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Hyperpigmentation | Everything You Need To Know | Weirdskin

Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skin conditions and most challenging to treat, especially for darker skin tones. It is a harmless condition and manifests as patches of skin become darker than the normal surrounding skin. This darkening or discoloration occurs when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, forms uneven deposits in the skin. Hyperpigmentation can affect people of all skin types and while difficult to treat it is possible, we are here to teach you how.

Types of Hyperpigmentation

All discolorations on the skin are usually referred to as hyperpigmentation. However, it is important to note that different forms of hyperpigmentation exist based on their causes, and your skin type, and will have different responses to treatment.


Sunspots, also known as solar lentigines or liver spots, are flat, brown, grey, or black spots on the skin caused by direct, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. They are a form of hyperpigmentation and are commonly found on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, shoulders, and arms.

Sunspots vary in size and usually appear in people over the age of 40, although they can occur earlier in individuals who spend a lot of time in the sun. These spots are generally harmless and do not require medical treatment. However, their appearance can be similar to that of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. Therefore, it's important to monitor any changes in these spots, such as an increase in size, the development of irregular borders, or color changes, and consult a healthcare professional if any changes are observed.

Symptoms of Sunspots

  • Appearance: They typically appear as small, flat, darkened patches of skin. The color can range from light brown to black, depending on your skin tone and the level of sun exposure.

  • Shape and Size: Sunspots are usually round or oval and can vary in size. They might be as small as a freckle or larger, sometimes covering a more significant area of the skin.

  • Texture: Despite the color change, sunspots generally don't change the texture of your skin. They usually feel like your normal skin to the touch, without any raised or rough texture.

  • Location: These spots commonly appear on areas that are most exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, shoulders, arms, and bald scalps.

  • Number of Spots: You might have just one sunspot or a cluster of spots close to each other.

  • No Pain or Discomfort: Sunspots are usually not associated with any pain, itching, or discomfort.


​Melasma is a common skin condition characterized by dark, discolored patches on the skin. It's also known as chloasma or the "mask of pregnancy" when it occurs in pregnant women. Melasma is particularly common in women, though men can also develop it. It's often associated with hormonal changes and is especially prevalent among those with darker skin types.

Symptoms of Melasma

  • Darkened Patches on Skin: The most prominent symptom of melasma is the appearance of brown or gray-brown patches, typically on the face,

  • Common Areas Affected: Forehead, cheeks, nose bridge, chin, above the upper lip. Occasionally, these patches may appear on other parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, such as the forearms and neck.

  • Symmetry: Usually, the patches are symmetrical, with matching marks on both sides of the face.

  • No Physical Discomfort: Melasma patches do not cause any physical discomfort like itching or pain, but they can be a cosmetic concern.

  • Size and Shape: The size and shape of the patches can vary. They might be small or cover larger areas.

  • Progression: Melasma tends to develop gradually. The discoloration can become more pronounced with sun exposure, during the summer months, and may slightly improve during the winter.

  • Chronic Condition: Melasma is typically a chronic skin condition, meaning it can persist for many years or be lifelong.

Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

​Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a skin condition that occurs after an injury or inflammation of the skin (wound, acne, allergic reaction, etc.). It's characterized by patches of skin becoming darker than the surrounding area. This hyperpigmentation is the skin's natural response to inflammation and is caused by an overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. PIH can affect individuals of any skin type, but it is more common in darker skin tones.

Symptoms of Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

  • Dark Spots or Patches: The most noticeable symptom of PIH is the appearance of flat areas of discoloration. These spots can vary in color from pink to red, brown, or black, depending on the skin tone and the depth of the discoloration.

  • Commonly Affected Areas: PIH typically occurs in areas of previous skin injury or inflammation. This can include spots where acne lesions have healed, areas impacted by eczema or psoriasis, sites of burns, cuts, or scrapes, and places where certain cosmetic procedures have been performed.

  • Variation in Size: The size of these discolored spots or patches can vary greatly depending on the nature and extent of the skin injury or inflammation.

  • Location: Unlike certain types of hyperpigmentation that are influenced by sun exposure (like sunspots), PIH can occur on any part of the body that has experienced inflammation or injury.

  • No Physical Discomfort: Generally, PIH does not cause physical discomfort such as pain or itching. The primary concern is usually cosmetic.

  • Duration: The duration of PIH can vary. In some cases, these spots may fade on their own over a period of months or years. However, in some individuals, particularly those with darker skin tones, PIH can be more persistent.

