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Understanding Hyperpigmentation and Pigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a relatively common, harmless skin condition that manifests on skin as darker patches or uneven skin tone and is caused by a range of factors. Follow our guide to find out more about the causes and how to visibly improve uneven skin tone.


What is Hyperpigmentation? 

Hyperpigmentation refers to a blotchy uneven complexion and can be presented in many forms: pigmentation which may appear as uneven skin tone [darker patches of skin], post-blemish marks and also melasma – a condition that describes large patches of hyperpigmentation on the face. It can appear anywhere on the body but is commonly found on the sun-exposed areas of skin such as the face, décolletage, arms and backs of the hands. 

There are multiple triggers of hyperpigmentation which include UV exposure, medication, pregnancy and some professional treatments. Each of these can trigger the production of excess melanin in the skin’s deepest, unseen, epidermal layers.  

Hyperpigmentation on dark skin 

Discoloration can also develop on all skin types but is thought to be more common on darker skin types. This is due to an overproduction of melanin on the skin caused by UV exposure or skin trauma (such as acne scarring). Dark spots and an uneven skin tone appear as the skin produces too much melanin during the healing process. This excess melanin rises to the surface of the skin, causing visible, and often stubborn, discolouration. 

What causes pigmentation? 

There are three main reasons why the body produces excess melanin: sun exposure, hormone levels and acne scarring. 


Sun exposure is the one of the main causes of pigment changes as melanin is needed to protect the skin against sun damage. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanin absorbs the energy of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays in order to protect the skin from overexposure. The result of this process is skin tanning. However, sometimes sun exposure triggers an overproduction of skin cells and these cells cluster together to form small circular marks known as age or sun spots (solar lentigines) on the areas of skin most exposed to the sun like face, décolletage and backs of the hands. 

Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF15 every day (even during winter time) will help protect against further damage from the sun’s harmful UV rays and helps prevent sun-induced hyperpigmentation. 


Hormonal changes in the body can also affect pigmentation. Fluctuations in oestrogen levels, due to pregnancy or oral contraceptive use, can also stimulate melanocyte cells to work overtime and create pools of melanin on the skin called melasma spots. Pregnancy, for example, can trigger overproduction of melanin on the face and darkened skin on the abdomen and other areas, sometimes referred to as a ‘Pregnancy Mask’. 


Scarring caused by blemishes, acne, imperfections, injuries or surgery, can all lead to uneven skin tone. A swollen pimple or any blemish that causes scarring can also jump-start melanin production (especially in Asian, Hispanic or black skin), leaving a stubborn mark called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Additionally, surgery or injuries can cause inflammation, resulting in over production of melanin. 

Products for Pigmentation 

At SkinCeuticals, we recommend the below regimen for targeting visible pigmentation on the face.  

1. Cleanse + Tone - Simply Clean + Equalizing Toner 

This comprehensive cleansing ritual will cleanse skin and leave your complexion balanced and refreshed. First cleanse with Simply Clean a gel cleanser which exfoliates, soothes and softens the skin to for smoother looking skin.  After cleansing we recommend Equalizing Toner which refreshes the skin, gently exfoliates and removes excess residue for a refreshed complexion. 

2. Prevent - Phloretin CF 

This innovative serum combines 2% phloretin, 10% l-ascorbic acid and 0.5% ferulic acid, it promotes a brighter, firmer-looking complexion. Also available in a gel formula, Phloretin CF Gel. Read more about how antioxidants work in the skin here . 

3. Correct - Discoloration Defense Serum or Phloretin CF or Blemish & Age Defense 

Formulated to target discolouration, Discoloration Defense Serum is a high potency serum that helps reduce the appearance of key types of discolouration for a visibly brighter and more even skin tone. In clinical assessment this formula delivered a 41% average improvement in the appearance of stubborn brown patches*.  

* Improvement of score from visual grading, 63 Subjects, 12 weeks 

Alternatively, Advanced Pigment Corrector is a lightweight lotion which is clinically proven to improve the appearance of stubborn hyperpigmentation, skin luminosity and tone. Blemish & Age Defense can also target blemishes, improve skin tone and refine the look of the pores with an innovative acid-blend formula containing 2% Dioic Acid and Alpha-hydroxy and Beta-hydroxy acids. 

4. Hydrate - Hydrating B5 

This is a hydrating serum that helps bind moisture to the skin, keeping it soothed and moisturised. This multifunctional formula provides optimal hydration and skin nourishing benefits. 

 5. Protect - Ultra Facial Defense SPF 50 or Brightening UV Defense 

These lightweight suncreams provide an excellent protective layer against the damaging effects of the sun. Both provide high-factor, broad-spectrum UV protection and help to protect against photo-ageing and environmental damage. 

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