Hyperpigmentation: Getting to know the types

Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition characterised by darkened patches on the body. The patches develop due to an overproduction of melanin – the pigment giving skin its colour. It’s a fairly common condition and affects people of all skin types. There are several types and severities of hyperpigmentation – some cases are treatable, and others can be avoided altogether. So let’s explore the condition in some detail. 

Types of hyperpigmentation


Common in pregnancy, Melasma develops because of hormonal fluctuations and causes symptoms of large, darkened patches on the skin. Melasma commonly appears on the forehead, face and stomach. It’s more likely to affect people with darker skin and women on hormonal tablets. This type of hyperpigmentation usually goes away after childbirth, or when the individual stops taking birth control tablets. 

Age spots

Also known as liver spots or solar lentigines, age spots usually develop as a result of chronic sun exposure. When the skin is exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, it produces melanin to protect itself from damage. This is why older individuals often have brown, black or tan age spots, as they form over years of overexposed to the sun. Age spots can be easily identified on the face and hands, though they can manifest on any part of the body exposed to sunlight. 

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

People who suffer from skin conditions like acne, eczema and lupus sometimes experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after the wound-like symptoms subside. This type of hyperpigmentation appears as darkened patches and spots on the skin in the places where the inflammation was present. The symptoms can also develop as a result of general injuries to the skin. 

Medication-induced Hyperpigmentation

Certain medications, like antimalarial drugs, antidepressants and topical ointments, can cause hyperpigmentation to develop. This type is usually characterised by grey patches on the skin.

Disease-induced Hyperpigmentation

Medical conditions such as Addison’s disease and hemochromatosis can cause serious outbreaks of hyperpigmentation. Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands, and can cause hyperpigmentation to develop in skin folds, on the lips, elbows, knees, knuckles, toes and inside of the cheeks. Hemochromatosis is a genetic condition characterised by the over-retention of iron in the body. It often causes symptoms of hyperpigmentation, making the skin appear darker or tanned.

Treating Hyperpigmentation 

There’s a lot that you can do to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Just staying out of the sun, for one, can make a big difference. Sufferers should apply a light sunblock every day, especially on the face, to protect the skin from sun damage and prevent further melanin overproduction. And refraining from picking at skin injuries can prevent hyperpigmentation from developing in the first place. Severe cases of hyperpigmentation, though, may require intervention to reduce the dark patches. These can be home remedies, topical creams and cosmetic treatments.

Home remedies:

  • Aloe vera
  • Liquorice
  • Green tea

Topical cream including:

  • Azelaic acid
  • Corticosteroids
  • Hydroquinone
  • Kojic acid
  • Retinoids
  • Vitamin C

Cosmetic treatments:

Need a skin assessment? 

If you have symptoms of hyperpigmentation, it’s important to first understand which type you have so you can treat it effectively. Book a consultation with Dr Noks before trying any of the above treatments on your skin, and she will advise the best course of action.