Skincare treatments: Hyperpigmentation facts and myths

Get a flawless, even-toned complexion with the latest treatments that help treat freckles, dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Sep 27, 2011
Jessica Padykula
Leda & St. Jacques

Backstage at the Jeremy Scott Spring/Summer 2012 show at New York Fashion Week, makeup artists added a smattering of freckles to models' faces, completing the "farmer chic" look Scott was after. But if you've ever dealt with unwelcome brown spots on your own complexion, you know you can't wash them off as easily as Scott's models did post-show. Known as hyperpigmentation, brown and dark spots are stubborn and can make your otherwise flawless complexion seem blotchy.

We asked Dr. Tony Nakhla, author of The Skin Commandments: 10 Rules to Healthy, Beautiful Skin, for more insight on what hyperpigmentation is, how to avoid it, and how best to treat it in your skincare routine.


Most hyperpigmentation is caused primarily by sun over-exposure. The sun's harmful UV rays damage your skin's pigment producing cells, called melanocytes, Nakhla explains. "Over time, the ability of these cells to produce pigment becomes impaired, and pigment production goes into an uncontrollable overdrive and churns out in uneven doses," he says. This leaves your skin mottled, with areas of discoloration and uneven pigment. Whereas beautiful skin, - i.e. skin that is not sun-damaged - is uniform in colour, with pigment even throughout.

There are two other main causes of hyperpigmentation:

1. Melasma (also known as pregnancy mask):
A condition in women where excess pigmentation shows up on the cheeks, chin, and forehead. This is due to hormones that fluctuate during pregnancy or while taking birth control pills or other medications. Melasma can be difficult to treat.

2. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
This occurs after any type of injury to the skin such as acne, scars, rashes or cuts. Pigmentation coincides with the healing process but in this case, once the rash or acne is gone, the pigment persists and can last for months or even years. This type of pigmentation gradually fades away on its own.

Find out how to treat hyperpigmentation on the next page...


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