4 Types of Hyperpigmentation and What to do About it

As aggravating as hyperpigmentation can be, understanding why it’s happening and how you can stop it (yes, it can be done) is rule number-one on the path to clear, even skin.


1. Melasma

Color: Light to medium brown

Where It Occurs: On the cheeks, sides of the face, upper part of the nose, forehead and above the lip

What It Looks Like: Splotchy patches that are inconsistent in shape and size

Caused By: A surge in hormones usually from pregnancy or birth control coupled with sun exposure

Treat It With: Hydroquinone and Retin-A; salicylic, lactic or glycolic acid peels; Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) plus vitamin C; or Cosmelan. (Melasma is hard to treat because of its potential to recur.)


2. Sunspots (aka Age or Liver Spots)

Color: Light to dark brown

Where It Occurs: On the face, chest and hands

What It Looks Like: Small, flat, dark spots

Caused By: The sun

Treat It With: Retinol + IPL; Fractional laser resurfacing


3. Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)

Color: Pink, red or brown

Where It Occurs: Anywhere on the face

What It Looks Like: Flat spots

Caused By: Inflammatory acne

Treat It With: Light salicylic acid chemical peels; red light and blue light (if there is active acne)


4. Freckles

Color: Light to dark brown or even red or black

Where It Occurs: On the face, chest and arms

What It Looks Like: Concentrated small spots

Caused By: The sun

Treat It With: Fraxel, Nd:YAG laser

  • Pat
    Posted on

    Why is it always about the face, how about the legs with sun spots?

  • Tracy
    Posted on

    I am an Esthetician and the best thing to do is seek the professional guidance of an esthetician/skincare therapist. Pigmentation in any case has to be treated correctly otherwise you can create more problems. PIH pigment shows up like a brown or red spot after an acne lesion, picking at an acne spot will create this and some skin color will create this discoloration even without picking. Melasma mirrors itself, so if you have a blotchy brown spot on your left cheek, look on the right and most like the same similiar shape and color is occuring. Sun spot are all the pigment spots in between, freckles on the nose, freckles all over the face, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Once you rid or lighten them, your home care is crucial and there are certain products that you will want and need to be on to maintain that skin! Hope that helps some!

  • LPS
    Posted on

    I LOVE IPL, for years being in the Sun growing up in Hawaiian and not wearing sunscreen ever until about 2 yrs ago, I decided to undergo IPL for my beautymarks. And I have also tried the OBagi kit and both have worked. Obagi had hydroquinone.. IPL completedly took the beautymarks by the sun away have just 3 treatments. LOVE LOVE iT! I also have had one treatment of fraxel just for overall glow and as uncomfortable it was and not really needing it, I still wanted to experiemnt. WOW, it literally made my skin glow more! Not sure if it can take away marks because my IPL did that, but it does revie your skin.

  • kellieanne
    Posted on

    Be wise, peels do not always work and it is only a temporary treatment for spots and it can costly. A good face cream with SPF during the day and also a good sun protection with a high SPF if out in the sun. Wearing a hat to keep the rays off the face helps

  • Ann
    Posted on

    I was excited to read this article. However, I personally would find it more beneficial if you included pictures. I think I'm developing age spots, but it also could be PIH. If you could include pics in your next article and highlight the differences, that would be helpful. Thanks for the info!

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