How to Get Rid of Hyperpigmentation

We’re taking on the extensive topic of hyperpigmentation, but who wants to read an extensive article, right? We know what you really want to know, and really, what you need to know. We’ve broken it down into the who, why and what of hyperpigmentation, as well as how to get rid of it.

Who Does Hyperpigmentation Affect?

We’re sorry to say, but no one is exempt from hyperpigmentation - absolutely anyone can fall victim to the condition. This is by the simple biology of our skin. Some are more susceptible to the quarrels of hyperpigmentation than others. The severity of which is determined by its numerous causes.

Why Does Hyperpigmentation Happen?

While the different types of hyperpigmentation may vary in origin, the science of why it occurs stays relatively similar. Some of the reasons people experience hyperpigmentation include age, exposure to the sun, hormonal changes and skin injuries or inflammation, but we'll explore these in more detail a little later.

Essentially, hyperpigmentation appears due to an overproduction of melanin, stimulated by a number of different triggers. Melanin is responsible for determining our skin and hair colour. It is an important biological feature that protects the skin from external aggressors such as UV exposure.

Melanin is produced by melanocyte cells in the epidermis, or outermost layer of the skin. The first step of this melanin production is dictated by the tyrosinase enzyme. It sounds complicated now, but knowing about this enzyme becomes important for when we talk about the how. Keep it in mind!

What Exactly is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation, by definition, is the excessive pigmentation of the skin. Visually, it can be recognised as spots or patches on the skin that appear darker than that of the skin surrounding. Other names that are given to the uneven or darker skin tones associated with hyperpigmentation and its visual symptoms include age spots, sun spots and liver spots. It is a typically harmless condition, being a more aesthetic concern than anything else.

Hormones and Melasma

Different hormones can stimulate melanin production to cause what is commonly known as the skin condition melasma. This is a common skin condition that generally appears as brown patches or spots on the face that are darker than your usual skin colour. Pregnancy and the pill are two examples of hormonal changes that can cause this kind of hyperpigmentation. As melasma can be caused by hormonal imbalance, it’s important to take a rounded approach to this kind of pigment, looking at both internal solutions (such as tablets) and topical applications (something you apply to the skin).

Skin Trauma

Inflammation or trauma to the skin can cause the release of inflammatory cells. These cells stimulate melanocytes which in turn causes, you guessed it, more pigment. This appears in two forms of hyperpigmentation:

  • Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) appears as dark-brown spots that are as a result of an overproduction of melanin in response to inflammation. This can be from where breakouts previously appeared, or can even come from other forms of trauma such as burns, laser treatment etc. Treatments for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation may include topical therapy.

  • Post-Inflammatory Erythema (PIE) shows on the skin as reddish-pink marks. They show as a result of blood vessel damage within inflamed skin. Generally a result of picking breakouts, dermatologists may recommend a specific type of laser treatment when addressing this type of hyperpigmentation.


The primary function of melanin is to protect the skin from damaging Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that come from the sun. When your skin is exposed to UVA, UVB and even excessive heat, melanin production will be stimulated. So, a good way to help protect your skin against these forms of sun damage is to diligently apply your SPF 50+ sunscreen.

It should come as no surprise that the sun is the primary source of most hyperpigmentation issues, which often show almost immediately as a tan. These concerns generally appear as spots on parts of the skin that are exposed to the sun, such as your face, hands and arms, though this uneven skin tone or pigment doesn’t always reveal itself until later. It can take years for these spots to show.

Genetic Pigmentation

Genetic pigmentation is the kind of pigmentation that is prevalent from birth but can be exacerbated by the sun, such as freckles and birthmarks.

Medical Conditions / Medication

Certain drugs and medical conditions have the potential to cause hyperpigmentation. This can include certain chemotherapy drugs, the pill, medical conditions such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Addison’s disease, Hyperthyroidism and other inflammatory diseases.

