What to do with pigment disorders / hyperpigmentation?

Treatment options for hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation - What To Do?

8 treatments for hyperpigmentation

The changing environmental conditions bring more and more sunshine. The skin is increasingly stressed and attacked. The influence of sunlight and the resulting increase in UV radiation on the skin should not be taken lightly. UV rays have a direct effect on the state of our skin health. It should also not be forgotten that excessive exposure to the sun outdoors or UV radiation in the tanning salon increases the risk of developing skin cancer, regardless of the skin type.

Science divides skin into five types

Type I: very light skin tone

Type II light skin tone

Type III - medium-light skin tone

Type IV brownish or olive-colored skin, even when it is not tanned

Type V dark to light brown skin, even when it is not tanned

Type VI dark brown to black skin, even when it is not tanned


You'd think that dark skin types would have an advantage over light skin types. That's not the case. However, there are not only visual differences; dark skin, for example, renews itself 2,5 times faster than light skin. But even dark skin is attacked by too much solar radiation. Skin irritation, inflammation and pigmentation disorders can occur.

Pigments or melanins are responsible for the different hair and skin colors. They are formed by so-called melanocytes (pigment cells) and enrich the skin. The skin colors do not differ in the number of melanocytes, but the structure and grouping are different.

Dark skin does not get sunburn as easily as light skin, but it is just as at risk from intense and long-lasting sun exposure. You shouldn't neglect sun protection even with dark skin. Skin damage in dark-skinned people is manifested by unevenness and skin discoloration. Dark spots can form, which can develop into pigment disorders. One then speaks of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).

Such stains can heal and disappear after a while, but there is a risk that they will persist. Therefore, women, as well as men with black skin, should pay attention to sun protection and under no circumstances neglect it. Effective protection from direct sunlight is the best way to prevent pigment disorders.

What can I do if I have hypergigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a medical term that describes dark spots on the skin. These are caused by excessive melanin production, which can have other causes besides sunlight. Acne scars or excessive exposure to UV radiation and hormone fluctuations can also be responsible for this.

First you should consult a dermatologist or dermatologist who can assess the problem areas from a medical point of view and prescribe a therapy. Of course, there are also applications and products for prevention and care that can be used without consulting a doctor.

Online retailers these days make it easy to get hold of beauty and skin care products that are not available everywhere. But you should only buy products from reputable retailers and manufacturers. The American Academy of Dermatology advises that when buying over-the-counter skin lighteners, ensure that the product does not contain mercury.

Below are several ways that hyperpigmentation can be treated. It describes products and applications that you can use yourself at home. Other therapies can only be carried out in a dermatologist's office or with the professional help of specialists. We also warn of possible dangers of the application.

1. Lightening creams

Lightening creams are said to reduce the pigmentation of the skin with selected ingredients. The majority of the products are available in stores as creams or gels without a prescription. There are also stronger products that the doctor has to prescribe.

The following active ingredients can usually be found in over-the-counter products:


Licorice extract


Vitamin B-3 (niacinamide) 

Recommended use

These creams work best on flat areas, such as melasma or age spots. They are effective for discoloration on most skin types. The over-the-counter products can be obtained quickly and without a doctor's visit, but when using these products it can take longer before the skin is lightened. Prescription products contain stronger active ingredients, but must therefore also be used under medical instruction and supervision.


Murad Past Acne Spot Lightening Gel - With two percent hydroquinone, even old acne scars will fade. Can also be used for acne prevention.

ProActiv hydrator - to perfect your complexion. Very suitable for oily skin. This product reduces redness and is also effective for hyperpigmentation.

2. Skin scrubs with acids

The top layer of skin should be removed with acid treatments; this is also known as peeling. Immediately after the treatment, the skin begins to replace the removed skin layer. The tint of the skin is evened out and it becomes smoother. There are different types of acids and peelings that can be purchased in specialist shops (drug stores, beauty salons).

The following active ingredients can usually be found in the products:

Alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic, lactic, citric, malic or tartaric acid

Azelaic acid

Kojic acid

Salicylic acid

Vitamin C (in the form of L-ascorbic acid) 

Recommended use

Acid scrubs work well on lighter skin tones.


You should be careful with over-the-counter product offers with an acid content of more than 10%. A higher acid content carries the risk of severe side effects. These dangers can be better assessed by experts.

product recommendations

FAB Skin Lab Resurfacing Liquid 10% AHA -  This daily serum is based on malic acid and improves the natural skin tone. At the same time, the appearance of large pores is reduced.

ProActiv mark correction pads - In these pads, glycolic and salicylic acids are used in combination to exfoliate the skin. Acne scars are also reduced with it.

The following products can be bought very well online:

malic acid

Glycolic acid

Salicylic acid

3. Retinoids

The retinoids used in over-the-counter products are some of the oldest known skin care ingredients. They are obtained from vitamin A and, due to their small molecular structure, can penetrate deep into the skin. In this way, deep layers of the epidermis can also be reached and treated.

There are also prescription retinoid products available. If the non-prescription retinoids show no effect after a few months, then you should speak to your dermatologist about products containing the retinoid tretinoin (Retin-A).

Recommended use

Over-the-counter retinoids are actually safe for all skin types, but people with dark or black skin should be careful. Especially if retinoids are used over a longer period of time, this should only be done after consulting a dermatologist. Retinoids are not the first choice of treatment for hyperpigmentation as they are more likely to be used to reduce wrinkles.

product recommendations

Differin Gel - If you have skin problems, this gel should be tried first, as it helps with hyperpigmentation as well as acne. Differin Gel has recently also been available without a prescription.

