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Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of an area of skin or nails caused by increased melanin.


Hyperpigmentation can be caused by sun damage, inflammation, or other skin injuries, including those related to acne vulgaris.[1][2][3]: 854  People with darker skin tones are more prone to hyperpigmentation, especially with excess sun exposure.[4]

Many forms of hyperpigmentation are caused by an excess production of melanin.[4] Hyperpigmentation can be diffuse or focal, affecting such areas as the face and the back of the hands. Melanin is produced by melanocytes at the lower layer of the epidermis. Melanin is a class of pigment responsible for producing color in the body in places such as the eyes, skin, and hair. The process of melanin synthesis (melanogenesis) starts with the oxidation of l-tyrosine to l-dopa by the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase, then to l-dopaquinone and dopachrome, which forms melanin.[5]

As the body ages, melanocyte distribution becomes less diffuse and its regulation less controlled by the body. UV light stimulates melanocyte activity, and where concentration of the cells is greater, hyperpigmentation occurs. Another form of hyperpigmentation is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. These are dark and discoloured spots that appear on the skin following acne that has healed.[6]

Diseases and conditions[edit]

Hyperpigmentation is associated with a number of diseases or conditions, including the following:

Hyperpigmentation can sometimes be induced by dermatological laser procedures.



There are a wide range of depigmenting treatments used for hyperpigmentation conditions, and responses to most are variable.[11]

Most often treatment of hyperpigmentation caused by melanin overproduction (such as melasma, acne scarring, liver spots) includes the use of topical depigmenting agents, which vary in their efficacy and safety, as well as in prescription rules.[12]

Topical treatments[edit]

Many topical treatments disrupt the synthesis of melanin by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase.[5]

Several are prescription only in the US, especially in high doses, such as hydroquinone, azelaic acid,[13] and kojic acid.[14] Some are available without prescription, such as niacinamide,[15][16] l-ascorbic acid,[citation needed] retinoids such as tretinoin,[17] or cysteamine hydrochloride.[18][19] Hydroquinone was the most commonly prescribed hyperpigmentation treatment before the long-term safety concerns were raised,[20] and the use of it became more regulated in several countries and discouraged in general by WHO.[21] For the US, only 2% is at present sold over-the-counter, and 4% needs prescription. In the EU hydroquinone was banned from cosmetic applications.[22]


Oral medication with procyanidin plus vitamins A, C, and E also shows promise as safe and effective for epidermal melasma. In an 8-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 56 Filipino women, treatment was associated with significant improvements in the left and right malar regions, and was safe and well tolerated.[23] Other treatments that do not involve topical agents are also available, including fraction lasers[24] and dermabrasion.[12]

Laser treatments[edit]

