Everything You Need To Know About Pigmentation

The cause, the prevention, the fix.

pigmentation, dark spots, skincare, summer
Image: iStock

Ah, summer. We love the sunshine, backyard BBQs, droves of frosé, unforgettable sunsets, and freshly sliced watermelon. But on the downside, the warm weather can wreak havoc on our skin. Namely in the form of dark spots, freckles, sun spots, and other skin imperfections. Also known as, hyperpigmentation.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand for getting rid of pigmentation completely, but there are ways to promote a more even complexion. Keep scrolling for the lowdown on the different types of hyperpigmentation, effective treatments, and most importantly, how to prevent those spots from reappearing.

What is hyperpigmentation?

“Hyperpigmentation (or pigmentation, as it’s commonly referred to) occurs when melanocytes are hyperactive or there is a high concentration of melanocytes. This can be caused by exposure to UV rays, hormonal changes, skin issues such as acne, medication, and inflammation,” explains cosmetic physician Dr Van Park.

“The evidence of pigmentation can be lighter or darker, patchy, uneven or discoloured-looking skin spots,” continues Jenny Millar, Babor Brand Manger.

Three of the most common types of hyperpigmentation:

UV-Induced

These are also known as sunspots, age spots or liver spots. According to Park, “UV-induced discolouration is light to brown in colour and usually appears on the face, chest and hands. They tend to be small and dark. In addition, freckles, which are also caused by the sun, can be a varying in brown, red or black pigments and appear on the face, chest and arms.”

Melasma

Melasma most commonly occurs during pregnancy or a surge in hormones. “It is light to medium brown in colour and is inconsistent in size. It commonly appears on cheeks, sides of the face, upper nose, above the lip and forehead,” says Park.

Post-Inflammatory

“PIH occurs on the face and is light to dark brown in colour. It’s caused by inflammatory acne, pimples, burns, cuts or abrasions,” explains Park.

In-salon treatments:

“Pigmentation can be remedied in a number of ways, depending on the type and underlying cause. Discuss options, like laser therapy, chemical peels and topical creams, with your doctor or skin care specialist,” suggests Millar.

Similarly, Samantha Menzies, Advanced Dermal Therapist at Face Plus Medispa, Bondi Beach, recommends IPL, skin needling with the DermaPen 3 or active facials.

However, according to Park, it is important to consider that Fraxel and IPL can be great treatments for those with skin type II [fair], but for those with skin type III or above , it may not work as well. “The problem is that this type of pigment is generally too light to treat, but dark enough for us to see with the naked eye. Hence, most of my patients come in saying that it makes their face look ‘dirty’.”

In this case, Park proposes Cosmelan, a chemical peel, or gentle IPL and LED treatments. “I turn to Victoria [skincare specialist at Park’s practice], who is the master of IPL and LED treatments. She’s proven that these treatments are great for maintenance and preventing pigment for people with skin type III.”

At-home brightening products:

When salon treatments aren’t an option or you simply want to maintain your treatments results, there is a range of at-home brightening products that’ll help even out skin tone and counteract melanin production.

Prevention:

Ultimately, the best pigmentation prevention arrives by way of sunscreen, according to all three skincare specialists. So really, there’s no better excuse to slip slop slap! Click here to see a few of our favourite sunscreens.


If you are concerned about any darks spots on your skin, please consult a medical professional.