If you’re concerned with hyperpigmentation, then you’re not alone. It is very common and generally harmless, but is often considered to be undesirable due to its blemish-like appearance.
Hyperpigmentation is the term used to describe areas of uneven pigmentation in skin. It refers to the small, dark patches that form on the skin, usually of the face, hands, arms and chest. It appears when your skin produces too much of the pigment melanin as a result of exposure to UV rays from the sun.
There are several types of hyperpigmentation, the common ones being melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- Melasma is believed to be caused by hormonal changes and may develop during pregnancy. Areas of hyperpigmentation can appear on any area of the body, but they appear most commonly on the stomach and face.
- Sunspots. Also called liver spots or solar lentigines, sunspots are common. They’re related to excess sun exposure over time. Generally, they appear as spots on areas exposed to the sun, like the hands and face.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin. A common cause of this type is acne.
Other factors that cause hyperpigmentation include hormonal changes such as during pregnancy, acne scars, as well as certain illnesses.
There are a few ways to improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation including using rich, active natural remedies.
Protect your skin from the sun
The number one cause of hyperpigmentation is exposure to UV rays from the sun,1 so be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day with a high SPF of at least 30, and re-apply throughout the day regardless of the shade of your skin. Doing this will also protect against existing hyperpigmentation getting any darker.
First things first, exfoliation
Exfoliating your hyperpigmentation spots with a scratchy sponge is not advised! Hard physical exfoliation or scrubbing is likely to damage your skin, so use a gentle facial exfoliator 1-3 times a week and never rub the skin on your face.
To keep it natural, you could make a simple DIY sugar exfoliator by mixing white or brown sugar with a few teaspoons of coconut oil. Gently massage into a clean face using circular motions and rinse, and follow with a rich moisturiser.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that fruits high in citric acid such as lemons and grapefruits could help fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation due to the acid’s astringent qualities and potential effect on cell turnover.2 You could try making a simple lemon toner by diluting lemon juice with green tea and applying to the face with a cotton pad. Be careful applying acidic fruits directly to the skin, as they can be too harsh for sensitive skin.
It is advisable to exfoliate at night before you go to bed, because your skin is extra sensitive to sunlight after exfoliation. Remember to wear sunscreen in the morning, even if it’s cloudy.
Eat the right diet
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and skin-protecting vitamins should be part of your plan to combat hyperpigmentation. Eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin E, such as berries, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, eggs, and green leafy vegetables which can help the skin cope with oxidative damage and stress. Also, seek out omega 3 fats such as oily fish, chia seeds and walnuts, which will promote skin hydration and elasticity.
Liquorice extract contains active ingredients that have been shown to lighten hyperpigmentation caused by melasma and sun exposure. Its main benefits include inhibiting the production of an enzyme needed to produce melanin (pigment) in the skin, helping to remove excess melanin, and having anti-inflammatory benefits.
If you are looking to benefit from spot-fading and skin-tone evening, this ingredient is key for you. It’s also a good option for pregnant women looking for a safe way to treat melasma, unlike hydroquinone which cannot be used by pregnant women.2
Liquorice extract also brightens the skin in another way. It contains an active compound that helps to disperse and remove existing melanin in the skin.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a natural ingredient that contains acetic acid, which research shows may lighten pigmentation.
To use this remedy:
- Combine equal parts apple cider vinegar and water in a container.
- Apply to your dark patches and leave for two to three minutes.
- Rinse using lukewarm water.
- Repeat twice daily you achieve the results you desire.
Mulberry leaves and its extracts may also be natural treatments for pigmentation.
As a review in the The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology
Trusted Source notes, the active ingredient in mulberry leaf blocks factors that cause pigmentation and disperses melanin.
Research around the plant uses highly purified forms of the extract. However, soaking dried mulberry leaves and applying them to the skin each day may also expose the body to smaller amounts of these same ingredients, which might provide mild results over time.