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Pigmentation: How to Lighten Spots & Discolouration

Hyperpigmentation is another word healthcare professionals use when referring to skin that's darker than its surrounding areas.

Types of skin discoloration include melasma, age spots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Each one has different causes, as well as a range of products and treatments, from creams to cosmetic procedures.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation or skin discoloration is a common skin condition affecting people of all skin types.

Some forms of discoloration, like sun spots and melasma, most likely affect skin that are exposed to the sun including arms, legs, and face.

Other types of skin discoloration develop after skin inflammation or an injury, like lupus, burns, acne, or cuts. These can form on any part of the body.

Having extra pigment in a few areas of skin is often harmless, but can at times indicate some type of medical condition.

How to prevent discoloration?

Many people wish to get rid of hyperpigmentation although it's harmless. There are various home remedies and treatment methods that you can try.

To prevent it from forming or to stop it from becoming too conspicuous:

  • Avoid too much sun exposure. Use SPF 30 sunscreens (or higher) for protection and for preventing hyperpigmentation from getting darker.

  • Avoid picking at your skin. Stop picking at acne, spots, and scabs to avoid discoloration from developing after an injury.

You can try these treatments to help brighten dark patches on your skin:


Some cosmetic procedures that can lighten skin and reduce prominent hyperpigmentation include:

  • chemical peels

  • intense pulsed light

  • laser therapy

  • microdermabrasion

Those considering these procedures should go over the process and possible side effects with a dermatologist or skin care professional.


Many resort to tropical treatments to address hyperpigmentation. Such treatments will include ingredients that lighten skin, namely:

  • Vitamin C

  • corticosteroids

  • kojic acid

  • hydroquinone

  • retinoids, e.g. tretinoin

  • hydroquinone


Natural remedies can also be used to lighten skin discolorations. Even so, no large-scale studies in humans can be cited to support that any of these are effective.

If you wish to go the natural route, always try the product first on a small area of skin and quit using it if that patch is irritated.

A 2018 review study* proposes that the following natural remedies may help reduce the visible appearance of hyperpigmentation:

§ Green Tea-

Researchers have long investigated green tea for its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, albeit there's very little research suggesting that green tea extracts can help reduce sunburn and melasma.

§ Aloe Vera-

Aloesin, an element found in aloe vera, may lighten discoloration. It curbs the production of melanin in the skin.

One study suggests that taking aloe vera capsules help relieve melasma in pregnant women.

You can also apply the aloe vera plant's gel directly to the skin daily. But, there's no research showing that aloe vera is linked to the lightening of hyperpigmentation, hence scientists can't confirm the effectiveness of this method.

§ Licorice-

Licorice extracts may be able to decrease hyperpigmentation. Research* suggests that a specific licorice extract (i.e. glabridin) can have skin-whitening, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects.

You may also use creams that contain glabridin. These products are available online and at drug stores.

§ Apple Cider Vinegar-

It contains acetic acid which research** shows can lighten pigmentation.

§ Red Onion-

Its extract is an ingredient in a few commercially available scar- and skin-lightening creams. Research suggests that the dried skin of red onions can lighten skin effectively. Look for creams with Allium cepa (red onion extract) and follow directions for use.

§ Black Tea Water-

A 2011 study found that black tea water was able to lighten dark spots on guinea pigs. It was applied 2x a day, 6 days a week for 4 weeks.

§ Masoor dal (red lentils)-

Masoor dal face masks, made from red lentils, are a popular hyperpigmentation treatment. Although there isn’t any evidence backing this, red lentils are in fact rich in antioxidants known to be good for skin. After soaking red lentils in a bowl of water overnight, create a fine paste using a food processor or blender, apply evenly on skin, and leave on for 20 minutes.

Types & Symptoms

Common types and symptoms of hyperpigmentation are as follows:

1. Type. Age Spots or liver spots

Symptoms. Black, tan, or brown spots appearing on skin with overexposure to sun.

Area of the body? Commonly on the hands, face, or sun-exposed parts of the body.

Who it typically affects? Older adults or anyone after extended sun exposure.

2. Type. Melasma or "the mask of pregnancy"

Symptoms. Wide patches of dark skin.

Area of the body? Often on the stomach, face, and forehead.

Who it typically affects? Women, people who are taking birth control pills, and the pregnant. People with darker skin are also more likely to develop this.

3. Type. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Symptoms. Patches of darkened skin or spots after an inflammatory skin condition like eczema or acne.

Area of the body? Often on the neck or face.

Who it typically affects? People who had an injury to the skin or had inflammation.

Hyperpigmentation is generally a cosmetic concern and not a medical one. There are some home remedies for skin discoloration that can improve dark patches or spots.

Seek a doctor's advice if you're concerned about your skin pigmentation or you suspect that your skin discoloration is caused by medication or underlying medical condition. Be especially watchful for spots that change in appearance or is:

ü unusual in color

ü painful, red, itchy, or bleeding

ü growing in size

ü dark

ü with an irregular boarder.

If you have pigmentation you are unhappy with, content us at Bespoke Clinic so we can discuss the next treatment for your skin.

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