Hyperpigmentation: Causes, Prevention and Treatments

by The First Refresh

Image by Mathilde Langevin via Unsplash, pictured is a hand holding a cream pot from at an angle from above, against a sandy background

Hyperpigmentation is defined by darker spots on the skin - a common skin condition sometimes referred to as sun spots or age spots. These patches of darkened skin appear in places of the body that are most exposed, typically on the face. 

How Does Hyperpigmentation Form?

Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin produces excess amounts of melanin. This could be triggered by a range of issues such as chemical effects from medication, aging, and sun exposure. 

What are the different types of Hyperpigmentation?

Some hyperpigmentation is normal - and everyone will experience it at some point in their life. There are different types of hyperpigmentation, but the main three are sunspots, melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. 

  • Sunspots are perhaps the most common (also called liver spots). As the name suggests, this type of hyperpigmentation is caused by overexposure to the sun. 
  • Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that is caused by hormones (this type of hyperpigmentation sometimes occurs during pregnancy), and can appear on the stomach as well as the face. 
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs after damage or injury to the skin, i.e. acne or allergies.  

Finding a clear-cut solution to getting rid of hyperpigmentation can be challenging, depending on your skin type and tone. Here is our guide to give you a head start on finding what treatment might work best for you: 


Dermatologists stress the importance of taking note of your original skin tone when treating hyperpigmentation.

As most treatments that treat hyperpigmentation include skin brightening formulas, darker skin tones benefit from lower intensity treatments over a longer period of time. On the other hand, fair to medium skin tones usually respond well to more intense treatments. 

Topical medication may be prescribed in some cases, while skin brightening serums and creams are often used to treat hyperpigmentation. 

See also: Is hyperpigmentation getting you down? Read this ultimate skin brightening guide

Skincare for hyperpigmentation

Retinoids and retinol, a recent breakthrough in mainstream skincare, have great skin benefits that are scientifically based. The ingredient can be applied topically for skin brightening purposes, reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. 

It does this by encouraging higher rates of cell turnover - experts say that it takes up to six months to see effects when applied consistently. Retinol is usually used to combat signs of aging, fighting acne, and boosting collagen production. 

Light acids (10% content or less) can help hyperpigmentation, they help as a gentle exfoliant, shedding the top layer of the skin and improving your overall skin tone. Products that contain Vitamin C usually target issues such as hyperpigmentation. Some acids that aid hyperpigmentation include lactic acid, azelaic acid, and salicylic acid.

Chemical peels can be applied by a dermatologist, and these are usually stronger, containing AHAs (glycolic acid) and BHAs (salicylic acid). Lighter peels are also available options for at-home use, but a patch test is recommended. Experts recommend chemical peels over microdermabrasion treatments - as microdermabrasion is more physically abrasive, while chemical peels work more subtly and long-term. 

Light Therapy, specifically red light therapy, is known to treat hyperpigmentation too. Although the intensity of red light is much higher than that of sunlight, it is not damaging. Red light presents an anti-inflammatory agent for the skin - its long wavelength works to penetrate the top layer of the skin, encouraging cell turnover and collagen production. This in turn helps to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. 

The First Refresh offers light therapy treatments as an add-on to facial spas (+35 SGD)  - have a look here

 Image by Mathilde Langevin via Unsplash, pictured is a woman in a white linen dress holding a serum vial for oils

Preventive Measures 

As any skincare enthusiast would tell you, preventing hyperpigmentation from occurring in the first place is all about the sun protection. Although some hyperpigmentation is normal (and in some cases unavoidable), especially for aging skin, you can slow down this process by protecting your skin from the sun as much as you can. 

Use sunscreen daily with a minimum SPF of 30 and ensure your product is labeled broad spectrum - so it protects from both the UVA and UVB rays. If you’re out in the sun for an extended period of time, remember to take a small tube of sunscreen with you and re-apply every few hours, to replace SPF that has been washed off due to contact with sweat and water.

Treating hyperpigmentation can be a long and lengthy process, so remember to be patient with yourself and to have faith in your treatments! 

For a headstart on that glowy skin, book in for a facial with The First Refresh - for rejuvenated and revitalized skin.