What is Hyperpigmentation?

By November 27, 2018 April 19th, 2019 Professional resources
Hyperpigmentation Image

Relatively common, Hyperpigmentation is areas of the skin that have become darker than the surrounding skin colour. These patches can differ in size from very small to larger areas, are light brown to black in colour and can affect any skin colour.

Affecting both men and women, there are many types of Hyperpigmentation, however, each type is always flat, never raised and tends to get worse with sun exposure.

Types of Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a broad term for darker patches / spots on the skin, however, there are varying types of hyperpigmentation.

Sun Spots / Sun Damage

Also known as ‘Liver Spots’ or ‘Age Spots’, Sun Spots develop on areas of the skin that have been more exposed to the sun, such as the face, shoulders, back and hands. Sun Spots are common in adults over 50 years old, although they can form earlier depending on the amount of sun exposure the skin has had. Affecting both men and women, Sun Spots vary in size and although they are also known as ‘Liver Spots’, they have nothing to do with the liver.

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)

Hyperpigmentation of the skin caused by inflammation typically from acne, atopic dermatitis or psoriasis tends to appear after the inflammation has healed. Affecting the face and body of both men and women, post-Inflammatory hyperpigmentation can affect any skin type, although is more prevalent in darker skin. This type of hyperpigmentation can be pink, red, brown or black in colour.


Often referred to as ‘Chloasma’ or ‘The Mask of Pregnancy’, Melasma tends to appear across the upper lip, nose, cheeks and forehead. This type of hyperpigmentation is more common in women and is often caused by natural hormonal changes or that from medication.

Why does Hyperpigmentation occur?

Hyperpigmentation occurs when excess, or overproduction of melanin (pigment) is produced in certain areas of the skin.

What causes Hyperpigmentation?

Just as there and different types of Hyperpigmentation, there are varying causes also.

Sun Exposure

Excessive exposure to the sun is the number one cause of Hyperpigmentation as sunlight triggers the production of melanin. Melanin being the natural pigment that gives human skin, hair and eyes their colour and is responsible for tanning. When the skin is exposed to sunlight more Melanin is produced as it’s the skin’s natural defence system to protect against the harmful UV rays.

Once there are Hyperpigmentation spots and patches on the skin, exposure to the sun can make these areas and spots darker.

Skin Injury / Inflammation

Injury to and inflammation of the skin such as a burn, acne, eczema or psoriasis can leave the skin with a dark spot or patch of Hyperpigmentation after the wound has healed. This is due to the skin cells producing more melanin when the skin is damaged.

Hormonal Influences

Pregnancy and hormonal drugs like birth control and hormone replacement are the main causes of the type of Hyperpigmentation named Melasma. The exact cause of Melasma is still unknown but it thought to be linked with the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone when they work to stimulate the overproduction of melanin when skin is exposed to the sun.

Hyperpigmentation is also a side effect of certain hormone treatments, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics and various other medications.

Where can Hyperpigmentation appear?

Hyperpigmentation can appear anywhere on the body, however, it usually tends to appear in areas that have been more exposed to the sun. For example, the face, neck, chest and hands. Although as previously mentioned, not all Hyperpigmentation is caused by sun exposure.

Can you treat Hyperpigmentation?

Most types of Hyperpigmentation responds well to treatment.

The type of treatment used is dependent upon the type of Hyperpigmentation, the skin type, the severity of the damage and how much downtime, if any that you are willing to take. This is something that can be discussed with a doctor, dermatologist or an aesthetics clinical nurse where a treatment plan will be created bespoke for you, your skin and requirement.

Below are some of the treatment options available for Hyperpigmentation.

  • Chemical Peels (including The Perfect Peel)
  • Medical Skin Needling
  • Cryotherapy
  • Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL)
  • Hydro-facial
  • LED Light Therapy

Can you prevent Hyperpigmentation?

You can help to prevent Hyperpigmentation by limiting the time you spend in the sun and protect your skin from the harmful UV rays by using a broad-spectrum sun cream with a high SPF. Not only will this help to prevent Hyperpigmentation, it will also help to stop existing dark patches and dark spots of Hyperpigmentation getting darker.