Dermatologist Approved Guide to Treating Hyperpigmentation

How to get rid of hyperpigmentation? A Dermatologist-Approved Guide

 Hyperpigmented spots on the skin

Hyperpigmentation is an altered pigmentary condition wherein dark patches appear on the skin. This can happen due to various reasons, such as prolonged exposure to the sun, cumulative effects of ageing, and even as a result of severe acne or any other inflammatory condition of the skin. It mostly occurs due to an imbalance in melanin production. Early and active treatment is essential. Why? Let us tell you.

While hyperpigmentation in itself is not that serious of an issue, it is important to get it tested and treated as it may be an indicator of an underlying issue. Most of the time, for mild hyperpigmentation, home remedies work as a prevention as well as cure. In moderate cases, the dermatologist may recommend topical and/or oral medication, and in serious cases, procedures or surgical intervention may be required.

Overall, treatment for hyperpigmentation is available and accessible. What's important, is doing it the right way, so that you do not end up causing more damage to your skin. In this article, we tell you all about the safe ways to get rid of hyperpigmentation. 

What are the best treatments for hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation can be treated in various ways, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Mild conditions can be treated with over-the-counter topical formulation and basic prevention against the causes, but there are times when it needs to be treated by a specialist. Let’s take a look at some of the treatments available. We will also take a look at some of them in detail, especially home remedies and the OTC medicines available.

Hyperpigmentation treatment with lightening cream

Skin lightening creams

The first option, of course, is skin lightening creams. These are readily available over-the-counter and contain ingredients that lighten the pigmentation. The main ingredients in these creams, which may be in gel, cream, ointment or serum formulation, are liquorice extract, lemon extract, arbutin, vitamin C, vitamin B-3, hydroquinone, corticosteroids, soy, N-acetylglucosamine, etc. They come with specific instructions for application and lighten the dark patches over time. Again, they work only on milder forms of hyperpigmentation.


Another topical/oral agent that is often recommended and prescribed for hyperpigmentation is retinoids. Mostly, these are also available over the counter. But if you have sensitive skin or fall under any of the risk factor category (pregnancy and lactation), it's always safer to consult your doctor first. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A.t. They have a small molecular structure that helps them to penetrate deep into the skin and work from within. They can cause dryness and peeling of the skin.

Laser peel

This is a laser therapy done by a specialist. The hyper-pigmented areas are targeted by laser beams to destroy the melanin pigment. It is also known as the resurfacing treatment. There are two types of laser therapy -  ablative and non-ablative. While the former works by removing affected skin layers, the latter is a gentler procedure that requires no downtime. 

Hyperpigmentation treatment using a chemical peel

Chemical peel

Another procedural treatment is the usage of chemical peels. These peels have a stronger concentration of acid that helps them to target and treat hyperpigmentation in a more effective manner. Chemical peels can be both OTC (superficial peels) and those applied by dermatologists only. The clinical version has better and quicker effects. However, chemical peels, if not used properly or by a specialist, may have some side effects such as redness, itching, burns and even scarring, especially if you have sensitive skin. It is always better to consult a doctor first rather than picking a chemical peel yourself.

Skin acids

Also known as face acids, these work by shedding the top layer of your skin. These make your skin smooth and brighter. Most of these are available over the counter. Some of the most popular skin acids are AHAs or alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin C, glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, salicylic acid, azelaic acid, and kojic acid. Again, just like lightening creams, face acids work best on lighter forms of hyperpigmentation, although they can be slightly more effective when compared to OTC lightening creams. Face acids are also a good choice of treatment for lighter skin tones.


This is yet another non-invasive procedural treatment. Microdermabrasion targets the outermost dead layer of the skin i.e. the stratum corneum, which is exfoliated. Multiple sittings are required for maximum results. This procedure produces transient changes only and is generally used to prime the skin before more invasive procedures are done.

IPL or Intense pulsed-light therapy

Remember we talked about non-ablative laser treatment? Intense pulsed-light therapy is one such hyperpigmentation treatment. This is also known as photo facial and it escalates collagen production within the skin. It targets and lightens spots and also works on wrinkles and open pores. IPL also requires multiple sessions for maximum effects.


