on the face, hands, and other regions of the body that are exposed to the sun on a regular basis.

Also Read: Know The A-Z Of Niacinamide

While pigmentation is normally harmless, it might be a sign of an underlying health problem. This article describes the many forms of hyperpigmentation and the factors that contribute to its development. We’ll look at ways to avoid hyperpigmentation, and also how to treat dark patches or spots that have already emerged or developed.

Types of hyperpigmentation?

The words “hyper” and “pigment” indicate “more” and “color,” respectively. Brown, black, grey, red, or pink patches or spots are all manifestations of hyperpigmentation. Age spots, sun spots, and liver spots are various names for the same thing.

The spots might appear in a particular region or all over the body. Sunspots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation are some of the most prevalent kinds of hyperpigmentation.

Melasma: Melasma is a skin condition that affects many people. Dark, discolored spots appear on your skin as a result of the illness.

When it affects pregnant women, it’s known as chloasma or the “mask of pregnancy.” Women are far more likely than males to get the malady, even though men can still develop it. Melasma affects 90 percent of women, as per the AAD or American Academy of Dermatology.

  • Symptoms: Patches of discoloration are caused by melasma. These spots are darker than the rest of your skin. It usually appears on the visage and is uniform, with identical markings on both sides. Melasma might develop on other parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun.

Patches of brownish hue typically develop on the:

  • cheekbones 
  • forehead 
  • nose bridge 
  • chin

It’s also plausible to get it on your neck and forearms. Although the skin darkening causes no physical harm, you may be self-conscious about how it appears.

Consult your doctor if you detect any of these melasma symptoms.  They may recommend a dermatologist, a specialist who specializes in the treatment of skin conditions, to you.

  • Causes: The exact cause of melasma is unknown. Individuals with darker complexions are more vulnerable than those with lighter skin. The condition is also linked to estrogen and progesterone sensitivity. Melasma can be triggered by pregnancy, birth control pills, and hormone treatment. Melasma is also considered to be caused by stress and thyroid disorders.

Furthermore, because UV rays impact the cells that govern pigment, sun exposure can produce melasma (melanocytes).

  • Diagnosis: Melasma is generally diagnosed with a visual examination of the afflicted region. Your healthcare provider may also conduct testing to rule out particular reasons.

A Wood’s lamp examination is one method of testing. This is a unique type of light that is held on your skin. It enables your doctor to examine for fungal and bacterial diseases as well as assess the number of layers of skin affected by melasma. They may also do a biopsy to screen for any significant skin disorders. A little portion of the afflicted skin is removed and tested in this procedure.

  • Treatment: There are lotions that your doctor can prescribe to help brighten your skin. Topical steroids may also be used to brighten the afflicted regions. Dermabrasion, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion are also choices if they don’t work. These procedures remove the top skin layers and may help brighten dark spots.

Melasma may reappear after these operations, and certain cases of melasma cannot be entirely lightened. To limit the chance of melasma recurrence, you may need to revisit for follow-up consultations and adhere to particular skin treatment measures. These include limiting your exposure to the sun and using sunscreen on a daily basis.

  • Coping with melasma: While medication will not cure all cases of melasma, there are measures you can maintain to keep the condition from worsening and to reduce the look of the discoloration. Here are a few of them:
    • Using cosmetics to conceal discoloration
    • Taking recommended medicine and using SPF 30 sunscreen every day
    • wearing a hat with a broad brim that protects or shades your face

If you go out in the sun for a considerable amount of time, wearing protective clothing is very crucial.

Sunspots: Solar lentiginosis is a prevalent dermatological disorder that primarily affects adults over 40. Solar lentigines, liver spots, or age spots are brown patches on the skin that range in color from pale brown to dark brown.

  • Symptoms: Age spots are pigmented regions of the flesh that are flat and typically oval. To put it another way, they’re darker than the skin about them. They come in a variety of colors, including brown, black, and grey. They’re most frequent in body regions that are exposed to the sun on a regular basis. This includes the following:
    • Hands and arms, 
    • tops of the feet, 
    • shoulders, 
    • and upper back

Age spots, despite their appearance as malignant growths, are completely innocuous. Treatments like skin lightening or removal, on the other hand, might be utilized for aesthetic goals. Avoiding the sun and wearing sunscreen are the greatest ways to avoid age marks.

