Hyperpigmentation - what is it and how do we manage it?

Posted by Nicole Harding on



Those annoying brown spots or patches that appear on our faces, chests and hands seemingly overnight!


These patches of discolouration are created by melanocytes, skin cells sitting deep in the epidermis of the skin.  These cells are part of our immune system.  The melanin they produce is a protection factor for our skin against trauma, inflammation, UVA and UVB rays and other environmental pollutants.  People with a darker skin are more susceptible to pigmentation and can be more challenging to treat.



Pigmentation presents in different forms with various causes:


Sunspots/Liver spots/Age spots – the most common form of pigmentation called solar lentigines.  Visible on the face, chest, arms and hands.  Small spots develop in the epidermal layer of the skin and are usually caused by sun damage.  Environmental pollutants and poor diet can increase the incidence of solar lentigines. 


Melasma – presents as larger patches of pigmentation.  More common in women than men it appears across forehead, cheeks, chin and nose.  Can be hormone related, occurring during pregnancy, or with contraceptive use.  Hormone related melasma will usually fade over time, but can become worse with exposure to UV rays.


Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) – develops after trauma to the skin such as wounds, burns, insect bites, acne or even waxing.  Presenting as a blueish/grey/brown coloured patch PIH can occur anywhere on the body where trauma has occurred.   A result of the inflammatory response, PIH sits deep in the epidermis, sometimes leaking into the dermis.  We do not recommend using topical creams or lasers on PIH as it can prolong or worsen the condition.  Protecting the area with a broad spectrum SPF, eating a healthy diet,  and keeping out of the sun will allow the area to fade over time, however this can take several years.


Pigmentation on our faces can make us feel self-conscious, effects our social lives  and decreases our self confidence.  Many people tell me the pigment on their faces makes them look “dirty” and makes them feel they look older. 


These photos show identical twins at 61 years of age.  In a public survey Twin “B” was perceived as being over 11 years older than Twin “A” due to the uneven skin tone caused by the pigmentation. 


The bad news is that there is no instant miracle cure for pigmentation … But there is good news!  With a combination of treatment, product, diet, and a bit of persistence we can improve the appearance of pigmentation and work towards a clearer, more youthful complexion.


  •  Daily use of a broad spectrum SPF tested in NZ conditions that provides protection from UVA and UVB rays
  • Wearing a hat whenever outdoors
  • Keeping out of the sun as much as possible



  • Introduce a pigment serum to your skincare regime. A pigment serum should contain enzymes to stop melanocytes from producing more pigment, calming ingredients to stop the inflammatory process and botanical ingredients to brighten and hydrate the skin
  • Add a vitamin A serum to increase cell turnover, fade the pigment and contribute to overall health of skin
  • Use either a chemical or physical exfoliant 1-2 weekly to remove dead skin cells



  • A course of 2-3 IPL (Intense pulsed light) treatments 4-6 weekly and then maintenance treatment annually
  • Medi-facials or Peels to target pigment and increase cell turnover
  • A course of 3 dermal needling treatments 4-6 weekly and then maintenance treatment annually


Eating a varied diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and minimising processed foods will increase your skins sun resistance and help to minimising production of pigmentation. Please be aware that diet alone does not take the place of a daily broad spectrum sunscreen

  • Pomegranate, Red Grapes (resveratrol) and blueberries are rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, increasing your skins resilience to environmental damage such as UVA/UVB rays
  • Orange vegetables such as kumara, carrot and pumpkin contain beta carotene which converts to Vitamin A in the body increasing cell turnover and strength, helping to fade existing pigment and stop new pigment occurring
  • Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C which help to brighten and strengthen your skin
  • Leafy green vegetables contain carotene which can help slow down collagen degradation, keeping skin bright and fresh
  • Oily fish such as salmon and sardines contain Omega 3 which decreases inflammation and promotes a thicker, healthier skin
  • Water, water and more water …
  • If you are a smoker STOP!! Not only do the 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke negate all the good vitamins and minerals you get from your diet, it causes vasoconstriction, restricting blood flow and nutrients to the skin, breaks down collagen and elastin, and smoke itself can burn your skin or cause inflammatory reactions to make pigmentation worse.


Make a lifetime commitment to your best skin.  Come and have a chat to me about starting a pigmentation package this winter.


“Nature gives you the face you have at 20 … it is up to you to merit the face you have at 50”

Coco Chanel




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