What is the Cause of Hyperpigmentation

What is the Cause of Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a common skin issue that many people have experienced or will at some point in their lives.

It’s not dangerous, thankfully, but hyperpigmentation does change the look of your complexion, appearing as darker spots that make your skin look dull and uneven.

While hyperpigmentation may not be dangerous in itself, it may be a sign of other disorders and therefore needs to be checked out.

Continue reading this article to learn more information about what hyperpigmentation is and the basics of where and why it forms. Take away great tips on taking care of your skin to eliminate hyperpigmentation or prevent it.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

woman with hyperpigmentation on her face

Hyperpigmentation isn’t technically a condition, but more a term that describes areas of skin that appear darker than the surrounding skin.

Discolouration can occur in small or large sections of your face, and in some cases affect your whole body. There are several types of hyperpigmentation, so let’s cover each of the main ones.


Melasma is also called chloasma or “the mask of pregnancy”, and it appears in large patches of darker skin. This type affects mostly women, people who are pregnant or on birth control pills, and those with medium to dark skin.

According to some studies, 90% of those who get melasma are women. This type is also unique in that the symptoms are symmetrical, meaning if there’s a dark spot on one side of your body, there will usually be another on your opposite side.

Age Spots/Sunspots

These are also known as liver spots or solar lentigines and are very common. Unlike freckles, age spots are caused by sun exposure over time.

You’ll know an age spot or sunspot by the brown, tan, or black spots that appear on your skin with sun overexposure. They can be as small as dots or increase to larger oval areas of pigmentation. Some freckles can actually evolve into solar lentigo with age.


Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation appears as spots or patches of darker skin that come about after an inflammatory skin condition such as acne or eczema. Injury to your skin can cause hyperpigmentation, like if your skin experiences a severe rash or is picked at for some time.

Where does Hyperpigmentation Occur?

It depends on the severity of your hyperpigmentation, but it can occur anywhere on your body and in any shape or size.

There are certain areas that hyperpigmentation seems to affect more often, like your face and hands, but you may find it in unlikely places as well. It also affects all age groups and genders, according to your type of hyperpigmentation.

Melasma is often found on your forehead, face, and stomach, while post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can appear anywhere on your body. Age spots or sunspots commonly affect your face and hands or on sun-exposed areas of your body.

Hyperpigmentation may have a different appearance according to the spot it’s found and how it was caused. For example, age spots on your hands can cause only your knuckles to appear darkened.

What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

Common causes of hyperpigmentation are due to excess production of melanin, which is produced by skin cells called melanocytes that give skin its color. When a condition or factor affects your body, the production of melanin can be altered, which may cause hyperpigmentation. 

Increased sun exposure causes your body to produce more melanin to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Hyperpigmentation can be caused by inflammation of your skin from acne, eczema, lupus, or an injury. 

Hormonal changes may result in hyperpigmentation, as seen commonly during pregnancies. Drug use from certain medications such as antimalarial drugs and tricyclic antidepressants can cause pigmentation and may even turn your skin a greyish color. 

Another mainly unknown cause of hyperpigmentation is mental causes. They are not known to be the main instigator, but research has found a connection in the number of people that have hyperpigmentation who are also stressed, anxious, or depressed. 

Whether one causes the other or the other way around is not largely supported. Lastly, Addison’s disease, which affects the adrenal glands, and hemochromatosis, both contribute to hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation Risk Factors

Since hyperpigmentation isn’t really a condition but more the product of things that affect your skin, the risk factors are usually the causes instead of the hyperpigmentation itself. Sun exposure and inflammation both can result in hyperpigmentation since they can increase melanin production. 

Oral contraceptive use or pregnancy, which is seen with melasma, can cause hyperpigmented patches. Trauma to your skin, seen with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, is another risk factor. Finally, certain drugs and darker skin types, which are more prone to pigmentation changes, are factors.

Will Hyperpigmentation Go Away Naturally?

Hyperpigmentation isn’t harmful or a sign of a serious medical condition in most cases, so there’s no cause for alarm if dark spots are noticed. Sometimes the dark areas will fade on their own with good sun protection and time. 

If this doesn’t happen, further treatment may be required. Even with the treatment though, there’s no guarantee your dark spots will fade completely. It’s important to take the steps necessary to get rid of hyperpigmentation and try your best to protect yourself from further damage.

Home Remedies for Hyperpigmentation

It’s possible to lighten areas of hyperpigmentation using natural remedies that can be used at home. Home remedies aren’t confirmed by any large-scale studies to prove as effective, but some research finds that the remedies may offer some improvement. Be sure to test a small amount of the product first and stop if it irritates your skin.

A 2018 study done on natural treatments for hyperpigmentation shows that the following can reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation:

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera helps with so many medical conditions, hyperpigmentation being one of them. It contains aloin, a natural depigmenting compound that can help lighten skin and be used as a treatment. Simply apply the aloe vera gel to pigmented areas before sleeping at night, and then rinse in the morning and repeat the process until improvements are noticed.

Licorice Extract

This may sound like an odd form of treatment, but the active ingredients in this extract help lighten hyperpigmentation caused by melasma and sun exposure. There are many creams available over-the-counter that include licorice extract.

