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How To Treat Hyperpigmentation

How To Treat

Whether you have a couple of discolorations on your face or seem to always be discovering dark spots, hyperpigmentation can affect the way you feel about your skin. Whether you are looking to target dark spots that never seem to go away or simply want a brighter and more even skin tone, learn more about what causes hyperpigmentation and how you can treat existing skin discolorations and help prevent new ones from forming.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation occurs when skin darkens in spots or areas due to an increase in melanin.I While hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skin conditions, it can be difficult to treat.

What is melanin?

Melanin is the substance in skin which gives it its color.II It is produced by cells called melanocytes. When these cells produce too much melanin, these clusters of pigmentation are released to other skin cells and can form skin discolorations, dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

What causes hyperpigmentation on skin?

Melanin overproduction has a number of causes including:

  • Skin Irritation or Damage
  • Sun Exposure
  • Pollution
  • Hormones and Genetics

What is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?

When skin becomes irritated or damaged, it attempts to protect itself which can trigger melanocytes to become overactive and produce excess melanin. Acne blemishes are a common form of skin irritation which cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. After these blemishes clear, they may leave a post-acne markor dark spot.This form of hyperpigmentation is most common in medium to dark skin tones.

How does sun exposure cause hyperpigmentation?

Sun exposure is the leading cause of hyperpigmentation in fair-skinned individuals.III Even if you do not notice sunburn or damage after being out in the sun, UV rays can still cause pigment changes. In addition to forming new dark spots and discolorations, sun exposure can also cause existing hyperpigmentation to darken and become even more visible.

How does pollution cause hyperpigmentation?

Pollution and free radicals can cause oxidative damage to the skin. As skin attempts to protect and defend itself from these external aggressors, melanocytes may overproduce melanin and form hyperpigmentation and discolorations.

Does hyperpigmentation go away on its own?

While some forms of hyperpigmentation are permanent, many types will fade over time. A dark spot that is a few shades darker than your skin may fade within 6-12 months while a discoloration deeper in skin may take years to fade on its own.IV Using targeted treatments like a dark spot corrector can help visibly diminish dark spots and hyperpigmentation for clearer-looking skin.

How can you treat hyperpigmentation?

To effectively treat hyperpigmentation, start a brightening skincare routine to help boost skin clarity. While hyperpigmentation will not go away overnight, using targeted serums and treatments can help speed up the process.

Does exfoliating skin help visibly reduce hyperpigmentation?

Healthy skin cell turnover is essential in helping visibly diminish dark spots and hyperpigmentation. While exfoliating skin will not provide instant results, it can help skin’s renewal process. However, be careful not to over-exfoliate or harshly scrub skinwhich can cause irritation that may even aggravate or intensify hyperpigmentation.

How can you help prevent hyperpigmentation?

In addition to treating hyperpigmentation, be sure to defend skin from the direct causes of discoloration and dark spots. Follow the steps below to help keep skin looking bright and clear:

  • Wear sunscreen every day. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can cause dark spots but using a daily sunscreen can help prevent hyperpigmentation.
  • If you have acne-prone skin use skincare products with Salicylic Acid or Sulfur to help visibly reduce breakouts and help prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
  • If you do have a breakout, use an acne spot treatment to help visibly clear skin. Avoid picking at or popping blemishes which can increase the likelihood of post-acne marks.
  • Apply an antioxidant serum along with a sunscreen with pollution protection to help defend skin from pollution and free radicals.

What are the best skincare ingredients for hyperpigmentation?

To help visibly fade hyperpigmentation and discolorations, look for skincare formulas with ingredients proven to help brighten skin.

  • Vitamin C
    Vitamin C is an ingredient known to help brighten skin. Activated C is a Vitamin C derivative that effectively penetrates skin and remains active on skin for a longer period of time than some other forms of Vitamin C, making it ideal in brightening skincare products. Within Kiehl’s formulas, Activated C helps decrease skin’s melanin production, prevent the formation of new melanin clusters, and even slow the melanin transfer to skin’s surface. It also helps visibly fade existing dark spots for a brighter, more even skin tone.
  • Salicylic Acid
    Salicylic Acid is another ingredient often found in acne skincare products that can also benefit skin with hyperpigmentation. While using an acne skincare routine can help visibly diminish blemishes which can lead to dark spots, Salicylic Acid is also known to help lessen the intensity of hyperpigmentation and reduce the appearance of dark spots.
  • Peony Root Extract
    Within skincare formulas, Peony Root Extract is known to help enhance clarity and luminosity.
  • Licorice Root Extract
    Known for its soothing and calming properties, Licorice Root Extract is also known to help enhance clarity within skincare formulas.
  • White Birch Extract
    Within our formulas, this sugar-derived ingredient is known to help prevent future dark spots and skin discolorations.

What is the best skincare routine for hyperpigmentation?

Start your routine with an exfoliating and brightening face wash to help remove dirt and pollution and gently slough away dead skin. Follow with a soothing treatment water and then target discolorations with a potent facial serum for dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Round out your routine with a skin brightening moisturizer morning and night. During the day, always apply sunscreen to defend skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Kiehl’s Best Skincare Products for Hyperpigmentation

If you are looking for flawless skin with optimal clarity, start with Kiehl’s Dermatologist Solutions™ Clearly Corrective™ collection. Our #1 facial serum, Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution, has helped launch an entire skincare collection of products uniquely formulated to brighten and even skin tone.

Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution

Treat Uneven Skin Tone with a Facial Serum for Hyperpigmentation

Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution

Boost skin’s clarity with our efficacious facial serum formulated with Activated C plus White Birch and Peony Extracts. Over time, this potent facial serum helps brighten and even skin for optimal clarity. This efficacious formula is clinically-proven* to visibly reduce:

  • Hyperpigmentation by -49%
  • Post-Acne Marks by -27%
  • Dark Spots Color by -39%

*Based on a 12-week clinical study of 17 women with all skin types presented with mild to moderate severity of attributes, including post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Clearly Corrective™ Brightening and Smoothing Moisture Treatment

Smooth and Brighten Skin with a Facial Moisturizer

Clearly Corrective™ Brightening and Smoothing Moisture Treatment

Morning and night, apply this effective moisturizer to help visibly reduce the appearance of skin discolorations while also smoothing rough texture. Formulated with Activated C and White Birch Extract, this formula delivers 24-hour hydration while also helping improve skin’s clarity.

Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+

Defend Against Early Signs of Aging with a Daily Sunscreen

Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+

Even on rainy or cloudy days, UV exposure can cause dark spots and discolorations along with other early signs of aging. While other skincare formulas can help treat hyperpigmentation, sunscreen is a daily essential to help defend against future dark spots from forming and current hyperpigmentation from darkening.


I "Dermatologist shines light on natural ingredients used in new topical treatments for hyperpigmentation." American Academy of Dermatology. 17 Mar 2014.
II "What gives skin its color?" American Academy of Dermatology.
III "Hyperpigmentation." American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
IV Taylor, S., Grimes, P., Lim, J., Im, S., and H. Lui. "Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation." Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2009 Jul-Aug;13(4): 183-91.

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