Purely organic anti-aging night cream - This type of night cream is a combination of retinoids and hyaluronic acid. This combination is ideal for combating age spots, dryness and wrinkles.

A wide variety of retinoid uses can be found online.

4. Chemical peels

Chemical peels also use acid. However, the acids that are used in these cases are more concentrated than in the skin peelings under point 3. This method removes the top layer of skin (epidermis) in the skin area where it is applied and removes the hyperpigmentation. Stronger concentrations can even penetrate into the middle layer of the skin (dermis) and achieve even more impressive results.

Chemical peels are available without a prescription. However, really effective peelings should rather be carried out by a cosmetic specialist or, even better, by a dermatologist. These treatments give faster results and are more effective.

The side effects of the higher concentrated acids can be better assessed and treated in a doctor's office. Side effects can also occur with over-the-counter peelings. Redness, irritation, and blisters can form, leaving ugly scars. Chemical peels should not be used if you have to be in the sun regularly. The missing top layer of skin due to the peeling cannot adequately protect the skin layers underneath and so it is likely that it will worsen the hyperpigmentation. After a peeling, you should make sure to apply strong enough sun protection or not to expose yourself to sun or UV radiation for at least a week. The risk of developing skin cancer is then many times higher.

Recommended use

Chemical peels are recommended for:

age spots

Sun damage


blotchy skin

Chemical peels are best used for lighter skin tones. They give faster results than acid facial scrubs.

product recommendations

If you want to use a professional-grade, over-the-counter scrub, get one Glycolic Acid Peel from Exuviance shortlist. This peeling has the advantage that it can be used up to twice a week. It also successfully helps in reducing wrinkles.

Juice Beauty is a manufacturer that offers several types of chemical peels that are also used to smooth the skin. This is recommended for sensitive skin Green Apple Peel Sensitive.

People with dark or black skin color should better consult a cosmetic professional or a dermatologist's practice about this type of peeling. These will also help you choose the right product for your skin.

5.Laser peeling (skin freshening)

A laser is a device that focuses light rays. In this way, the light can then be directed exactly to a point. Of course, the intensity, the strength of the light, can also be regulated. The focus and precise aiming is what makes this technology so important in the treatment of pigment disorders. The two types of lasers that are used in laser peel (resurfacing) treatment are the ablative and non-ablative lasers.

The lasers are used to destroy elements of the skin. This causes the new skin cells to grow back firmer. The ablative lasers are intense and ablate skin, the non-ablative lasers work in the dermis. They stimulate collagen growth and tightening processes. With the ablative method one should expect slight side effects.

Recommended use

The ablative laser method is intended to achieve better results on light skin. Since the skin is different from person to person, it also reacts differently. It can even happen that with a non-ablative laser exactly the opposite was achieved and the skin became darker and not lighter. In this case, too, you should consult a dermatologist in order to achieve the best possible result.

6. Intensive pulse light therapy (IPL) 

Another type of laser therapy is IPL therapy, it is carried out with a non-ablative laser. It also targets the dermis, where the rays stimulate collagen growth. One speaks here of a photofacial therapy, which usually requires several sessions.

The IPL method is used for general problems with pigment disorders. A positive side effect is that the appearance of spider marks, enlarged pores and wrinkles is reduced. The IPL method achieves the best results on flat areas of skin.

Recommended use

Like laser peeling, IPL works best for treatments on light skin.

7. Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a procedure in which the top layers of the skin are carefully removed using small (micro) particles. You can also do this yourself, but the best results are achieved by specialists (dermatologist or beautician) who use this therapy on a daily basis.

The treatment itself is carried out with a handy device and can be compared to sandblasting, with the difference that the skin is treated very gently. A visible result requires several treatment sessions.

Recommended use

The best results are achieved with superficial scars and people with light skin. A dermatologist should be consulted prior to treatment.

8. Dermabrasion

Like microdermabrasion, dermabrasion is about removing the top layers of the skin, but dermabrasion goes deeper. Therefore, a dermatologist should also be consulted with this treatment.

This method smooths out wrinkles and treats texture problems in the top layer of the skin. The following problem areas can be treated well.

Recommended use

Acne scars

age spots

Chickenpox scars

Scars from injuries

Damage from excessive exposure to the sun

The treatment itself is similar to microdermabrasion, only this application goes deeper and removes more tissue. You also get faster results with dermabrasion.

This method is very suitable for problem areas on light skin. With medium skin tone, further hyperpigmentation can develop after the treatment, but this does not have to be permanent, but often decreases again after about eight weeks.

Which method for which skin type?

The skin type always plays a decisive role in the previously mentioned treatment methods. Professionals say that some of the treatment methods are applicable to people with light, medium, and dark skin tones. But the darker the skin type, the more time it takes to complete the therapy. Most hyperpigmentation procedures respond well to light skin.

For darker skin or skin that tans easily, the following treatments should not be considered:

Intense laser beams

IPL therapy

The following treatment methods are recommended for darker skin:

Glycolic Acid Peel

Kojic acid peeling

Over-the-counter whitening creams


Gentle chemical peels

Laser treatments at a low intensity level

It always takes a little longer for topical treatments to show visible results. Therefore, patience is required here in order to achieve a good result.

It was already noted when introducing the various therapy methods that one should go to a dermatological practice because of hyperpigmentation. They can best assess which method is advisable for your specific problem and your skin. He can work with you to develop a treatment plan.

In general, however, one can say that the more intense sunlight caused by global environmental changes and the increased UV radiation that comes with it, the skin must be better protected. This is the best way to prevent sun damage and hyperpigmentation. For people with light and sensitive skin, the daily application of sun protection cream is a must in summer - even if the sky is only clear to cloudy. The sun protection factor of the cream you are using should not be less than 30.