Everything You Need to Know about Hyperpigmentation

Aly Walansky
Photo: ImaxTree

Photo: ImaxTree

Hyperpigmentation, otherwise known as dark spots: We’ve all seen the impact it can cause, and we may be dealing with it ourselves. Here’s everything you need to know about preventing those pesky spots and how you can fix the ones you already have.

The Cause
When we expose our skin to UV rays (from the sun or tanning bed) our body protects itself by producing a pigment called melanin. When we overexpose our skin to these rays we damage our skin cells, which leads to overproduction of the pigment or dark spots, says Gabriela Santana-Blackburn, executive director of esthetics and teacher training at Tricoci University of Beauty Culture.

Dramatic hormonal changes can lead to hyperpigmentation, which happens a lot during pregnancy. But that’s not all: There’s many medications that can lead to hyperpigmentation, says Santana-Blackburn. Antibiotics will definitely cause your skin to become photo sensitive, making it really easy for those dark spots to appear with even the mist minimal UV exposure.

The Fix
The key to treating pigmentation disorders is preventing them in the first place. Antioxidants, sunblock and skin stimulation will prevent sun damage. “The more deviated the skin (Native American, Indian, brunette), the more likely that the skin will tan well but often pigment in unpredictable ways when injured,” says Dr. Aaron Kosins, a ZO Skin Health faculty member and Newport Beach-based plastic surgeon. If you have deviated skin, make sure your doctor understands your skin type. “When I have a patient with deviated skin, and I am going to do a procedure on them (peel, laser), I will treat them for pigmentation before the procedure, during and after,” says Dr. Kosins.

Pregnant women dealing with Melasma sometimes notice that their skin returns to being more even-toned once the pregnancy is over. For people dealing with other types of hyperpigmentation, you will see the best results when you gear you entire regimen toward balancing your skin tone.

Your dermatologist or esthetician can also try chemical peeling with glycolic (esthetician) and/or trichloro-acetic acid (dermatologists).  However, tread carefully: Dr. Craig Kraffert, a dermatologist and president of Amarte, says these treatments can often cause “post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation,” in which the inflammation causes more pigment to be distributed to the deeper layer of the skin, the dermis.

Thanks to technology, the Fotofacial RF was created to help fight these hard to treat spots. “The Fotofacial RF is a non-invasive skin rejuvenation treatment that features the revolutionary elos technology from Syneron,” says Maria Rianna of White Tea Med Spa in New York City. Fotofacial RF skin rejuvenation treatments combine pigment-seeking pulsed light with the power of specific radio frequencies, creating one powerful treatment that corrects hyperpigmentation (brown spots) and discoloration, but also sun spots, redness and rosacea.


It’s important to remember you absolutely must continue your skin regimen post-treatments. The nourishment and healing process takes time; be patient and you will be rewarded.

Read more: The Best Exfoliator for Every Skin Type