Color The hue of age spots ranges from mild brown to black. After a while in the light, they may darken.
Texture The patches are textured like the remainder of your skin. They are usually found in regions that are exposed to the sun. They’re smooth and don’t ache.
Size Age spots can be as little as a blemish or as large as an inch across.
Grouping They may appear alone or in a cluster, which might increase their visibility.
Shape Age spots are usually round or oval in shape, with sharp edges.
  • Causes: The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the major source of age spots. Melanin is the component that provides your skin it’s color. UV radiation causes melanin synthesis to increase, resulting in darker skin or a tan. Melanin accumulates in some regions and is created in large amounts after decades of UV exposure. As a result, aging spots appear.

UV radiation from tanning beds comes from an artificial source, although it is otherwise identical to natural sunlight. Irrespective of UV exposure, the aging process promotes melanin synthesis and causes age spots.

  • Look-alike conditions:  Solar lentigines are completely safe. Some skin diseases that mimic lentigines yet can be dangerous, are-
    • Melanoma, a malignant skin cancer, 
    • keratosis, noncancerous skin growth, 
    • and lentigo maligna, a kind of skin cancer.
  • Diagnosis:  To detect solar lentiginosis and screen out any other skin disorders, your dermatologist will do a detailed inspection. By looking at age spots, dermatologists can generally tell what they are.

A skin biopsy may be required if your physician or you have any concerns or suspect the spot on the skin has a different origin. This entails your doctor taking a tiny sample of flesh from the affected region. Local anesthesia will be administered, and your physician will extract a little portion of the skin. They’ll send it to a lab to see whether you have anything else.

Read more: Useful Information You Need To Know About Acne Patches

  • Treatment: Treatment isn’t essential because age spots aren’t harmful. Many people, on the other hand, prefer to nurse age spots for aesthetic reasons. Physical methods are frequently more successful than topical drugs, but the latter might have unintended consequences.

The following are some of the treatments:

  • To lighten age spots, your physician may prescribe bleaching lotions. These are commonly used in conjunction with retinoid and steroid creams. These drugs, when used together, can brighten your skin eventually.
  • The epidermis of the aging spot is frozen with liquid nitrogen during cryotherapy. This has the potential to deplete the melanin that gives the dark tint its hue. With cryotherapy, there is a chance of scarring.
  • Dermabrasion is a procedure that includes scouring your skin and removing its surface layers with a rotating brush. This surgery may leave you with redness and scabbing.
  • When a laser is used on age spots, the cells that produce melanin are destroyed. The age spots will diminish over the span of several months or weeks with this therapy, which will require multiple visits. If done correctly, laser treatment has little or no negative effects. This is one of the most expensive treatments.
  • A chemical peel is a procedure in which an acid is applied to your skin in order to disintegrate the outer layers. Where the layers of skin have been removed, new skin grows in its place. To observe benefits, you must have the therapy many times. It causes mild to severe irritation. Following the treatment, you should apply sun protection to your skin.
  • Prevention: Avoiding sun and tan-bed exposure is the most effective strategy to avoid age spots. Use a sunscreen that offers UVA and UVB protection.  When you’re outside in the sun, protect yourself with sunglasses, hats, and clothes.

Post-inflammatory pigmentation: When your skin is inflamed or wounded, it produces more melanin. This is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Melanin is a pigment found in our skin, hair, and eyes that gives them their hue.

PIH can damage the epidermis, which is the top layer of your skin, or your dermis, which is a deeper layer. Acne is a common factor of this kind.

  • Causes: Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs when your skin cells respond to harm or irritation by producing more melanin. Brown, tan, blue-gray, or even dark brown patches and spots appear on your skin as a result of this skin ailment.

Eczema, acne, and impetigo are the most prevalent causes, however, PIH can be caused by any sort of skin damage or irritation. Other causes of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that have been reported include: ‌

  • Infections
  • Bites by insects
  • Burns
  • Bumps from razor blades
  • Rashes
  • Reactions due to allergies
  • Psoriasis

PIH can also be caused by medical or cosmetic operations. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation has been associated with radiation therapy, light or laser treatments, chemical peels, and cryotherapy.

