Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition that causes darker-than-normal patches of skin on the face, arms and hands. (Pigmentation referring to the color of the skin; “hyper” referring to it becoming darker.) Excess levels of melanin — which is responsible for determining the color of your skin and hair — leads to the discoloration associated with hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation comes in many shapes and sizes. And whether you’re know it or not, chances are you see it every day. That’s because hyperpigmentation doesn’t necessarily have to be blotchy or over-the-top, worst case scenario. Things like freckles, age or liver spots, and sun spots are all examples of hyperpigmentation.

What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

Excess levels of melanin lead to hyperpigmentation, but what causes melanin to be produced in excess? Simply stated there are a variety of things that can cause hyperpigmentation, some of which include:

  • Sun damage
  • Acne
  • Endocrine diseases: Hormonal diseases like Addison’s and Cushing’s have been linked with hyperpigmentation
  • Skin inflammation/injury
  • Heredity
  • Pregnancy

Although hyperpigmentation can affect people of all skin tones, those with darker complexions (African, Asian, Mediterranean, etc.) are more prone to the disease. Their risk is heightened further with excessive sun exposure.

Treatment Options for Hyperpigmentation

For those dealing with severe cases of hyperpigmentation, the good news is that there are a variety of treatment options available.

Chemical Peel: Mild-to-moderate chemical peels may be a viable treatment option for hyperpigmentation. By removing the damaged outer layer of the skin you may be able to even out your skin tone with newer, smoother skin underneath.

Laser Skin Resurfacing: In addition to helping remove fine lines, wrinkles and scars, laser skin resurfacing is also effective in treating cases of hyperpigmentation. There are several different types of lasers that can be used (ablative, non-ablative and fractionated being three options) to remove the outer layer of the skin. The laser option may be a gentler experience that some of the other treatment options.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): As opposed to lasers or chemical solutions, IPL (or photofacial) utilizes broad-spectrum pulses of light to target abnormally large blood vessels and dark hyperpigmentation blotches. It should be noted that IPL can potentially worsen hyperpigmentation if not administered correctly. Make sure you work with a highly qualified practitioner to ensure the best results.

Microdermabrasion: This non-chemical abrasive procedure breaks up dead skin cells for healthier looking skin. In addition to treating hyperpigmentation, microdermabrasion is an effective treatment for age spots, blackheads and acne scarring, enlarged pores, fine lines and wrinkles, and more.

Topical Creams: There are a number of prescription products that can be applied topically to the skin to help lighten darker areas affected by hyperpigmentation. Hydroquinone and Retin-A cream are merely two examples.

To determine the best hyperpigmentation treatment for your unique considerations, speak with a qualified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

How Much Does Hyperpigmentation Treatment Cost?

The cost of hyperpigmentation treatment can fluctuate significantly from person to person based on a number of factors, chief among which includes the type of treatment and the degree of hyperpigmentation being targeted. Topical creams may cost $40 to $200, while more technologically advanced procedures like laser resurfacing could cost several thousand dollars. Get a custom-tailored cost assessment by setting up a consultation with a qualified doctor to learn more.