This is quite like microdermabrasion, but more invasive as the outer layer of your skin will be removed using a high-speed instrument. It is an effective hyperpigmentation treatment as it targets effects due to acne, sunspots, injury scars, chicken pox marks, etc, all of which can lead to hyperpigmentation. Again, this works best for those with lighter skin tones, as it can cause scarring and discoloration in darker skin tones. Dermabrasion has quicker effects when compared to microdermabrasion, but has more down-time..

Which hyperpigmentation treatment to choose? Frankly, it depends on your skin tone. If you have a lighter skin tone, most of the treatments would work well for you. On the other hand, those with medium to dark skin tones will need to choose wisely as side effects are more common. If you lean towards darker skin tones, steer clear from laser treatments. For light hyperpigmentation on medium to dark skin tone, acid treatments and OTC ointments work well.

That being said, the best option is  to consult a dermatologist first. Self medication is neither good nor advised. On the other hand, if you consult a dermatologist, you may not only save yourself further harm, but can cure the condition quickly because of the exact diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


What are the home remedies for hyperpigmentation treatment?

Hyperpigmentation treatment using natural ingredients

You can even try out some home recipes as hyperpigmentation treatment if it is light and your dermatologist prescribes prevention and home cure for it. There are many natural ingredients that work amazingly on spots and patches of dark skin, that define hyperpigmentation. Though these treatments take some time to show effects, they are mostly non-invasive and do not have major side effects.

Aloe vera

One of the main components of aloe vera is aloin which is a natural depigmenting compound. It is a non-toxic and natural alternative to other harsher treatment measures. The best way to use it would be to apply aloe vera gel on affected areas at night and wash it off in the morning

Red onion

This is also known as Allium Cepa. You can find it as an ingredient in over-the-counter ointments and cosmetic creams that are available for skin lightening and spot treatment. When used as directed, red onion creams lighten the hyperpigmentation scars and spots over time.

Apple cider vinegar

Many studies and research have shown how effectively apple cider vinegar  lightens spots and scars over time, as it contains polyphenols, pectin and carotenoids. Naturally, it is good for getting rid of pigmentation as well. However, dilute it before usage or it may react with your skin, especially if it is sensitive in nature. For best results, mix equal parts water and apple cider vinegar, apply on the affected areas (dark patches), leave it on for a few minutes, and then rinse it off. Use it two times a day for best results.

Black tea

Yes, black tea is not only effective in waking you up in the morning, but also to get rid of dark spots and pigmentation. We’ll tell you exactly how to use it so that you can extract maximum benefits out of it. Take a cup of fresh boiled water and add a teaspoon of black tea leaves to it. Steep for around two hours and then strain out the black tea water. Soak cotton pads in it and apply on the affected areas. Do this twice a day for over four weeks.

Green tea

Just like black tea, green tea is also effective in getting rid of dark patches of  skin due to its active ingredient EGCG. The best way to go on about it would be with green tea bags. Take a bag and steep it in hot water for about five minutes. Let it cool and then put the tea bags on the affected areas directly. Do this twice a day.

Tomato paste

Rich in lycopene and antioxidants, tomato is an excellent agent when it comes to even-toning the skin. Naturally, it is great at lightening the dark patches that appear on the skin as a result of hyperpigmentation. According to The British Journal of Dermatology study, the lycopene present in tomato protects the skin from the long-term and short-term effects of photo damage. It can be ingested every day or can be used for topical application. Whatever suits you.

Red lentils

Another great hyperpigmentation treatment, the natural way, is red lentils. It makes for an excellent bleaching agent because of the abundant antioxidants present in it. You can easily make a mask out of red lentils and use it to lighten the marks. Take around 50gm of red lentils and soak them overnight. Blend it into a fine paste in the morning. Apply it for 20 minutes, either on the entire face (recommended) or on the affected areas. Wash it off but do not rub. Regular use of this paste is known to have positive effects.


Lactic acid is the main ingredient in milk that is effective in getting rid of sunspots and other dark spots. This is also the ingredient to look out for in milk-based cosmetic products that work on hyperpigmentation. Alternatively, you can always use milk recipes and face masks at home. The easiest way would be to soak cotton pad in milk and gently pat on the patches, twice a day. If done regularly, this will lighten the patches.