  • Post Inflammatory hyperpigmentation Treatment: Identifying and addressing the root of inflammation can help your PIH recover faster and be less acute. Hyperpigmented areas may subside on their own without the need for therapy.

There are numerous types of topical medications that can help speed up the process and minimize PIH skin spots:

Hydroquinone & azelaic acid are two skin lighteners that can help suppress melanin formation.

To accelerate skin cell turnover, retinoids and steroids are used. Glycolic acid or Salicylic acid chemical peels are used to remove melanin-rich skin cells.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

Hyperpigmentation is characterized by darkened regions on the skin.  Patches can be small or large, and they can appear in a number of places on the body.

Sun exposure and inflammation are the two major risk factors for general hyperpigmentation since both can enhance melanin production. The more time you spend in the sun, the more likely you are to develop skin pigmentation.

Other stressors for hyperpigmented patches vary depending on the kind of disorder:

  • Melasma can be caused by oral contraceptive usage or pregnancy.
  • Darker skin is more susceptible to pigmentation changes.
  • Medicines that make you more sensitive to sunlight.
  • A wound or superficial burn damage to the skin are examples of skin trauma.

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

Excess melanin production is a frequent cause of hyperpigmentation. Melanin is the pigment responsible for the color of the skin. Melanocytes, which are skin cells, generate it. The synthesis of melanin in the body might be affected by a variety of illnesses or causes.

Hyperpigmentation can be caused by the use of several drugs. As a side effect, several chemotherapy medications might produce hyperpigmentation.

In certain women, pregnancy alters the hormonal balance and can impair melanin formation. Addison’s disease is a rare endocrine condition that causes hyperpigmentation in areas exposed to the sun, such as the neck, face, and hands, as well as areas exposed to abrasions, such as the elbows and knees.

An elevation in melanin can also be caused by too much sun exposure.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your hyperpigmentation can be diagnosed by a dermatologist. To discover the cause, they will ask about your medical records and do a physical examination. A skin biopsy may be used to narrow down the reason in some circumstances.

Hyperpigmentation can be treated with topical prescription medicine in some circumstances. The most common ingredient in this prescription is hydroquinone, which illuminates the skin.

However, long-term usage of external hydroquinone (without any intervals) might result in ochronosis or skin darkening. As a result, it’s advisable to employ topical hydroquinone under the supervision of a dermatologist, who can fully instruct you on how to use the drug safely. The use of topical retinoids can also help brighten dark patches on the skin. It may take many months for one of these drugs to brighten darkish regions.

Sunscreen should also be used at home. Sunscreen is the absolute most essential component in reducing hyperpigmentation in most cases. Keep an eye out for a physical-blocking sunscreen with at minimum an SPF of 30 to 50 or broad-spectrum coverage, particularly having zinc oxide as the major active component.

Use sunscreen on a daily basis. If you’re out in the sun, reapply every 2 hours – more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming.

In some skin conditions, such as melasma, daylight may contribute to the perpetuation of hyperpigmentation. If that’s the case, seek something like a mineral sunscreen with iron oxide, which can help filter some visible light. Use on a regular basis. Wear SPF-infused sun protection clothes. Make use of online apparel with SPF to further protect your skin.

Read more: Are your expensive cosmetics in the right bottle?

Depending on the reason for your hyperpigmentation, your doctor may also recommend laser therapy or chemical peels to help you lessen it.

Treatment options to cure hyperpigmentation

  1. Lightening or Brightening Creams: Over-the-counter (OTC) lightening creams are treatments that use specific substances to help reduce pigmentation. Many of these lotions are also available with a prescription. They’re often used 1 or 2 times a day to gradually lighten the skin. Gel-based lightning treatments are also available.

The following are common substances used in over-the-counter lightning products:

  • N-acetylglucosamine
  • licorice extract 
  • Vitamin B-3 (niacinamide)
Who can try: Flat spots, such as age spots or melasma, are best treated with whitening lotions or gels. They’re good for discoloration areas on most types of skin.
  1. Facial Acids: Face acids, also known as skin acids, exfoliate the topmost layer of your skin, causing it to shed. When you exfoliate the skin, new cells emerge to replace the ones that have been stripped away. The procedure helps to balance out the skin tone and smoothen it out.

