How You Can Treat Hyperpigmentation

Nobody enjoys patches of dark spots on their skin. Whether it’s caused by overexposure to the sun, or developed through scars and other skin irritations, hyperpigmentation is a very real problem for all of us.

In a previous article, we’ve understood how hyperpigmentation comes about – through an excessive production of melanin in our skin. Now, we would delve into where these patches of discolouration commonly appear and what you can do to help with the situation.

Common Pigmentation Spots

Melasma or chloasma 

Woman with melasma on her cheek Source:
Woman with melasma on her cheek
  • Appears symmetrically on the upper lip, cheekbones and the lower chin in women over 20.
  • Triggered by hormonal changes and is worsened by UV exposure.
  • There is also a type that occurs only when pregnant or taking birth control pills and some other medications that impact hormones. In this case the discolouration will usually disappear once the pregnancy is over or the person stops taking the drugs.

Hereditary freckles 

  • These little spots are inborn and start appearing around the age of three and most prominently around puberty.
  • After you hit 30, they remain more or less the same or become a little lighter.
  • Their relationship to UV rays is still not clear.
  • People with fair skin, red hair, blond hair or blue eyes are more prone to them.

Effective Treatment Depends on the First Cause of Pigmentation

Whether pigmentation can be effectively treated depends on how it is first caused.

What can be treated: 

  • Dark spots caused by melasma and chlorasma
  • Hyperpigmentation due to exposure to UV rays
  • Hyperpigmentation as a result of scarring, allergic reactions, infections or other irritation with topical skin care.

What can’t be treated: 

  • Inborn things like hereditary freckles

Treatment Options

One of the “gold standard” prescription treatments is 4% hydroquinone, only available when prescribed by a doctor. Alternative effective topical treatments include cosmetic products containing potent antioxidants to help even skin tone.

Scientists recognise that melanins form due to oxidation reaction. In this reaction, colourless nutrients are converted into a coloured pigment called melanin. This whole series of reactions is facilitated by the enzyme tyrosinase.

Some Antioxidants Can Fight this Oxidative Reaction

Antioxidants, especially polyphenols, are found in many extracts prepared from plants. These include:

  • vitamin E
  • vitamin C
  • ferulicacid
  • proanthocyanidin from wine
  • polyphenols from green tea
  • resveratrol from wine
  • genistein from soybean

These all have shown some success in improving uneven skin tone.

Most notably, the antioxidant which is abundant in the Dianella Ensifolia plant together with other powerful ingredients rivals the performance of 4% Hydroquinone for evening skin tone.

But in short, prevention is the best cure. Make sure you apply sunscreen before leaving the house and try to stay out of the sun as much as possible to lower your chances of getting hyperpigmentation.

Check here to see if you’re at risk for developing hyperpigmentation. For a more in-depth piece on hyperpigmentation, check out “Hyperpigmentation: Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment Options”.


Tell us about your experience with hyperpigmentation. How did it come about, and did you manage to get rid of it?


Edited by: The HealthWorks Team
Contributed by: Dr Daniel Yarosh, The Estée Lauder Companies, Senior Vice President Basic Science Research

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