Liquorice extract

This is another quite popular ingredient when it comes to over-the-counter medicines and cosmetic gels and creams that claim to get rid of hyperpigmentation marks. Why not create a remedy at home using the same? Liquorice extract is especially effective in getting rid of sunspots and also melasma-related hyperpigmentation patches. Glabridin which is present in licorice, inhibits tyrosinase, the enzyme that causes pigmentation. We would suggest getting a cream with liquorice extract and using it as per the directions.

Even though home remedies are more natural than creams, acids, peels and other procedures, most of them do cause irritation and contact dermatitis, especially for those with sensitive skin. Thus it is always a good idea to connect with a dermatologist first before planning your choice of treatment.


What are the over-the-counter medicines for hyperpigmentation?

We mentioned that hyperpigmentation treatment can be acquired over the counter as well. More often than not, these medicines are ointments and gels that work actively towards lightening spots and scars and do not have any side effects, in case it does not have the desired effect. Even then, it is a good practice to consult with your doctor first. Here are some of the OTC hyperpigmentation treatments that you may check out.

Azelaic acid

If you have raised brown spots or hyperpigmentation due to acne, azelaic acid is a great option. However, be cautious if you have dark skin tone.

Vitamin C

This is one of the most effective OTC treatments when you are thinking of how to get rid of hyperpigmentation. It is also known as l-ascorbic acid and has antioxidants that are effective in treating spots and patches. They come in various chemical forms so be cautious when selecting the product.


This is made from vitamin B-3. It aids water retention and collagen production, tightening the skin and lightening the spots at the same time.

Kojic acid

This is a natural bleaching agent derived out of a type of fungus, and is effective against brown spots and age spots.


This one is also a bleaching agent. Hydroquinone slows down the melanin production and lightens the dark spots. However, it is quite strong, so if you have sensitive skin, avoid it. Moreover, long term use is not advisable as it may cause ochronosis, a difficult to treat pigmentary condition.

All the aforementioned medicines are easily available in drugstores. However, given the chemical nature and skin sensitivities, it is always a good option to first consult your doctor and then go for these. It will help you understand the correct dosage that is prescribed as per your skin tone, skin health and the severity of hyperpigmentation.

How to prevent hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation treatment and prevention by applying sunscreen

Prevention is perhaps the best thing you can do, especially if you have sensitive skin that is prone to pigmentation of various types. Here are a few things that you can practice regularly, apart from having a balanced diet and a good CTM (cleanse, tone, moisturize) routine.

Hyperpigmentation is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to the sun, cumulative effects of ageing, or even due to acne and inflammation. These are the cases where you can practice prevention.

Here are some ways you can prevent hyperpigmentation,

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect from the UVA/UVB rays of the sun that may cause hyperpigmentation. 
  • Re-apply the sunscreen every 3 hours.
  • Try to wear light coloured, long-sleeved clothes and full pants while stepping out
  • Wear broad brimmed hats, use umbrellas, scarves and sunglasses when stepping under the sun
  • Avoid stepping out in peak sun hours, i.e. 10am to 4pm
  • Use anti-inflammatory products and home remedies
  • Avoid scratching and picking at your skin, especially if you have acne
  • Check ingredients and test for sensitivity before using a skincare or cosmetic product

That’s it! These are some of the prevention tips that you can practice. However, hyperpigmentation can also be genetic or a result of any medication you may be taking. Hence, while you can take all the prevention, it may still happen.

Hyperpigmentation treatment: The bottom line

Hyperpigmentation is just a normal skin condition and mostly harmless. And yet, we need to get it diagnosed and treated. Maybe for cosmetic reasons, maybe because we wish to know if everything is right with our body. In either case, we need a doctor’s appointment. In these times when the pandemic is raging and social distancing is a norm, stepping out may not always be an option. Even in our regular days, sometimes, all we need is a consultation as soon as possible so that we can be free of worry, instead of waiting long hours for an appointment.

No more. With SkyMD, you can now carry specialist online dermatologist advice in your pocket. Our app is especially created to be extremely user friendly and our highly qualified experts are always present to take care of your needs and worries. 

Download the app now in a few easy steps. Become a SkyMD member now and start your consultation.


Ready to be seen?

Accreditations and Certifications