How to Prevent Hyperpigmentation of the Skin

Three Methods:Understanding the Types and CausesTaking Preventative ActionBeing Aware of Possible Treatments

When your skin cells are healthy, they produce the correct amount of melanin to maintain the pigmentation or coloring. However, skin pigmentation disorders like hyperpigmentation occur when skin cells become unhealthy or damaged. With hyperpigmentation, areas of your skin become darker. Hyperpigmentation can develop on your face or your entire body. There are a variety of causes but the best form of prevention is protecting your skin from the sun.

Method 1
Understanding the Types and Causes

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    Identify the different types. Hyperpigmentation can take a variety of forms and have a number of different potential causes. If you want to try and prevent it, it's important to have a clear understanding of the different ways it might appear to see for which form you are most at risk. Depending on what form of hyperpigmentation you are concerned about, you may not be able to do much to prevent it. The three main types are:[1]
    • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
    • Lentigines
    • Melasma
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    Understand post-inflammatory hyperpig­mentation (PIH). This type of hyperpigmentation can be caused by any inflammatory skin condition which involves the junction between epidermis and dermis.[2] The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin and the dermis is the layer beneath that.[3] The kind of inflammation or injury that can cause PIH includes acne, burns, and psoriasis. A professional skin treatment can also result in PIH.[4]
    • If PIH is a reaction to a specific inflammation or trauma it can resolve itself without treatment, but this can sometimes take months.
    • It is possible that epidermal pigmentation can last for six months or a year.
    • Dermal pigmentation can last for even longer, persisting for years.[5]
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    Identify lentigines. There are a wide variety of different instances of lentigines recorded in medicine. Some of these develop when you are very young and some as you get older. Solar lentigines are those which are most often caused by excessive exposure to the sun.[6] Sometimes these are known as liver spots, and have been associated with aging. Although they do multiply and become more prominent with age, evidence has shown them to be much more prominent in older people who have had high exposure to UV light.[7]
    • Solar lentigines most frequently occur on the face and the back of the hands.
    • There is no proven link between lentigines and melanoma (a serious form of skin cancer), but they are considered an independent risk factor for melanoma.[8]
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    Determine melasma hyperpigmentation. One other common type of hyperpigmentation is known as melasma (sometimes referred to as chloasma). Unlike the PIH and lentigines, melasma is not caused by exposure to the sun or a trauma or inflammation experienced by the skin. Melasma is understood to result from hormonal fluctuations, most commonly during pregnancy.
    • Melasma takes the appearance of dark brown, roughly symmetrical patches on the face, which have clear distinct edges.
    • Melasma can be a side-effect of oral contraceptives for women. It is often aggravated by thyroid complaints.
    • It is more prevalent and tends to persist for longer in people with darker skin, and is sometimes experienced by dark-skinned men.
    • For women, melasma often fades slowly after pregnancy, when hormonal fluctuations desist; however, it may never completely disappear without treatment.[9]

Method 2
Taking Preventative Action

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    Protect your skin from the sun. Ensuring that you properly protect your skin and limit your exposure to UV light is the most basic and reliable measure you can take to lessen the chances of experiencing any kind of hyperpigmentation. This means both applying sufficient sunscreen, and limiting your time spent in the sun. Generally, opaque sunblocks that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are considered the most effective.[10]
    • As lentigines has been associated with exposure to the sun, protecting your skin with sunscreen will help prevent this from occurring or getting worse.
    • If you have PIH it's too late to prevent it, but avoiding further sun exposure can help you ensure you don't worsen your hyperpigmentation. Be sure to wear sunscreen.[11]
    • Re-applying a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every two hours can help reduce PIH.[12]
    • Wearing a broad-rimmed hat and UV protective clothing can also help.
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    Care for your skin. As well as protecting your skin from UV light, there are other everyday steps you can take to look after your skin which in turn will help prevent hyperpigmentation. Use gentle skin care products and avoid scratching, popping blemishes, and picking at your skin. This is especially important if you have some areas of pigmentation already. Avoid the temptation to pick at them.
    • If you have PIH it is important to skin for your skin to allow it to heal as quickly as possible.
    • Using moisturizers to soothe your skin can help reduce the irritation. Gently massaging a cooling lotion onto the skin is much better than scratching.[13]
    • A gentle exfoliation once or twice a week can help clear out old skin cells which are discoloured.[14]
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    Clarify the potential side-effects of medications. Some drugs can increase melanin production and bring about hyperpigmentation.[15] In order to keep yourself as fully informed as possible always ask the doctor or pharmacist about any medications you are taking that might cause hyperpigmentation. Ask them for alternatives if they are available.
    • If you think your melasma hyperpigmentation is caused by oral contraception, hormone replacement therapy or another hormonal treatment, discontinue and contact your doctor.[16]
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    Find out if you have hyperpigmentation in your family history. As with many medical conditions, there is thought to be a genetic element involved in melasma pigmentation. A family history of melasma has been cited as one of the potential causative factors.[17] Determine if you have a history of it in your family. This is an inexact science, so be sure to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.

Method 3
Being Aware of Possible Treatments

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    Consider possible medical treatments. If you experience hyperpigmentation there are a number of possible treatments for you to consider. These include topical creams including retinoids and corticosteriods.[18][19] Drugs which block the production of melanin may be prescribed. Treatments which effect melanin formation are currently consider the most successful.[20] Before deciding on any treatments, speak to your doctor or dermatologist to discuss the possibilities and what might be most suited to you.
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    Try some natural remedies. Due to the commonness of hyperpigmentation and the potential of the medical treatments to irritate your skin, people have been looking for natural alternative treatments. Some natural ingredients in topical treatments have been shown to have benefits in laboratory tests, such as soy.[21] Natural and home remedies are never completely reliable, but citrus juice and aloe vera are cited as potentially good ingredients to use in topical treatments.[22]
    • Make a mask with aloe vera, seaweed and honey and let it rest on your face for ten minutes before rinsing off.
    • Alternatively try mixing lemon juice with honey and milk and use this as a face mask.[23]
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    Ask about further procedures. If you are struggling to lighten dark patches on your face, you may want to consider further treatment options that go beyond topical creams and natural remedies. It's recommended that you speak to your doctor or dermatologist who will be able to advise you on specific treatments. One common treatment is a chemical peel. This is a harsher treatment than topical creams and involves you applying a liquid chemical solution, such as glycolic acid, to your skin.[24]
    • A chemical peel may be advised if other treatments prove ineffectual.
    • Dermabrasion or microdermabrasion treatments may also be recommended.
    • In some cases an light therapy or laser treatment might be used to target discoloured areas of skin.[25]


  • Treatment for hyperpigmentation includes prescription creams and over-the-counter medications that contain hydroquinone. Bleaches are also used to try to lighten or fade the dark patches.


  • Although hydroquinone helps treat hyperpigmentation, it may also cause it. Bluish black hyperpigmentation discoloration may develop on your face and the top of your ears. Typically, the dark spots develop over time and after years of hydroquinone use.

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Categories: Skin Conditions