How to Get Rid of Hyperpigmentation

With a good understanding of hyperpigmentation behind you, you’re probably now wondering if it goes away. We’re here to tell you to breathe a sigh of relief, because, yes... yes it does. This leads us to our next point, which is knowing how to get rid of hyperpigmentation.

Here at The Secret Skincare, we tackle hyperpigmentation from three angles:

  1. Reduce on the surface.
  2. Resurface the skin.
  3. Prevent pigmentation in the future.

#1 Reduce on the Surface

There are specific ingredients used in skincare products, both prescription and non-prescription, that are extremely effective at fading hyperpigmentation that is showing on the surface of the skin. They are able to do so by reducing the number of melanocytes in the skin. During this process, the dark spots on your skin (otherwise known as hyperpigmentation) start to lighten, before your skin starts to become more uniform in appearance. See the diagram below for a visual representation of this process:

A diagram of The Secret Skincare creams working to reduce a pigment called melanin.

Ingredients to look out for in your skincare to help get rid of existing pigmentation include:

  • Vitamin C / Ascorbyl Palmitate / Ascorbic Acid
  • Kojic Acid
  • Hydroquinone
  • Azelaic Acid
  • Niacinamide
  • Tranexamic Acid
  • Methimazole

The Secret utilises a variety of prescription and non-prescription brightening ingredients throughout the range of treatment products. Prescription ingredients are known as being effective treatments due to the nature of their strength, which often sees fading results the quickest.

#2 Resurface the Skin

By utilising retinoids, we are able to encourage the natural skin rejuvenation process known as cell turnover.

Resurfacing the skin following hyperpigmentation issues can help in removing any dead and damaged skin cells. During resurfacing, your skin can even peel in patches where there is a build-up of any dead or damaged skin cells. Your skin cells are then replaced with younger, healthier skin cells that are clear of any abnormal pigment.

A diagram by The Secret Skincare showing the differences between slow cell turnover and rapid cell turnover of skin showing pigment.

We utilise prescription retinoids throughout our Night Cream range to resurface the skin at a far more rapid rate, meaning you see results with your pigmentation quicker.

The difference between prescription retinoids and a regular Vitamin A or retinol you can find in regular retail stores comes in its strength. It is classed as a “retinoic acid”. Retinoic acid is a form of Vitamin A that the skin can use to increase skin cell turnover. Other retinol and retinoids will often have to convert into retinoic acid before becoming effective, thus losing strength and efficacy. Prescription retinoids, on the other hand, do not need to undergo this conversion process.

Retinols are not the only thing that can aid people in removing damaged skin cells. You can also use other exfoliating ingredients such as:

  • Glycolic Acid
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Malic Acid
  • Enzyme exfoliants

#3 Prevent Pigmentation From Forming

Stop hyperpigmentation in its tracks by utilising tyrosinase inhibitor ingredients as treatment. Remember the tyrosinase enzyme you read about earlier? Maybe not, it’s a bit of a mouthful... so let's recap. It's the enzyme responsible for the first stage of melanin production. We know that hyperpigmentation is a result of the overproduction of melanin. By directly targeting this enzyme with tyrosinase inhibitors, we are therefore able to prevent pigmentation from forming.
A diagram by The Secret Skincare showing the differences between slow cell turnover and rapid cell turnover of skin showing pigment.

Tyrosinase Inhibitor ingredients to look out for:

  • Hydroquinone
  • Vitamin C / Ascorbyl Palmitate / Ascorbic Acid
  • Kojic Acid
  • Tranexamic Acid
  • Azelaic Acid

This list includes a mix of both prescription and non-prescription tyrosinase inhibitors. The Secret's hyperpigmentation treatment products include many of these ingredients in their formulas. The Cellular Repair Night Cream and Day Brightening Elixir specifically contain seven different brightening ingredients between them that help to resurface, prevent pigmentation and brighten skin complexion. The two work synergistically as a treatment for hyperpigmentation and help to restore clarity to the skin with an even tone and complexion.