Hyperpigmentation: Causes, Symptoms And How To Get Rid Of It

Skin conditions and diseases are more common than we think. And one of the most common is hyperpigmentation .

Although harmless, no one likes their complexion to be uneven, with patches of dark color that spoil the outside, especially if it is in a visible area.

Many times it can be avoided, but many others appear due to a hormonal issue, and there is no choice but to prevent them from becoming more and minimize their coloration.

Regardless of what your case is, we are here to help you. We are going to talk about  the different types of hyperpigmentation, the symptoms, the causes, and above all, how to treat it .

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is basically when the skin color becomes darker and uneven in certain areas.

Patches or spots usually form around the face, arms, décolleté, hands, and other areas that are often exposed to the sun.

These spots are more commonly known as age spots or sun spots , because they are caused by exposure to sunlight and increased production of melanin resulting from aging.

Melanin is the scientific term for the pigment in the skin that darkens it. When the epidermis is exposed to sunlight, more melanin is produced , resulting in a darker area.

Normally, melanin gives the skin a darker, more even tone. However, if melanin cells are damaged, this has a negative effect on melanin production.

This is when hyperpigmentation occurs and the areas that have been damaged turn into dark spots or patches.

Types of hyperpigmentation

There are several types of hyperpigmentation. The three most common are melasma , sun spots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation .

Each type is caused by different factors, from lifestyle to hormones, medications, trauma, and illness.


Melasma is due to hormonal changes that can be influenced by birth control pills, pregnancy, and hormone therapy.

Other hormonal factors that can cause melasma are considered more unavoidable but less common, such as stress and thyroid disease .

According to studies, 90% of people who get melasma are women .

The most common areas of melasma are the face – usually the nose, forehead, and cheeks – and the abdomen.


Another type of pigmentation that occurs in the same areas of the body as melasma is sun spots.

Also known as solar lentigos or liver spots , they are the most common. These occur when the skin is exposed to too much sunlight over time.

The complexion’s response to excessive sun exposure is to create excess melanin.

This creates brown areas on the skin, usually in places on the body that are regularly exposed to the sun, as is the case with melasma.


The third type is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, known as HPI. This develops after an inflammatory wound, such as pimples, rashes, or acne .

Pigmentation occurs this way because too much melanin is produced on the complexion while it is healing , leaving a dark spot that can range in color from brown, to red, white, black, or purple.

It usually appears on the face , which is where most acne forms.

However, it can occur in other areas of the body as well, and is due to other factors such as sunburn, laser resurfacing, and chemical peels.

These three types of hyperpigmentation are the ones that can appear naturally. Other types can be prevented, but all of them can be diagnosed and treated.

Symptoms of hyperpigmentation

Physical symptomsThe signs that we are going to see will depend on the type that it is. That is why I am going to explain each one of them.

The main symptom in melasma is large patches of darkened skin , which will generally appear on areas of the face and abdomen.

You can tell melasma because the spots are symmetrical . For example, if one appears on the right cheek, there is usually another on the other side of the body, that is, on the left cheek.

But they do not only affect the face, they can also appear on the neck, arms and abdomen.

The sunspots are usually seen as brown spots, black or bronze or patches on the body .

The most common areas in which they appear are the face, hands and areas of the body most exposed to the sun.

The size can vary from a tiny dot to the size and shape of a coin. They are quite easy to see, as they appear in the visible areas that are exposed to the sun regularly.

Physical symptoms are the most common way to notice post- inflammatory hyperpigmentation . After an inflammatory wound has healed, that area will be left with a rim of discolored complexion .

If you’ve had a recent pimple, acne breakout, or rash, this is where the spots will appear. They are easily recognizable and most of the time, most inflammatory wounds will leave some mark.

Psychic symptoms

The psychic symptoms of hyperpigmentation are not a reliable way to identify this disorder, as they often do not appear at the beginning.

This is due to the physical effect and impact the condition has due to the outward appearance.

In a study with 272 patients, 86 of them had hyperpigmentation caused by melasma. These 86 patients were given questionnaires to check for anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric problems.

