What is Pigmentation/ Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a medical term used to describe darker patches of skin.  These patches result from excess melanin production, which can be caused by everything from acne scars and sun damage to hormone fluctuations. 

Types of hyperpigmentation

Melasma – Is believed to be caused by hormonal changes and may develop during pregnancy.  Areas of hyperpigmentation can appear on any area of the body, but they appear mostly on the stomach and face.

Sunspots – Also called liver spots or solar lentigines, sunspots are common.  They’re related to excess sun exposure over time.  Generally, they appear as spots on areas exposed to the sun, like the hands and face.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – This is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin.  A common cause of this type is acne.

What are the symptoms and risk factors?

Darkened areas on the skin are the main symptoms of hyperpigmentation. Patches can vary in size and develop anywhere on the body.

The biggest risk factors for general hyperpigmentation are sun exposure and inflammation, as both situations can increase melanin production. The greater your exposure to the sun, the greater your risk of increased skin pigmentation.

Depending on the type of disorder, other risk factors for hyper pigmented patches may include:

  • oral contraceptive use or pregnancy, as seen with melasma
  • darker skin type, which is more prone to pigmentation changes
  • drugs that increase your sensitivity to the sunlight
  • trauma to the skin, such as a wound or superficial burn injury

What causes hyperpigmentation?

A common cause of hyperpigmentation is an excess production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives skin its colour. It’s produced by skin cells called melanocytes. Several different conditions or factors can alter the production of melanin in your body.

  • Certain medications can cause hyperpigmentation. Also, some chemotherapy drugs can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect.
  • Pregnancy changes hormone levels and can affect melanin production in some women.
  • A rare endocrine disease called Addison’s disease can produce hyperpigmentation that’s most obvious in areas of sun exposure, such as the face, neck, and hands, and areas exposure to friction, such as elbows and knees.
  • The hyperpigmentation is a direct result of an increased level of a hormone in your body that results in increased melanin synthesis.
  • Excessive sun exposure can also cause an increase in melanin.
  • Wearing Make-Up in the sun without Sunscreen on.
  • Perfume on the neck, then sitting on the sun can cause pigmentation.

 How is hyperpigmentation treated?

Topical prescription medication can treat some cases of hyperpigmentation. This medication usually contains hydroquinone, which lightens the skin.  However, prolonged use of topical hydroquinone (without any breaks in use) can cause darkening of the skin, known as ochronosis. So it’s best to use topical hydroquinone only under the care of a dermatologist so that they can properly guide you on how to use the medication without any adverse effects.

Using topical retinoids also assists with lightening dark spots of the skin. Both of these medications can take a few months to lighten darkened areas.

Cosmeceutical products that contain Kojic Acid, AHA’s/PHA’s, high strength and stable Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Azelaic Acid, Niacinamide, Oxyresveratrol, Retinol, Retinaldehyde, Retinol Retinoate.  These are ingredients that will help treat pigmentation problems.  Delivery systems are very important to ensure these ingredients reach the correct area of the skin.

Home care also includes using sunscreen. Sunscreen is the single most important factor in improving most causes of hyperpigmentation.

Look for:

  • a physical blocking sunscreen, preferably with zinc oxide as the main active ingredient
  • at least an SPF 30 to 50
  • broad spectrum coverage, UVA, UVB, infra-red and visible light protection. Which is found in Heliocare.
  • Use a sunscreen daily. Reapply it every 2 hours if you’re out in the sun — more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming.

There are also skin disorders with which visible light may play a role in perpetuating the hyperpigmentation, such as in melasma.  In that case, look for a mineral sunscreen that also has iron oxide in it or titanium dioxide, which can block some visible light. Use daily. Wear sun-protective clothing that’s SPF-infused.

Shop for SPF-infused clothing online.

We may also suggest Cryotherapy treatment or chemical peels to reduce hyperpigmentation, depending on the cause of your hyperpigmentation.

How is hyperpigmentation prevented?

It’s not always possible to prevent hyperpigmentation. However, you can protect yourself by:

  • Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
  • Wearing hats or clothing that block sunlight
  • Avoiding the sun during the time of the day when it’s strongest, which is typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Avoiding certain medications may also help prevent hyperpigmentation.

What’s the outlook for hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation isn’t generally harmful and usually isn’t a sign of a serious medical condition.

In some cases, dark areas will fade on their own with good sun protection. In other cases, more aggressive treatment is needed. There’s no guarantee that the dark spots will fade completely, even with treatment.

For brown spots we can remove this using cryotherapy using the Cryopen, for larger patches homecare and clinic treatments are needed.  It is important to realise that once the pigment cells are damaged you can only suppress them and whatever you use product wise to improve the problem will need to always be used.  SPF is an absolute must everyday no matter whether you are inside or outside as visible light from your screens (laptop, mobile phone etc.) can cause it to worsen.  All three cosmeceutical companies we supply (Hydropeptide, Jan Marini Skin Research, Medik8 and Heliocare) have amazing results on pigmentation and we can recommend the right ones for you during skin consultation.

Products to help Hyperpigmentation - CLICK HERE

The 7 Routes to Brightening using Medik8 Cosmeceutical Skincare

Dull, uneven skin with blotches and dark marks are a common concern as we get that little bit older. They can make us feel less confident with our skin; especially without make-up. We have discovered 7 ways in which we can tackle and improve this condition once and for all.

Hyper-pigmented skin in the form of uneven skin tone or dark spots, is often caused by the overproduction of melanin. Melanin is a natural pigment present in our skin and hair that provides essential UV protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Melanin is formed in a skin cell called a melanocyte. The process starts with an amino acid called tyrosine, which is oxidised by the enzyme tyrosinase to convert it into melanin. Most pigmentation treatments work by blocking the enzyme, tyrosinase, to stop melanin being produced. Medik8 developed an intense, 7-step approach for tackling pigmentation head on. With White Balance® Brightening Serum you can wave goodbye to uneven skin texture, and welcome in luminous, more perfected skin.


Tyrosine is essentially a younger version of melanin. But in order for tyrosine to be converted into melanin, it has to enter a melanocyte cell. By saturating the melanocyte cell with a nourishing amino acid called leucine, we can make it extremely difficult for tyrosine to enter the cell, meaning pigmentation is significantly reduced.


Tyrosinase is the enzyme that converts tyrosine to melanin. Therefore lowering the levels of tyrosinase within the skin can help to inhibit excess melanin production before it has even begun.


Because tyrosinase is the main enzyme responsible for creating melanin, blocking its action can significantly brighten areas of pigmentation. Oxyresveratrol, a natural botanical found in our White Balance Brightening Serum, helps to ‘switch off’ the control centre of the tyrosinase molecule so that it cannot spark the production of melanin. Ethylated ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is also capable of blocking the action of tyrosinase.


Lowering the stability of tyrosinase, reduces its capability to start the melanin production cycle.


Less tyrosinase means less melanin production. So breaking down existing stores of tyrosinase within the skin can help to diminish the appearance of pigmentation.


When melanin is produced, it has to be transported to the skin cells before it can show up on the complexion. So blocking this movement can stop pigmentation from appearing on the surface of the skin. This can be achieved by encouraging melanin deposits to clump together so they can’t travel to the skin’s surface.


Free radicals can also contribute to hyperpigmentation. Just like the tyrosinase enzyme, they can oxidise tyrosine, converting it into melanin. Antioxidant-rich oxyresveratrol and ethylated ascorbic acid can block the formation of free radicals to stop them from triggering melanin production.