What is it?

Hyperpigmentation is, put simply, dark spots. The technical definition is over production of pigment from increased melanin. Freckles are technically hyperpigmentation!

How is it caused?

The most common cause for hyperpigmentation (especially in sunny places with outdoors-y people, like Colorado) is sun exposure. Lentigines are the “liver spots” or “age spots” which are caused by UV exposure or aging.

Melasma is the technical term for hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal fluctuations. Pregnancy, thyroid issues, hormonal birth control, and hormone replacement therapy are common culprits for melasma.

The third main type of hyperpigmentation is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). PIH is caused after skin trauma like acne, burns, or psoriasis to name a few.

Other less official causes for hyperpigmentation include certain medications and illnesses.


Preventing new dark spots and ensuring that existing darkness doesn’t get darker is crucial to treating hyperpigmentation. That means protecting your skin by wearing an SPF every day, and staying out of direct sunlight.

To soften existing dark spots, active ingredients in high-quality products are the key.

In the past, hydroquinone was prescribed to lighten skin. It has since lost its reputation as the gold standard due to causing growth of tumors in rats.

Now, though, safe topical actives to help with hyperpigmentation include:

  • alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • niacinamide
  • professional chemical peels
  • retinoids

An ounce of prevention…

Treating hyperpigmentation is quite difficult, and it can take years to see noticeable results, so prevention is really beneficial. Wearing sunscreen every day is #1 on the list of ways to prevent hyperpigmentation, and cannot be emphasized enough.

Sticking to a daily skincare routine is also important in preventing hyperpigmentation. You’ll see far better results using professional skincare with the actives mentioned above regularly and consistently than if you use something here and there. When in doubt: cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize, and protect.

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