The results concluded that of the 86 patients with melasma, 11.6% had anxiety , 12.8% had depression and 8.1% had a somatoform disorder -pain , fatigue, etc.-.

The increase in mental health disorders due to external appearance is common in any age or gender.

Hyperpigmentation can develop in anyone, and the mental impact will depend on the individual’s mental state and ability to cope with the condition.

Certain types of pigmentation can be treated successfully, which helps some people deal with it more easily.

Hyperpigmentation: Causes and Risk Factors

Stains can be caused by many factors.

Most of them are physical causes that are derived from lifestyle and health, and all of them are due to increased production of melanin.

Let’s see what they are to see if we can avoid them or not.


Certain medications can trigger hyperpigmentation. And since medication is mandatory if a person needs it for certain health conditions and problems, this is one of the few causes that is difficult to prevent and avoid.

Medications that can cause it include antimalarials, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants.

Taking these medications can cause the skin to turn gray, another color that can be recognized as hyperpigmentation.

Sun exposure

Sunspots are the type of hyperpigmentation caused by unprotected sun exposure.

And although it may seem that exposure to the sun can cause or leave dark spots immediately, the truth is that they come out over time .

Prolonged exposure to the sun without protection leads to increased melanin production to try and protect the complexion from the sun.

Increasing melanin levels can generally prevent immediate effects like sunburn, but later can cause skin damage and conditions like hyperpigmentation.

Inflammation of the skin

Inflammation and wounds of the dermis sometimes leave darker or discolored spots, these sequels are also hyperpigmentation.

This condition cannot be prevented, as the complexion develops acne, rashes and wounds naturally.

You will also like: Severe Acne: Treatments, Causes and Symptoms


Melasma and its triggers remain a mystery to doctors. As is more common in women, the main cause has been identified to be a change in hormones .

The problem is that the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, stimulate the overproduction of melanin, which causes dark spots on the complexion.

The term “pregnancy mask” has been coined, as melasma is more common in women who are pregnant or take birth control pills. Both factors interfere with hormones.

Also, those with darker complexions are more likely to get it.

Medical conditions

There are some serious cases of hyperpigmentation that are derived from existing medical conditions, such as Addison’s disease or hemochromatosis.

The Addison’s disease is a common disorder that occurs when bit body produces insufficient amounts of certain hormones, which affect the adrenal glands above kidneys.

Hyperpigmentation caused by Addison’s disease appears in the folds of the complexion, lips, elbows, knees, knuckles, toes, and on the inside of the cheek .

The other more common associated medical condition is hemochromatosis , an inherited condition in which the body contains too much iron .

Unlike other factors, this condition can cause hyperpigmentation unexpectedly and symptoms to look out for are weight loss, fatigue, joint and / or stomach pain, in addition to dark spots.

Stress, depression and anxiety

These mental health problems stem from various lifestyles and the way the body reacts can sometimes result in hyperpigmentation.

These conditions are not considered a primary instigator or a valid cause of hyperpigmentation, as they develop after the spots appear.

The physical appearance of the various types of hyperpigmentation can cause stress, anxiety, or depression to appear , as has been shown in some case studies and research.

Treatments to get rid of hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is one of the few skin conditions that is harmless. However, most of us want to get rid of it.

To do this, we have a wide variety of weapons at our disposal, such as medicines, cosmetics or home remedies that can reduce or minimize its appearance .

It is also important to know how to prevent it or prevent it from getting worse. For this, one of the most powerful tools we have is sunscreen, in addition to other actions that we can avoid, such as not exposing ourselves to the sun, or not picking acne.


Creams are a great option to start treating hyperpigmentation as they can help reduce or eliminate dark spots over time.

The vast majority of prescription lightening creams contain an ingredient that can lighten the complexion, called hydroquinone .

It is advised not to overuse hydroquinone, or use it for a long period of time, as it can have opposite effects and darken the dermis.

Therefore, you should only use it if your doctor or dermatologist tells you to, and always respect the amount of the dose.