Laser toning using YAG lasers[25] and intense pulsed light have been used to treat hyperpigmentation such as melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hyperpigmentation". Dermatalogic Disease Database. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Retrieved 2006-03-08.
  2. ^ Rapini, Ronald P.; Bolognia, Jean L.; Jorizzo, Joseph L. (2007). Dermatology: 2-Volume Set. St. Louis: Mosby. ISBN 978-1-4160-2999-1.
  3. ^ James, William; Berger, Timothy; Elston, Dirk (2005). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. (10th ed.). Saunders. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0.
  4. ^ a b Chandra, M; Levitt, J; Pensabene, CA (May 2012). "Hydroquinone therapy for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation secondary to acne: not just prescribable by dermatologists". Acta Dermato-Venerologica. 92 (3): 232–5. doi:10.2340/00015555-1225. PMID 22002814.
  5. ^ a b Kim, Ji Hye; Kang, Nam Joo (2015-07-14). "Potent whitening effects of rutin metabolites". Korean Journal of Food Preservation (in Latin). 22 (4): 607–612. doi:10.11002/kjfp.2015.22.4.607. ISSN 2287-7428. Retrieved 2022-03-15.
  6. ^ Hyperpigmentation on Face (Acne Scars) Hyperpigmentation, Dark Spots, Acne Scars, Meladerm.
  7. ^ "Melasma". American Academy of Dermatology, Inc.
  8. ^ "Schimke immunoosseous dysplasia | Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) – an NCATS Program". rarediseases.info.nih.gov. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  9. ^ Kannan, R.; Ng, M. J. (2008). "Cutaneous lesions and vitamin B12 deficiency: An often-forgotten link, Rajendran Kannan, MB BS MD". Canadian Family Physician. 54 (4): 529–532. PMC 2294086. PMID 18413300.
  10. ^ Lawrence, Elizabeth; Al Aboud, Khalid M. (2022), "Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation", StatPearls, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, PMID 32644576, retrieved 2022-03-27
  11. ^ Gupta, AK; Gover, MD; Nouri, K; Taylor, S (December 2006). "The treatment of melasma: a review of clinical trials". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 55 (6): 1048–65. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2006.02.009. PMID 17097400.
  12. ^ a b "Variety of options available to treat pigmentation problems | American Academy of Dermatology". www.aad.org. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  13. ^ Mazurek, Klaudia; Pierzchała, Ewa (2016-09-01). "Comparison of efficacy of products containing azelaic acid in melasma treatment". Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 15 (3): 269–282. doi:10.1111/jocd.12217. ISSN 1473-2165. PMID 27028014. S2CID 25303091.
  14. ^ Monteiro, Rochelle C.; Kishore, B. Nanda; Bhat, Ramesh M.; Sukumar, D.; Martis, Jacintha; Ganesh, H. Kamath (2013-03-01). "A Comparative Study of the Efficacy of 4% Hydroquinone vs 0.75% Kojic Acid Cream in the Treatment of Facial Melasma". Indian Journal of Dermatology. 58 (2): 157. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.108070. ISSN 1998-3611. PMC 3657227. PMID 23716817.
  15. ^ Hakozaki, T.; Minwalla, L.; Zhuang, J.; Chhoa, M.; Matsubara, A.; Miyamoto, K.; Greatens, A.; Hillebrand, G.G.; Bissett, D.L. (2002-07-01). "The effect of niacinamide on reducing cutaneous pigmentation and suppression of melanosome transfer". British Journal of Dermatology. 147 (1): 20–31. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04834.x. PMID 12100180. S2CID 39489580.
  16. ^ "Spotlight On: Niacinamide - FutureDerm". FutureDerm. 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  17. ^ Callender, Valerie D.; Baldwin, Hilary; Cook-Bolden, Fran E.; Alexis, Andrew F.; Stein Gold, Linda; Guenin, Eric (2021-11-09). "Effects of Topical Retinoids on Acne and Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation in Patients with Skin of Color: A Clinical Review and Implications for Practice". American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 23 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 69–81. doi:10.1007/s40257-021-00643-2. ISSN 1175-0561. PMC 8776661. PMID 34751927.
  18. ^ Mansouri, P.; Farshi, S.; Hashemi, Z.; Kasraee, B. (2015-07-01). "Evaluation of the efficacy of cysteamine 5% cream in the treatment of epidermal melasma: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial". The British Journal of Dermatology. 173 (1): 209–217. doi:10.1111/bjd.13424. ISSN 1365-2133. PMID 25251767. S2CID 21618233.
  19. ^ "Cysteamine Cream® -- New Hyper Intensive Depigmenting Treatment". Scientis Pharma. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  20. ^ Draelos, Zoe Diana (2007-09-01). "Skin lightening preparations and the hydroquinone controversy". Dermatologic Therapy. 20 (5): 308–313. doi:10.1111/j.1529-8019.2007.00144.x. ISSN 1529-8019. PMID 18045355. S2CID 24913995.
  21. ^ Hyrdoquinone Guidance published under the joint sponsorship of the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Labour Organisation, and the World Health Organization. World Health Organization. 1994. hdl:10665/39218. ISBN 9789241571579.
  22. ^ "Hydroquinone - Substance evaluation - CoRAP - ECHA". echa.europa.eu. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  23. ^ Handog, Evangeline (2009-07-20). "A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral procyanidin with Vitamins A, C, E for melasma among Filipino women". International Journal of Dermatology. 48 (8): 896–901. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2009.04130.x. PMID 19659873. S2CID 28886093.
  24. ^ "Laser Skin Whitening - Advantages and Disadvantages | Skin Whitening News". skinwhiteningnews.org. 2014-04-05. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  25. ^ Kim, Young Jae; Suh, Hyun Yi; Choi, Myoung Eun; Jung, Chang Jin; Chang, Sung Eun (2020-04-17). "Clinical improvement of photoaging-associated facial hyperpigmentation in Korean skin with a picosecond 1064-nm neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet laser". Lasers in Medical Science. 35 (7). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 1599–1606. doi:10.1007/s10103-020-03008-z. ISSN 0268-8921. PMID 32300974. S2CID 215794622.
  26. ^ Arora, Pooja; Sarkar, Rashmi; Garg, Vijay K; Arya, Latika (2022-01-27). "Lasers for Treatment of Melasma and Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation". Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery. 5 (2): 93–103. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.99436. PMC 3461803. PMID 23060704.

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