The 411 on Hyperpigmentation & Getting Rid of It


Q: Hyperpigmentation. What is it?

A: A section of your skin that appears darker than your natural tone due to the overproduction of the brown pigment, melanin.

Q: What causes it?


  1. Inflammation AKA Skin Trauma - acne, eczema, bug bites, etc. Even things such as friction (if you ever worn a bra consistently and it is tight, notice that the skin where the band is tends to get darker) create hyperpigmentation. Inflammation sends pigmentation producing cells into high gear, leaving a dark spot/area after the injury has healed. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation usually occurs as a result of acne, and is probably the most common type of hyperpigmentation.

  2. Sun Exposure - The way this works is when the sun's UV rays hit your skin, your skin cells trigger extra melanin production as a way to defend your skin from damage. Now of course the wanted outcome for many is a tan. Pas de problème. However, when sun exposure is consistent and excessive, dark sun spots appear.

  3. Melasma - This is a condition in which brown patches appear on the face. This can be due to birth control, hormones, stress, and/or pregnancy, as well as excessive sun exposure. Women are most likely to have this, but it is not limited to them.

  4. Medical Conditions & Medication - Drug-Induced Skin Pigmentation aka DiSH represents 10-20% of acquired hyperpigmentation. The primary drugs associated with skin pigmentation are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Q: Best way to tackle hyperpigmentation?

A: Early. The longer it stays in the skin, the longer and harder it takes to fade. Remember, it is not always possible to prevent hyperpigmentation. However, you can protect your skin by using sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily. Ways to tackle hyperpigmentation a little bit more directly include facial acids (i.e. AHAs, kojic acid, vitamin C, azelaic acid, etc.), retinoids, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion (or dermarolling, micro needling). Try incorporating vitamin C topically daily. It is a good start and goes a long way.



American Journal of Clinical Dermatology

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