Other ingredients that actively help treat stains are azelaic acid , corticosteroids, the kojic acid , the retinoid and vitamin C .

All of these are active ingredients that you should look for when buying a depigmenting cream.

Face masks that contain the above ingredients are also considered beneficial for people with blemishes.

Its regular use is recommended to help improve the texture of the complexion and promote the reduction of dark spots.

And of course, to avoid the appearance of more spots, you should use a daily sunscreen .

Based on clinical experience, the best SPF to use is at least a factor of 30 and should be broad spectrum, meaning it protects against UVB and UVA rays.

Cosmetic treatments

In some cases, cosmetic procedures can be performed to help treat hyperpigmentation.

To betherapy , intense pulsed light, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion have been cosmetically shown to help reduce blemishes.

Laser therapy and chemical peels are the most popular cosmetic procedures because they are readily available and because of their good results. They both have similar effects.

Laser therapy is a more precise cosmetic procedure than peels. In this, the dermatologist passes a high-energy light over the affected areas to renew the epidermis.

With a few treatments, you begin to see a lightening of the spots and a uniformity in the tone.

Depending on the type or level of hyperpigmentation, laser therapy can penetrate more or less the surface of the skin to provide a superficial or deeper effect on the inner layers.

In a chemical peel , the dermatologist applies a glycolic acid solution in a high concentration to the surface of the skin that works to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells.

The exfoliation technique stimulates the growth of new skin cells once the dead ones have been removed.

The type of cosmetic procedure you need will depend on the degree of hyperpigmentation you have. Therefore, the best thing you can do is go to a professional for advice.

You will also like: What really works to lighten skin blemishes

Home remedies


The aloe vera is a natural ingredient known for its healing benefits. But there is so much more it can do for your skin.

A compound found in aloe vera, called aloesin, is known to inhibit melanin production , so it can help treat blemishes.

You can use aloe vera both topically, apply the gel directly to the area, or by taking it orally in juice or capsules.

In a study it has been found that the use of Aloe Vera capsules has given positive results on melasma in pregnant women.

The Planta Medica randomized controlled study saw a 32% improvement in 90 pregnant women who took Aloe Vera gel extract capsules. So it may be promising.


The lactic acid is a popular ingredient used in chemical peels which is also present in dairy products such as yogurt and milk.

It is best applied directly to the epidermis with a cotton ball and left on for a few minutes.

After application, it is advisable to rinse well and apply a moisturizer to ensure hydration.

You can repeat it once or twice a day and after a few weeks, you will see some skin blemishes reduced.


You can apply vitamin C from its most natural source directly to your skin, from citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, papayas, and lemons .

You can apply the juices of these fruits on your skin mixing them with a moisturizer.

Juices can increase antioxidants on the skin’s surface, which may help lighten dark spots over time.

Vitamin C in its purest form is known to prevent tyrosinase, which is the enzyme that produces melanin .

In effect, this can inhibit the increased production of melanin and therefore prevent the appearance of dark spots.

It should be noted that vitamin C can lighten dark spots but cannot lighten normal skin that does not have hyperpigmentation.

It is advisable to combine vitamin C with other home treatments to increase its effectiveness.


Licorice is an extract that is underrated in the skincare world. Its main active ingredient called glabridin is a natural skin protector .

Glabridin helps block UVB rays, and therefore helps protect the skin, which prevents the production of melanin.

Licorice also has anti-inflammatory, whitening, and antioxidant properties, which is great for those with dark coloration, those prone to acne, and those looking to reduce blemishes at home.


The green tea has been long studied for its effect on hyperpigmentation.

Although there is a limited amount of conclusive information for the treatment of hyperpigmentation, the ingredient is known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for this skin condition.

The main study for green tea is with its main active ingredient, epigallocatechin gallate-3 (EGCG). This is its antioxidant compound that can induce cells not to overproduce pigmentation.

In a study of 60 women who have melasma, the results showed that the lesions were cleared by more than 60% using 2% green tea extract mixed with a cream.

If you want to try this home remedy, it is best to take it orally as an EGCG supplement or apply a damp green tea bag to the affected area.