Many facial acids are available over-the-counter in drugstores and beauty stores. Among the most popular choices are

  • azelaic acid
  • salicylic acid
  • kojic acid
  • l-ascorbic acid
  • AHAs, such as lactic,  glycolic, malic, citric, or tartaric acid.
Who can try: On fairer skin tones, face acids are effective at reducing moderate hyperpigmentation.
  1. Retinoids: Retinoids, which are manufactured from vitamin A, are among the earliest OTC skincare components. They may permeate deep within the skin and repair the layers underneath the epidermis because of their tiny molecular nature.

Retinoids are available in both prescription and over-the-counter forms. OTC equivalents, on the other hand, are usually weaker. If you haven’t seen any improvement after a few weeks, speak with your physician.

Who can try: Although OTC retinoids may well be acceptable for all complexions, if your skin is on the darker side of the spectrum and want to use these treatments for a long time, you should consult your dermatologist.
It’s also worth noting that retinoids are often used to cure wrinkles rather than hyperpigmentation. As a result, retinoids are probably not the most effective first-line therapy.
  1. Chemical peel: To treat the targeted region of skin, a chemical peel utilizes acids in higher concentrations. They remove the epidermis to lessen the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Deeper levels may also enter your skin’s main layer (dermis), resulting in more dramatic outcomes.

Although many peels are accessible over-the-counter, a proficient peel at your dermatologist’s clinic may be a better option. These are more effective and produce faster outcomes.

different peels may increase the risk of adverse effects due to their strength. Consult your dermatologist to learn more about your specific risks.

Redness, inflammation, and blistering are all possible side effects of chemical peels, whether done at home or in the office. When used incorrectly, sores or scars may form.

Chemical peels probably aren’t the greatest treatment choice for you if you spend a lot of time in the sun. Chemical peels increase the sensitivity of your skin to the sun’s rays. The sun can aggravate hyperpigmentation if you don’t use enough sunscreen and other UV protection. After your last peel, you’ll need to take extra care for at least one week.

Who can try: Chemical peels may be beneficial if you have the following conditions:sun damage and aging spotsMelasma or blotchy skin.They’re also better for fairer complexions and could provide you quicker results than face acids.
  1. Laser peel: Tailored or targeted light beams are used in a laser peeling (resurfacing) procedure to remove hyperpigmentation.

Ablative and non-ablative lasers are the two types of lasers. The most strong lasers are ablative lasers, which remove layers of the epidermis. Non-ablative techniques, alternatively, focus on the dermis to encourage collagen production and tightening.

Although ablative lasers are more powerful, they may have greater negative effects. Both of these treatments remove components in your skin, allowing new skin cells to grow out tighter and much more toned.

Who can try: When it comes to skin resurfacing, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. People with pale skin may benefit from ablative lasers. Non-ablative variants may cause the skin to darken rather than lighten in certain persons. Your dermatologist will analyze your discoloration and general skin tone with you to determine the best treatment choice for your skin.
  1. Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion is a treatment for hyperpigmentation of the epidermis exclusively (superficial scarring).

A piece of drill-like handheld equipment with a wire brush or any other abrasive attachment will be used by your dermatologist during the operation. The epidermis is then removed quickly but softly with the instrument swiping over your skin. It’s possible that you’ll need several sessions to get the results you desire.

Who can try: Microdermabrasion works well on scars that aren’t too deep. Your dermatologist can advise you on whether or not this therapy is appropriate for you. It’s also effective for individuals with lighter skin.
  1. Dermabrasion: Dermabrasion removes your epidermis as well, but its effects extend to a portion of your dermis.

While dermabrasion is often used to reduce wrinkles, it has traditionally been used to improve skin texture. These are some of them:

  • scars from acne
  • patches of old age
  • scars from chickenpox
  • scars from injury
  • and harm caused by the sun

Your dermatologist will be using a piece of drill-like portable equipment with a brush or other abrasive accessory, similar to microdermabrasion. They’ll use the instrument to quickly — but softly — remove your epidermis as well as the top layer of your dermis from your skin.

Who can try: If you want to reduce pigmentation quicker than microdermabrasion, dermabrasion may be an excellent alternative.
It works better on skin that is lighter in color. As a natural outcome, those with moderate skin tones may experience more hyperpigmentation. After around eight weeks, the new hyperpigmentation spots may fade.

The best fit for each skin?

