Posted on: November 25, 2008 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 0

In dermatology, hyperpigmentation is a condition that increases melanin production that causes the darkening of an area of the skin or nails.

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

No, you are not a dalmatian with spots. Those spots you have are caused by hyperpigmentation. It is a condition that results from sun damage, inflammation, or other skin injuries. People with East Indian, Asian, Mediterranean, or African skin tone have darker complexions and are more prone to the condition, especially with excess sun exposure.

The most common form of uneven skin tone is age or liver spots, also called sun spots. Areas around the neck, hands, and face are most prone to age spots, since these are frequently exposed to the sun. Furthermore, excessive sun exposure and the lack of appropriate Sun Protection Factor (SPF) applied on the skin would likely cause age spots.

It looks very much like age spots, melasma or chloasma spots are caused by hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or birth control pills, but they generally disappear after child birth or the end of birth control treatment. Larger in area effect, this type of condition could appear on your face (including the forehead and temples), chest, and abdomen, depending on what caused the hyperpigmentation.

Freckles are signs of uneven skin pigmentation and appear on any part of the body, normally on the face, hands, and cleavage. Freckles are often inherited from parents.

Other variations of hyperpigmentation may be the result of acne or other skin conditions that left colored marks on the skin after healing. Burns, injuries, and cosmetic surgery could also cause hyperpigmentation.

Another cause of hyperpigmentation may be drug treatments with minocycline, amiodarone, tetracycline, cyclophosphamide, bleomycin, quinacrine, and chloroquine. If you have taken any of these drugs at any point and have uneven skin tone, see a dermatologist for a consultation.

Hyperpigmentation can sometimes be induced by dermatological laser procedures as well.

Treatments for Hyperpigmentation

There are various types of treatment for hyperpigmentation. Depending on your medical history, personal preference, and budget, you could choose among these effective remedies:

  • Microdermabrasion. Hyperpigmentation could be treated with microdermabrasion. Unevenly pigmented skin cells are stuck on the surface of the skin, which means skin resurfacing procedures will likely remove them. By undergoing microdermabrasion, or the removal of dead skin cells, you could uncover normal pigmented skin underneath the affected area.

Compared to other medical procedures that treat uneven skin tone, microdermabrasion is the least invasive. Microdermabrasion simply peels off a very fine layer of skin via sandblasting with a flow of aluminum oxide micro crystals.

You may think that microdermabrasion is not sufficient enough in evening out skin tone, but the procedure has proven effective. However, some people have dead cells that are embedded deeper in the skin, in which case, microdermabrasion may not easily remove them. For example, if you have darker age spots than usual, you may see an improvement in just a couple of treatments, but do not expect it to fade completely. If you suffer from severe hyperpigmentation, you may have to look at other alternative treatments.

Microdermabrasion improves cell turnover, which helps with the superficial and irregular pigmentation on the skin. The basic purpose of the procedure is to shed old and uneven pigmented cells and replace them with new and normally pigmented skin cells.

Many people who have tried microdermabrasion once or twice give up in disappointment. They expect results quickly and subtle changes do not seem to satisfy them. Though the procedure exfoliates the skin, it only removes superficial dead skin. It would take about 10-12 treatments to attain the desired result.

Microdermabrasion has been the “in” thing these days. Though laser treatments, which will be tackled later, are still highly effective, they are more expensive. Try out microdermabrasion. Just be patient and you will eventually get the result you wanted.

  • Medication. Hyperpigmentation could be treated with various medications, including kojic acid, hydroquinone, azelaic acid, ascorbic acid, tretinoin (Retinol), and licorice extract. Hyperpigmentation could also be remedied with topical medication, such as glucocorticoids. If the affected area is exposed to the sun with insufficient UVA/UVB protection, any medication will likely fail.
  • Laser Resurfacing. Laser skin resurfacing works by evaporating the first few layers of damaged skin and leave behind fresh, evenly toned skin. Use hydroquinone or mild chemical peels before undergoing laser resurfacing to get the best result.
  • Intense Pulsed Light. Also known as IPL, this device is a type of laser that leaves no scars or marks. It can also remove freckles and other mild age spots without using hydroquinone or other peeling solutions beforehand.
  • Hydroquinone Cream. This type of topical medication bleaches the skin by slowing down melanin production. Dark spots are expected to fade within a few weeks. This type of medication is often used for hyperpigmentations that are not caused by hormonal changes.
  • Hydroxy Acid Peel. This type of topical solution increases cell renewal rate and corrects hyperpigmentation marks. There are two types of hydroxy acid peels: alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA). The former is a water soluble acid that helps in removing hyperpigmentation. The latter, conversely, is a lipid soluble acid that increases the rate of exfoliation but are not known to remove hyperpigmentation.
  • Physician Formula. These are more expensive skin pigmentation treatments, but are very effective. If you have the money and would like the best, try Kinerase, Retin A, Avita, or Renova. Ask your doctor for more details.

Myth, Not Fact

Based on popular belief, any dark spot may indicate skin cancer, but that is not actually true. In fact, the change in color happens when melanin—the natural brown pigment that determines your skin tone—deposits excessively in certain areas of the skin.


Hyperpigmentation is a condition that greatly affects the appearance of the skin. It could ruin your self-image and cause massive insecurity on your persona. When you have hyperpigmentation, it would look like a tattoo job gone wrong, which is not the ideal shot in the arm. Which is why treating it could save your social life and bring about a new found confidence. Say no to dark spots!

Click here for more information on how to get rid of hyperpigmentation.

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