Green Tea

This is one remedy that doesn’t have as much research to back up the claim that it helps with hyperpigmentation, but there is limited research that suggests that green tea extracts help improve hyperpigmentation from melasma and sun exposure. Green tea is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. To use this treatment, steep a green tea bag in boiled water. Then, remove the tea bag and let it cool before rubbing it over your dark patches. Repeat twice a day until there are noticed results.  

Black Tea Water

Similar to green tea, this is another tea remedy that may help reduce hyperpigmentation. Add black tea leaves to boiling water before steeping for two hours and removing the leaves. Then, soak a cotton ball in the tea water and apply it to areas of hyperpigmentation twice a day. Repeat this every day for six days a week, over four weeks.


This everyday drink is shown to lighten skin discolouration. Milk, buttermilk, and even sour milk can all be used since each contains lactic acid, the key ingredient that helps with lightening your skin. Simply soak a cotton ball in milk, rub over darkened patches twice a day, and repeat daily until there are results. This may sound like an odd method, but it’s worth a try.

Other Home Remedies

According to research, orchid extracts are just as effective as vitamin C hyperpigmentation remedies. There are many products available for purchase that include orchid extract, such as masks, creams, and scrubs. Masoor dal (red lentils) doesn’t have much research to back the claims that it helps reduce hyperpigmentation, but it’s a common remedy. 

Red lentils are rich in antioxidants and there are masoor dal masks that may be a solution for hyperpigmentation. Tomato paste is another odd-sounding remedy, but there’s some evidence out there that suggests it may work. 

Many of the methods listed are inexpensive ways to treat hyperpigmentation on your own, and they are natural and healthy ways to do this. It can be beneficial to try, even if there aren’t major results. Let us know how each of them works if you end up testing it out.

Treatments for Getting Rid of Stubborn Hyperpigmentation

Check out this article to find a great list of products, and a hyperpigmentation skincare routine that can be used to treat hyperpigmentation. 

For those with more intense cases of hyperpigmentation, it may be necessary to seek treatment with a doctor. There could be underlying medical conditions causing your hyperpigmentation or something that needs to be changed, like birth control. The medical treatments that you may consider to get rid of stubborn forms of hyperpigmentation include chemical peels, intense pulsed light (IPL), microdermabrasion, laser resurfacing, and cryotherapy. 

Related: Best Hyperpigmentation Products for Your Skin

These treatments have the potential to damage the outer layer of your skin though, so make sure to consult a doctor about possible risks and use these treatments as a last resort. Remember that hyperpigmentation itself is only a cosmetic and appearance concern, not a medical one. Checking with your doctor for cases that won’t go away can be helpful though and is recommended.

Other Tips & Tricks for Getting Rid of Hyperpigmentation

There are many more products out there that may reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and treat the symptoms. Try out topical creams, which are made to lighten your skin. Some beneficial ingredients of these include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Kojic acid
  • Retinoids
  • Azelaic acid
  • Cysteamine cream
  • Glycolic acid peels
  • Soy
  • Niacinamide
  • Arbutin
  • Hydroquinone

It’s important to look at the ingredients before applying the creams to be sure that you don’t have any allergies or irritants in them. It’s also a good idea to consult a professional before using them, because some have been linked to rashes, stinging, inflammation, acne, reddening of your skin, sores, dryness, or allergic reactions. 

Follow the instructions on the product and be sure to buy from a reputable source. Do not use hyperpigmentation products to lighten your overall complexion, as there could be adverse effects. Your darker skin is beautiful and there’s no need to lighten your body.

Another interesting treatment method is using acupuncture, a traditional Chinese Medicine procedure that uses needles to penetrate your skin. This can reduce inflammation, ease pain, and help with hormones. According to some experts, acupuncture could help even out skin tone, lighten hyperpigmentation spots, and reduce redness.

Finding a good concealer that matches your skin tone is a quick way to cover up hyperpigmentation patches for short periods of time. Though this won’t reverse hyperpigmentation, it could provide time to use other methods to reduce it while hiding the uneven appearance. Be sure that the concealer doesn’t irritate your skin though.

Prevention for Future Hyperpigmentation

It’s important to take steps towards prevention, especially if you have a history of hyperpigmentation. It can be difficult to fully stop hyperpigmentation, but reducing the risk is possible. Help protect yourself from hyperpigmentation by:

  • Taking care of your skin after injury and avoid picking at spots, scabs, and acne
  • Being cautious when using certain drugs and medications
  • Avoiding general skin-lightening products to lighten your overall appearance
  • Protecting your skin from the sun by wearing clothes that offer protection and wearing sunscreen daily of SPF 30 or higher
  • Seeking professional advice before using creams that may induce reactions


Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition that many people have experienced. It’s overall harmless, and mainly just an appearance of your skin being darker than the surrounding areas. There are many treatments that can be used to reduce hyperpigmentation, including topical creams, at-home remedies, and cosmetic treatments. 

Many of the treatments are safe to use and have been supported by research to show that they work. It’s still important to review each treatment and stop if you notice any negative reactions. Speak with your doctor about your current skin observations and what types of treatment are most beneficial. 

We wish you the best in your skincare journey!

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