Pigmentation means coloring.
Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that makes some areas of the skin darker than others. Extra melanin creates spots or patches that look brown, black, red or pink. The areas are not painful or itchy but can cause one to be self-conscious.

This condition can affect people of any race or ethnicity.

The Science Behind It

Melanin is a substance in the body that produces hair, eye and skin pigmentation. The more melanin produced, the darker your hair, eyes and skin will be.

It is a complex polymer that originates from the amino acid tyrosine. Melanin also absorbs harmful UV rays and protects cells from sun damage.

It is produced in melanocytes which are located in different areas of the body including

  • Hair
  • Innermost layer of skin
  • Pupils and irises
  • The substantia nigra and locus coeruleus (areas of the brain)
There are 3 types of melanin:

Your unique combination of eumelanin and pheomelanin is responsible for your hair, eye and skin color. Typically, all humans have the same number of melanocytes. However the amount of melanin produced by these melanocytes varies.

Conditions like freckles are formed when there are clusters of melanocytes.

When you spend time out in the sun, the body produces more melanin which absorbs light from UV rays and redistributes it toward the upper layers of skin. It also protects the genetic material stored in the cells by keeping out harmful UV rays. But melanin alone is not enough to protect skin from sun damage.

Some people make an excess of melanin which is known as hyperpigmentation. This presents as patches of skin that become darker than the surrounding skin.


Sun exposure

Hormonal imbalances and fluctuations

Skin injury and trauma

Types of Hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)

A common acquired cutaneous disorder occurring after skin inflammation or injury

  • Chronic
  • More common and severe in darker-skinned individuals (Fitzpatrick skin types III-VI)

A result of the overproduction of melanin or abnormal melanin deposition in the epidermis or dermis following inflammation

Pathophysiology of PIH:

Inflammatory mediators trigger melanocyte hypertrophy and activity which increases melanin production in the epidermis

Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE)

Occurs when blood flow is stopped during the inflammation stage

  • More common and severe in lighter-skinned individuals (Fitzpatrick skin types I-III)

Sun spots

Cause by prolonged sun exposure and tend to appear on areas of skin that are exposed such as face, hands and arms


Referred to as the “Mask of Pregnancy”

Occurs as a result of hormonal fluctuations and causes dark and irregularly shaped areas on the face and arms


Appear due to UV radiation stimulation

Age spots (known as solar lentigines)

Cause by prolonged sun exposure and tend to appear on areas of skin that are exposed such as face, hands and arms

Cafe-Au-Lait Macules

Common birthmark

Liver Spots

Nevus of Ota and Venus of Hori


Severe type of skin cancer


Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)

  • Brown or black marks following active acne
  • Caused by an overproduction of melanin

Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE)

  • Pink or red marks following active acne
  • Caused by an increase in damaged capillaries

The main difference between PIH and PIE is the pigmentation of the skin. PIH usually occurs in deeper skin tones, whereas PIE usually occurs in lighter skin tones.


Sun exposure

Hormonal imbalances and fluctuations

Skin injury and trauma


  • Stay out of the sun. UV rays can increase inflammation and redness, possibly leading to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation*
    Search: SPF 45

  • Moisturise regularly. Keeping skin moist can help to boost cell turnover and restore the skin’s lipid of fat barrier to help new skin cells stay healthy.
    B5 Intensive series, B5 Hydrating Serum

*TIP: always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on a daily basis and re-apply if under prolonged sun exposure

  • Certain topical and/ or oral medications can help in reducing pigmentation.

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