Hyperpigmentation: Different Types, What Causes It and How to Treat It

What is hyperpigmentation? It’s a benign skin condition that manifests as areas of discoloration on the face and body. The culprit is the overproduction of melanin which results in most pigmented spots and lesions. Although it’s perfectly harmless, hyperpigmentation can give your skin a blotchy and uneven appearance. If you’ve ever tried covering up dark spots of any size with makeup then you know how challenging and frustrating it can be.

Fortunately there are many excellent and highly effective solutions available for eliminating excess pigment and restoring a smoother and more even tone to your complexion. Before we delve into all the possible hyperpigmentation treatments, here are the three main types of pigment issues you may experience and their causes:

Dark Spots

These go by many names: sun spots, age spots and liver spots. They can vary in color, ranging from tan, brown to black and are caused primarily by UV damage. They usually become visible in our 30’s and 40’s due to cumulative sun exposure over many years. Most commonly dark spots tend to appear on areas of the body that have been repeatedly exposed to the sun such as face, hands and chest.


Also referred to as pregnancy mask, melasma is characterized by large patches of hyperpigmentation on the face, particularly around the forehead and cheeks. Melasma can appear on other areas such as neck and stomach. Although the exact causes of melasma are not fully understood there seems to be a strong hormonal connection. Women who are pregnant or taking oral contraceptives are more prone to developing melasma. Sun exposure can make the condition worse.

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpgimentation

Whenever the skin has experienced trauma such as severe acne, eczema or sunburn it’s typically followed by inflammation then healing and recovery. During this time of cellular repair some skin types are more prone to overproducing melanin, causing reddened or dark spots and patches to form in the affected area. Sometimes it’s easy to mistake acne scars for dark spots because they can appear similar. Additionally, in some individuals post-inflammatory pigmentation can occur simultaneously with scarring.  

Hyperpigmentation Treatment Options

Choosing the right treatment should start with a correct diagnosis. That’s why it’s important to visit a reputable doctor or clinic, a place with experienced staff who can identify the type and cause of your pigmentation issues. Most clinicians can diagnose hyperpigmentation by examining the skin under normal light or by using specialized diagnostic equipment such as the Visia Skin Analysis machine.

Once a diagnosis has been established, your doctor may recommend prevention advice (using a good sunscreen or sunblock) and how to get rid of hyperpigmentation with minimal downtime (below is a list – from the least to most invasive).  

Pigment Correctors

If your hyperpigmentation is very mild then your skin clinic may recommend a pigment correcting cream or serum. The best skin lightening creams for hyperpigmentation contain a powerful ingredient called hydroquinone which inhibits skin cells (melanocytes) from overproducing melanin. At Azala we offer patients two prescription level hydroquinone options: Obagi Nu-Derm Clear and Obagi Nu-Derm Blender.  If you prefer, hydroquinone-free products are also available. Whichever option you choose, over the course of 14-16 weeks healthy new skin cells will replace old damaged tissue, resulting in smoother and more even skin tone.

Note: There has been a lot of misinformation in the news and media lately about hydroquinone. Some sources claim it bleaches the skin while others say it poses a health risk. In reality hydroquinone does not bleach the skin but rather it inhibits the activity of tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to produce melanin. Also any health risks associated with hydroquinone were found to be due to contaminants in skincare products and not hydroquinone. Currently the FDA’s stance is that hydroquinone is safe and effective for treating hyperpigmentation for most skin types.

Chemical Peels


Chemical peels for hyperpigmentation have been used for many decades because of their proven safety and efficacy record. Mild to moderate cases of hyperpigmentation can benefit from a series of ViPeel Precision medical-grade chemical peels. The ViPeel contains several powerful resurfacing agents like Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA), Retin-A (retinoic acid) and salicylic acid. Additionally, Vi Peel’s Precision Plus line incorporates Kojic acid and Hydroquinone for specifically targeting more advanced to severe hyperpigmentation issues.

BroadBand Light (BBL)™


BBL™ is also called intense pulsed light (IPL) or photofacial. The device emits broad spectrum light that targets brown and red pigment in the skin. If your skin is too sensitive for peels or you simply prefer a light-based therapy, this treatment is ideal for addressing brown lesions and red pigment such as acne scars or broken capillaries. BBL™ is effective for treating and reversing pigmentation for most skin types, even darker complexion. Typically 3-4 sessions are necessary to see a noticeable improvement in skin tone and texture.

Halo™ Fractional Laser

Halo Fractional Laser Before and After Photos Pigmentation Improvement

The Halo™ hyperpigmentation laser treatment combines two different light wavelengths at the same time to resurface and repair the skin. The first laser removes the damaged outer pigmented layers while the second laser stimulates collagen and accelerates healing by creating thousands of microscopic “band-aids” deeper in the epidermis. You’re an ideal candidate for Halo™ if you have pigment issues occurring simultaneously with other signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles, poor texture and mild skin laxity.

We invite you to visit Azala Medical Aesthetics if you’re interested in any of these hyperpigmentation treatments. You don’t have to be a patient to purchase pigment correctors or sunscreens. Simply drop by our clinic and one of our skin experts will guide you in choosing the right solutions to help you achieve healthy, luminous skin.

* Individual results may vary, and not guaranteed.

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