The severity and duration of hyperpigmentation treatments are influenced by skin tone. Some of the same procedures may be used by persons with fair, medium, & dark skin tones, although darker skin requires a longer time for the therapy to work.

Most hyperpigmentation treatments work nicely on fair skin.

If you get tanned readily or have darker skin, you should avoid the following:

  • lasers with a wide beam
  • IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment

The following alternatives may be useful for those with medium skin tones:

  • Microdermabrasion
  • chemical peels

Those with darker complexion may benefit from

  • acid glycolic
  • kojic acid
  • Lightening creams available over-the-counter
  • Lower-strength chemical peels
  •  microdermabrasion 
  • laser therapy, but only when performed at modest levels over a longer period of time.

The time it takes for topical therapies to show benefits is usually longer.

Natural treatment for battling Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation can be treated in a variety of methods at home. While some of the cures we’ve included are based on anecdotal evidence, some study shows that their basic constituents can help with skin discoloration.

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar: Acetic acid, found in apple cider vinegar, has been shown in studies to help lighten pigmentation.

To use this treatment, follow these steps:

  • In a container, mix equal measures of apple cider vinegar & water.
  • Apply the mixture to your dark spots and keep it on for 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Using lukewarm water, rinse.
  • Repeat twice every day until you get the desired results.
  1. Aloe Vera: According to research conducted in 2012, aloe vera has aloin, an organic depigmenting ingredient that has been demonstrated to brighten skin and serve as a harmless hyperpigmentation therapy.

The application:

  • Before going to bed, apply fresh aloe vera gel on pigmented areas.
  • The next morning, rinse with warm water.
  • Repeat regularly until the hue of your skin improves.
  1. Green tea extracts: Green tea extract appears to have a depigmenting impact when applied to the skin, according to Research. Green tea extract can be purchased and used as advised. Some websites recommend using green tea sachets to lighten black spots, although there is not much evidence to support this claim.

Follow these instructions if you want to give this a try:

  • Soak a green tea pouch for 3 to 5 minutes in boiling water.
  • Remove the sachet from the water and set it aside to cool so you don’t burn your skin.
  • Apply the tea bag to your dark spots.
  • Repeat this process twice daily until you see results.
  1. Licorice extracts: Active components in licorice extract have been demonstrated to reduce hyperpigmentation induced by melasma & sun exposure. Licorice extract is included in topical treatments that may be purchased over the counter. Strictly follow the directions on the package.
  1. Milk: Buttermilk, sour milk, and normal milk have been demonstrated to reduce skin discoloration. Lactic acid, the active component, promotes this effect.

To utilize either of these to reduce pigmentation, follow these instructions:

  • In a glass of milk, soak a cotton ball.
  • Apply it twice a day on discolored skin spots.
  • Repeat this process every day until you notice the results.
  1. Tomato Paste: In 2011, a report published in a journal discovered that lycopene-rich tomato paste protected the skin from both short- and long-term UV damage. For 12 weeks, participants ingested 55 gms of tomato puree in olive oil.
  1. Orchid Extracts: According to studies, orchid extracts are equally as efficient as vitamin C discoloration cures. The size and texture of dark spots were reduced after eight weeks of administering orchid-rich preparations to the skin.

Orchid extract is included in a variety of skincare products, including masks, lotions, and scrubs. For optimal results, follow the directions exactly.

  1. Red Lentil: Red lentil face masks are a popular hyperpigmentation treatment produced from red lentils. Red lentils are high in antioxidants, which are thought to be healthy for the skin, albeit there is little proof to support these claims.

To create your customized red lentil mask, follow these steps:

  • In a bowl of water, soak 50 grams of red lentils overnight.
  • To make a fine paste, use a mixer or food processor.
  • Apply the paste to your face in a uniform layer and leave this on for twenty minutes.
  • Rinse your skin using cold water and wipe thoroughly with a towel.


Hyperpigmentation is more often a cosmetic issue than a medical one. There are various pigmentation home treatments that might help lighten dark areas.

If you’re worried about skin pigmentation or believe that it’s triggered by an undiagnosed medical issue or medication, talk to your doctor. Your dermatologist can assist you in determining the source of your discoloration and developing a treatment plan that is right for you.

If you want to get professional tips from renowned dermatologists, visit here.

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