Hyperpigmentation

What is hyperpigmentation?
Areas of skin that are darker than the surrounding skin

What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?
Many, including sun spots, freckles, birthmarks, melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

What treatments are available for hyperpigmentation?
Treatment depends on the cause. Options include:
Sunscreen
Topical ingredients: vitamin C, niacinamide, alpha hydroxy acids, retinoids, hydroquinone, alpha arbutin, licorice root extract, kojic acid, azelaic acid and resveratrol.
Other: depending on the cause, chemical peels, lasers, intense pulsed light, oral tranexamic acid

Hyperpigmentation refers to patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding skin. This can lead to the appearance of an uneven skin tone. It’s an issue that affects many of us, particularly those living in sunny climates. Many different conditions can cause hyperpigmentation and lots of treatments are available, but which one is right for you really depends on the cause. One thing that is key for all cases of hyperpigmentation? Strict sun protection, of course!

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation refers to areas of skin that are more pigmented, or darker, than the surrounding skin. There are many causes of hyperpigmentation. These include solar lentigines or age spots, freckles, moles and birthmarks, melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, medications, and some medical conditions.

 

The most common causes of facial pigmentation are solar lentigines, freckles and melasma. It’s important to have your hyperpigmentation diagnosed correctly.

What can I do to fade the appearance of my hyperpigmentation?

Treatment depends on the cause, and it’s important to have your hyperpigmentation diagnosed correctly before starting treatment. Not all treatments are suitable for all kinds of hyperpigmentation. Some treatments can make pigmentation worse, and it’s important that anything dangerous, such as a melanoma, is ruled out before having treatment.

Sunscreen is helpful for almost all forms of hyperpigmentation. Studies suggest that the correct use of sunscreen can fade the appearance of melasma by up to 50%.  

Many topical ingredients can be helpful for improving hyperpigmentation. These include: vitamin C, niacinamide, alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic and lactic acid, retinoids, hydroquinone, alpha arbutin, licorice root extract, kojic acid, azelaic acid and resveratrol.

For certain types of pigmentation, chemical peels, intense pulsed light and laser treatments may be suitable. Assessment by a qualified clinician is essential. 

Oral tranexamic acid is used in some cases of melasma.

References
Desai SR. Hyperpigmentation therapy: a review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(8):13-17.

Handel AC, Miot LD, Miot HA. Melasma: a clinical and epidemiological review. An Bras Dermatol. 2014;89(5):771-782.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr-Julia-Rhodes

Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…