Psychological therapies

Hyperpigmentation and its physical effects can have a number of psychological effects on people who suffer from it.

For this reason, some patients are advised to try psychological therapy.

The most common and recommended reason for receiving therapy is to help the patient with psychogenic excoriation , a condition in which people repeatedly pick at their skin.

Skin lesions like blemishes, acne, and scabs are what cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and if it continues, it can cause dark spots to worsen.

This therapy is important to manifest underlying problems, and to improve quality of life and future mental health .

In other cases, therapy techniques such as hypnosis are used for patients with different diseases in order to reduce stress levels.

Stress is a mental symptom and a contributing factor to this condition, and patients who try hypnosis can cope with it more easily, or can even prevent it from happening again.

The skin and the mind are closely linked. Interest in this relationship has developed in a field called psychodermatology .

The goal of psychodermatology and its studies is not to replace traditional medicine. Instead, it is used to identify underlying mental and emotional problems that patients have due to skin conditions.

Identifying these problems can reveal how and why patients suffer from the scars that hyperpigmentation can leave, both physically and mentally, and thus help them recover and overcome their stress and negative emotions.

Another therapeutic method that can encourage a patient to reduce blemishes and concerns about it is acupuncture .

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine procedure that uses tiny needles to penetrate the skin, which can reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and help with hormones .

It is known as a therapy technique that can help with many skin conditions.

According to skin experts, acupuncture may help even out skin tone, lighten hyperpigmentation spots, and reduce redness by regulating hormones.

Internally, acupuncture helps increase collagen, which is what evens out hormone levels.

Hormones are one of the main causes of melasma and their regulation could inhibit the development of dark spots and therefore prevent hyperpigmentation.

If you are looking for a gentler home remedy that is also considered emotional therapy, it is cosmetic camouflage .

Although this will not treat the affected areas, it can help you regain your confidence. It is an option that some may find effective.

Several brands sell clinically and chemically proven cosmetics that benefit skin condition, as well as cover pigmentation. You just have to try until you find the one that best suits your tone.

How to prevent it

As prevention is better than cure, it is essential that we do everything in our power to avoid blemishes on the complexion. But how?

It is important to know that some types of hyperpigmentation cannot be prevented. However, some may fade or even disappear on their own.

Melasma has been found to go away on its own. Some women who stop taking birth control pills report that their problems go away.

It has not been confirmed that stopping birth control pills and other spotting medications will prevent it from occurring, but there have been several reports.

People can promote discoloration or help reduce its appearance in the same way that they can with other types of hyperpigmentation.

To take action, you can avoid exposing your skin to the sun, apply a sunscreen of a factor greater than 30, and also have a good skincare routine using the ingredients and home remedies mentioned above.

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Effects and consequences

As with any skin condition, hyperpigmentation has its consequences. Most of them are physical, which are usually short or medium term if a treatment is performed.

Hyperpigmentation is a harmless condition and it is quite common, so there are many ways to treat it.

It poses no real threat to health and if advice is sought as soon as possible, there are usually no long-term consequences.

But it is important to take the advice of seeking medical help to make sure there are no underlying problems.

If underlying problems occur, which is rare, the condition can have some long-term effects.

These long-term effects can mean depression, stress, and anxiety are a cause, but they can also be a consequence.

If the appearance of the dark spots is unsightly, or if the treatments have no effect, this can cause negative emotional stress .

There are therapies and aids that can be tried, but there is no guarantee that they will work.


Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition that is really common in all ages and genders, and it is considered not harmful if medical help is sought when symptoms or changes in the physical appearance of the skin are noticed.

With proper diagnosis and treatment, hyperpigmentation can be reduced or eliminated through the use of cosmetics, home remedies, and therapy.

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Kathie Sand always saw the world of beauty as the terrain on which to build her professional career, a goal that was clear to her when she was only 15 years old. Her great concern to expand knowledge led her to settle in Paris where she studied hand in hand with the best beauty professionals and with the most advanced techniques for skin care.

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