Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Gopika Suresh (Journalist) on 13th Mar 2021

Why Does Pigmentation Appear on the Face? 

Why Does Pigmentation Appear on the Face?

What's Hyperpigmentation? 

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Hyperpigmentation, although not a medical condition, according to dermatologists, is a term that describes patches of skin that appear darker. It can be in small patches or may cover extensive areas or affect the entire body. Although pigmentation isn't harmful, it can sometimes be an underlying symptom of another medical condition. As a solution to pigmentation, an array of cosmetics such as creams are marketed by manufacturers. Let us take a more in-depth look at what causes Hyperpigmentation, its types, and how you can treat it.  

Types of Hyperpigmentation on the face  

Experts claim that there are many types of facial Hyperpigmentation. The most common ones that people face are sunspots, melasma, and post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. Please keep reading to know more about them.  


Sunspots are also known as solar lentigines or liver spots. They develop from prolonged sun exposure. They are most commonly found in the areas that receive the most sunlight, such as the face and hands.  

Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation 

One of the most common causes of Hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, is caused by injury to the skin. In the case of most people who struggle with acne, this may arise as a problem.  


Dermatologists believe that melasma is caused when a woman undergoes hormonal changes during the time of pregnancy. The expecting mother may notice areas of Hyperpigmentation anywhere on their body. However, it mostly tends to appear on the face and stomach.  

Risk factors of attaining facial pigmentation  

  • Pregnancy or the usage of oral contraceptives, as discussed in the case of melasma.  
  • Those who have a darker skin type may be prone to more changes in pigmentation. 
  • Some drugs may increase the skin's sensitivity to sunlight.  
  • Significant trauma to the skin, such as a superficial burn injury or a wound. 

Causes of Hyperpigmentation on the face  

Hyperpigmentation on the face could be caused by several reasons, depending on the type. However, some of the most common reasons are listed below.  

Sun exposure 

Melanin is a substance in our body produced by cells called melanocytes. This substance protects the skin, which is often exposed to harsh UV rays for long periods. To combat the harmful effects of the sunlight and UV rays, increased amounts of melanin are produced. However, this causes darker patches or spots on the skin called sun spots or age spots.  

Skin inflammation 

If your skin has gotten inflamed in the past, it may darken over time. The causes of this include lupus, injury to the skin, acne, and eczema. Areas of the skin can darken after individuals/people have had inflammation. As we mentioned earlier, those with a darker skin tone are more likely to develop post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation.  


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Hormones mostly determine how your body behaves, including your skin. Sometimes, people experience hormonal changes, which can contribute to the formation of darker patches of skin. This type of Hyperpigmentation is common among pregnant women who go through the turmoil of hormone fluctuations during the term.

Reactions to drugs 

Some medications, for example, tricyclic antidepressants and antimalarial drugs, may cause Hyperpigmentation in some. Some people also report that grey patches formed on their skin. Certain chemicals in topical treatments can cause darker patches on the skin. It is crucial to consult a dermatologist before you experiment with products and treatments on your face and body.  

Medical conditions that Hyperpigmentation may indicate 

Although Hyperpigmentation doesn't usually indicate anything serious, in some cases, it may. Some severe cases of it include hemochromatosis and Addison's disease.  

Addison disease 

Addison disease affects the body's adrenal glands. If you are suffering from it, you may have darker skin patches in certain areas of your body. These include the lips, knuckles, toes, folds of the skin, the cheeks' insides, elbows, and knees.

Apart from the symptoms that the eye can see, other symptoms of Addison's disease include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, stomach pain, weak muscles, and dizziness.

If you notice any of these intrinsic symptoms and those that the eye can see, make sure to consult an expert immediately.  


On the other hand, hemochromatosis is a condition that is inherited. In this type of disease, the body contains an excess of iron. This causes Hyperpigmentation to form, which in turn makes the skin appear tanned or darker. If you're in doubt and notice any symptoms such as stomach pain, joint pain, weight loss, and fatigue, see a doctor immediately.   

How is Hyperpigmentation on the face treated?

If you visit a dermatologist, the first thing he or she would do is analyze the cause of your facial Hyperpigmentation. This will require you to provide your medical history and a physical examination. In some cases that are difficult to crack, a skin biopsy may be necessary to narrow down the cause. 


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Research suggests that topical retinoids can help in lightening the dark spots on your skin. This may help reduce the appearance of the pigmentation on your face.  


Hydroquinone is another option that may help in reducing the appearance of pigmentation on your skin. It is a chemical, that according to studies, helps in lightening the skin.

However, use it with caution as, in some cases, it can cause ochronosis, a condition where one's skin suffers from dark patches. So, only use hydroquinone under the guidance of an expert.

Dermatologists claim that both ingredients, although effective, will take time to show results. So make sure to stay patient.  

Home remedies for Hyperpigmentation on the face

It is okay if you wish to opt for home remedies to treat Hyperpigmentation rather than chemicals. Although no large-scale research has been conducted on the following treatments, certain small studies conclude that they can help.

Before trying a home remedy, make sure to test a tiny bit of it on your elbow to ensure that it does not cause any adverse reactions.

A 2018 review study suggested that the ingredients mentioned below can reduce the appearance of Hyperpigmentation.  

Aloe vera 

Aloe vera contains a compound called aloesin, which may lighten dark patches of skin as it inhibits melanin production. A study states that consuming aloe vera capsules is excellent for reducing melasma among pregnant women. There is no more substantial research linked to aloe vera and Hyperpigmentation. However, you may apply it directly to the skin.  


Research states that glabridin or licorice extract is anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and can whiten the skin. It is used in many cosmetic creams that claim to treat Hyperpigmentation.  

Red onion  

Research states that the red onion skin, when dried, can help in lightening the skin. Its scientific name is Allium cepa, so if you are looking for creams and other products that target Hyperpigmentation, look for the ingredient.  


Hyperpigmentation, although not a serious concern in most cases, can make some people insecure. To treat it, it is essential to stay patient and dedicated to the usage of your products. However, it is best to prevent it by wearing sunscreen regularly and avoiding exposing your skin to harsh UV light for long periods. Moreover, whatever is the mode of treatment you are using, synthetic or homemade, make sure to use them regularly to notice any visible changes.