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6 Treatment Options for Hyperpigmentation

What you can do

Hyperpigmentation is a medical term used to describe darker patches of skin. These patches result from excess melanin production, which can be caused by everything from acne scars and sun damage to hormone fluctuations.

If you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation, know that you aren’t alone. Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition, and there are a number of different treatment options available.

1. Lightening creams

Lightening creams are over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that work with select ingredients to help decrease pigmentation. Many of these creams are available in stronger prescription forms. They’re usually applied once or twice a day to help lighten the skin over time. Topical treatments for lightening also come in gel form.

Common ingredients found in OTC lightening products include:

  • licorice extract
  • N-acetylglucosamine
  • vitamin B-3 (niacinamide)

2. Face acids

Face acids, or skin acids, work by exfoliating, or shedding, the top layer of your skin. Whenever you exfoliate your skin, new skin cells emerge to take the place of the old ones. The process helps even out your skin tone and makes it smoother overall.

Many face acids are available OTC at beauty stores and drugstores. Popular options include:

  • alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic, citric, malic, or tartaric acid
  • azelaic acid
  • kojic acid
  • salicylic acid
  • vitamin C (in the form of l-ascorbic acid

3. Retinoids

Derived from vitamin A, retinoids are among some of the oldest OTC skincare ingredients used. Their small molecular structure allows them to penetrate deep into the skin and treat the layers below your epidermis.

Retinoids can come in either a prescription or OTC formula. However, OTC versions tend to be weaker. If you don’t see any results after a couple of months, talk to your dermatologist about the prescription retinoid tretinoin (Retin-A).

4. Laser peel (skin resurfacing)

A laser peel (resurfacing) treatment uses targeted beams of light to reduce hyperpigmentation.

There are two types of lasers: ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers are the most intense, and they involve removing layers of your skin. Non-ablative procedures, on the other hand, target the dermis to promote collagen growth and tightening effects.

Ablative lasers are stronger, but they may cause more side effects. Both destroy elements in your skin to ensure that new skin cells grow back tighter and more toned

5. Intense pulse light therapy (IPL)

IPL therapy is a type of non-ablative (fractional) laser treatment. Also known as a photofacial, IPL therapy stimulates collagen growth within the dermis. It usually requires multiple sessions.

IPL is used for overall pigmentation issues, but flat spots especially respond to this treatment. It may also help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, spider veins, and enlarged pores.

6. Talk to your dermatologist

Your dermatologist can help you identify the cause of your hyperpigmentation and work with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

No matter what treatment you ultimately choose, it’s important to protect your skin from further sun damage and hyperpigmentation. Wearing sunscreen every day is a must. You should apply sunscreen every morning — even when it’s cloudy! — and reapply as needed throughout the day. Be sure to use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher

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