What Causes and How to Fight


  • Hyperpigmentation can be caused by skin damage, sun exposure and pregnancy.
  • To combat this, you need to use ingredients like niacinamide, hydroquinone and retinol.
  • These ingredients help reduce inflammation and produce new skin cells for a smoother complexion.
  • Visit the Insider Health Reference Library for more tips.

If you look in the mirror and notice dark spots on your skin, then you may have some hyperpigmentation. The spots can be small or large and they often present themselves on your face, neck, hands, and bent body.

Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that can be caused by many things including sun exposure, acne, and hormonal changes. It’s usually harmless, but you can get rid of it if you find it unpleasant.

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation occurs when your body produces more melanin, the brown pigment responsible for skin color. Most often, hyperpigmentation is caused by:

  • Skin damage or injury: Some dark patches are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is usually a side effect of a skin pathology, such as eczema. These conditions damage the skin which can lead to an extra, remaining pigment. People with darker skin are more likely to have this type of hyperpigmentation due to their higher melanin concentration. “We see it commonly after acne, in particular acne that gets picked uphe says Hadley King, MD, a certified dermatologist and clinical instructor aboard the Weill Medical College, Cornell University.
  • Melasma: Melasma it is another form of hyperpigmentation that causes brown or gray spots to appear on your face. It can be caused by exposure to the sun or by a genetic predisposition, King says. Changing hormone levels in pregnancy can also cause melasma – up to 50% of pregnant people will have. Melasma can fade naturally a few months after pregnancy but in some cases, you may need treatment to get rid of it.
  • Sun exposure: Lentils, or liver spots, are a type of hyperpigmentation that occurs when your skin is exposed to too much sun. “Lighter skin types are more vulnerable to sun lenses,” says King, and how much 90% of whites over 60 years of age will have sun-related hyperpigmentation.

How to get rid of hyperpigmentation

It’s a three-step process to get rid of hyperpigmentation, he says Joshua Draftsman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of aesthetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital.

It should reduce skin inflammation, block melanin production, and increase the rotation of skin cells to help spread more pigment-containing cells, Zeichner says.

The following ingredients can all help with the symptoms of hyperpigmentation when applied directly on the affected areas of the skin.

Ingredients to reduce skin inflammation

Zeichner recommends looking for skin products that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients to help soothe the skin, including:

Niacinamide: Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that helps repair damaged skin cells. A small 2013 study on women found that using a moisturizer with niacinamide twice daily significantly reduced hyperpigmentation during eight weeks of treatment. You can find niacinamide in over-the-counter products like Cerave PM Moisturizer.

Licorice root: Licorice root has anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe skin irritated by acne and other skin conditions. However, the use of products containing liquorice can also lower hyperpigmented skin research is still limited. Therefore, consult a dermatologist if you are unsure of this ingredient.

Ingredients for melanin production plant

Hydroquinone: Hydroquinone it is a compound that can lighten the skin and is generally considered to be “gold standard“Hyperpigmentation treatment. It works by reducing the production of melanin in your skin, leaving it with less pigment,” says King.


You can find hydroquinone over the counter or get a prescription for stronger concentrations from your dermatologist.

Kojic Acid: Kojic acid is a chemical produced by certain types of mushrooms and is used as a skin lightening ingredient for hyperpigmented skin, says King. Kojic acid works by blocking an amino acid called tyrosine by forming in your skin, which then prevents the production of melanin.

Kojic acid is available over the counter, and can be found combined with hydroquinone in many skin products.

Ingredients to increase the rotation of skin cells

Retinol: Retinol it is a compound derived from vitamin A that acts as a chemical exfoliant, irritating your skin create more cells faster and get rid of older cells that may hold extra pigment. Studies show that the use of retinol can help decrease hyperpigmentation and also tone the skin tone.

There are many over-the-counter skin products that contain retinol, or you can opt for higher prescription concentrations.

Glycolic acid: Glycolic acid is another chemical exfoliant derived from sugar cane. Research shows that glycolic acid can help improve hyperpigmentation by causing the top, damaged layer of skin to peel off.

You can buy glycolic acid over the counter as a serum, or visit a dermatologist to get a more intense glycolic acid chemical peel.

In all of these treatments, you should use sunscreen, says King, as exposure to the sun can damage the skin, trigger melanin production, and reverse your results.

You can use many of these treatments every day, King says, but you should not continue the treatment alone for more than three months. If you do not always get the results you want after this time, you should see a dermatologist.

Take away the Insider

Hyperpigmentation is a common skin problem that can be treated at home with many over-the-counter remedies, including sun protection. If home treatments do not work for you, contact an on-board certified dermatologist, who may be able to offer you other treatment options.

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