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

Sun Exposure

Melanin is a pigment produced in the skin that has the primary function of protecting the skin from the sun. This is why our skin tends to become darker after long hours under the sun. As such, the way we stay exposed to UV rays, the more melanin is produced and the darker the skin gets. Sun exposure also increases skin inflammation, leading to skin darkening.

Skin Inflammation

Have you ever noticed that when your skin gets inflamed, irritated, or wounded, the skin surrounding that area tends to be darker when healing? This happens as a result of excess melanin production in the skin as a defense mechanism to speed up recovery. Most inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, or inflammations caused by wounds, bug bites, etc leave dark spots or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal changes in the body can usually trigger the skin to produce more melanin. This is common in pregnant women with what is commonly called a “mask of pregnancy” triggered by an increase in estrogen and progesterone in the body. Also, hormonal imbalances triggered by high stress levels could be responsible for skin discoloration.

Reaction to a Product or Drug

Certain medications or skin products can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect. For example, melasma in some people can be triggered by anti-seizure drugs or contraceptive medication. Certain skincare ingredients may increase the risk of hyperpigmentation when used without proper sun protection e.g. retinoids, AHAs, Kojic acid etc.

Medical Conditions

Some health issues, like Addison's disease, thyroid disease, or hemochromatosis, can cause hyperpigmentation.

How to Treat Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation can be managed using various treatments but keep in mind that this is a chronic condition that may return in the future depending on the type of hyperpigmentation.

Topical Treatments

Various topical treatments can be used to improve skin discoloration. The most common options can be classified into two categories; tyrosinase inhibitors and skin brighteners. 

Tyrosinase inhibitors are actives that stop or prevent the formation process of melanin in the skin thus preventing the formation of hyperpigmentation in the layers of the skin. The most common include hydroquinone, azelaic acid, vitamin C, kojic acid, alpha arbutin, and tranexamic acid.

Skin brighteners on the other hand help get rid of surface-level pigment deposits. They include glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, citric acid, salicylic acid, enzymes, niacinamide, retinoids, etc.

Cosmetic Treatments

Topical treatments may take some time to deliver significant results, as such in clinics cosmetic procedures are an option. These include treatments such as chemical peels, laser resurfacing peels, microdermabrasion, and intense pulse light therapy (IPL). These treatments target melanin and are precise in addressing the affected areas.

Sun Protection

Sunscreen is a critical component in managing hyperpigmentation. It doesn't directly lighten existing dark spots but plays a pivotal role in preventing further darkening and the formation of new hyperpigmented areas. By offering protection against harmful UV rays, sunscreen helps maintain the effectiveness of other hyperpigmentation treatments, such as topical creams and cosmetic procedures. Dermatologists recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, applied regularly and year-round, to safeguard the skin from sun-induced exacerbation of hyperpigmentation, ensuring a more consistent and effective approach to treating and preventing these skin conditions.

How Hyperpigmentation Can Be Prevented

Preventing hyperpigmentation involves protecting your skin from the sun and avoiding known triggers. Here are some tips:

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Here is how to choose the best sunscreen.

  • Wear hats and clothing that cover exposed skin.

  • Avoid direct sun exposure during peak hours.

  • Be mindful of medications or skin products that can cause hyperpigmentation.


What Does Hyperpigmentation Mean?

It refers to areas of the skin becoming darker than the surrounding areas due to excess melanin.

Is Hyperpigmentation and Melasma the Same?

No, melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation often associated with hormonal changes.

What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

Causes include sun exposure, skin inflammation, reaction to drugs, and certain medical conditions.

Are Freckles Hyperpigmentation?

Yes, freckles are a form of hyperpigmentation caused mainly by sun exposure.

Will Hyperpigmentation from Waxing Go Away?

It can fade over time, but treatments may be needed for quicker results.

Are Acne Scars Hyperpigmentation?

Yes, they can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

How Many Microneedling Sessions Do You Need for Hyperpigmentation?

The number varies based on the severity, but typically 3-6 sessions are required.

Can Hyperpigmentation Spread?

It doesn't spread but can appear in different areas independently.

How Much Does Hyperpigmentation Treatment Cost?

The cost varies depending on the type of treatment and the area being treated.

How Common is Hyperpigmentation?

It is a very common skin condition, affecting people of all skin types however it ismost prominent in darker skin tones.

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