The ultimate guide to hyperpigmentation and melasma treatment – dermatologist approved

Wanting to look good is only natural.

But when dark patches appear on your face and body, it may just wreck your self-confidence, and you would do anything to get rid of them.

You’ve probably Googled enough to realise that you either have melasma or a case of hyperpigmentation, in your quest to find the best treatment in Singapore for it.

Fortunately, seeking treatment in Singapore is easy and we have access to some of the best products to get rid of hyperpigmentation.

To help you make a more informed decision, we created this guide to hyperpigmentation and melasma, their causes and the various methods of treatment in Singapore.

What is skin hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a broad term that refers to a common, usually harmless, skin condition in which a patch of skin becomes darker in colour than the normal surrounding skin.

This occurs when excess melanin (the pigment that produces skin colour) forms deposits in the skin. Hyperpigmentation can affect people of any skin colour and any race. However, this condition can worsen if left untreated.

Melasma

Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation. It usually affects a larger area of skin and appears in bigger patches compared to other types of hyperpigmentation.

As we will cover later, melasma can be caused by several factors; sun exposure and hormones being the main reasons.

Types of Hyperpigmentation and Symptoms

TypesSymptomsWhere on the body?Who does it affect?
Age spots (aka liver spots)Flat, oval areas of brown, tan and black spots that appear on the skin with sun overexposure.Commonly found on the face, neck, shoulders and arms of the body.Usually found on older adults or after prolonged, constant sun exposure.
Melasma (aka chloasma)Large patches of darkened (brown or grey) skin.Forehead, nose bridge, cheeks, stomach.Women who are taking birth control pills (Estrogen), Asians and people with darker skin are more likely to develop melasma.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)Spots or patches of darkened skin that appear after an inflammatory skin condition. Eg. acne, eczema, deep cuts, aesthetic interventions.Anywhere on the body or face.People who have had skin injury or inflammation.
FrecklesFreckles are small brown spots on your skin, often in areas that get sun exposure.

(May fade as you get older or with absence of sun exposure)
Face, back of hands, upper body.Freckles are more obvious in those with paler skin.

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

The cause of hyperpigmentation largely depends on the type of skin condition.

Sun Overexposure

The most common effect of sun exposure is the production of melanin, which actually functions to protect the skin’s DNA from damage. As much as it is the body’s natural response, and intended to be protection, sometimes, excessive amounts of melanin is produced, and the deposits result in dark spots being formed on the skin.

Inflammation

After inflammation, the skin can get darker. We see this in acne scars, eczema and other common skin injuries, such as insect bites. People with darker skin are more likely to develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Environmental Pollution

This is caused primarily by free-radical damage and chronic inflammation from these air pollutants. Particulate matter might also stick to our skin and cause a depletion of vitamins. Our collagen fibres become fragmented and weakened, whilst pigment-producing cells go into overdrive, causing dark spots to form.

Hormone Pills and Patches

Hormones are among the leading causes of melasma. Some people might be on hormone pills to combat acne, some others take birth control pills or hormone patches. But elevated levels of estrogen and/or progesterone cause an increase in pigment production. This is why chloasma commonly develops after pregnancy and generally self resolves with on the onset of menopause.

Treatment for Hyperpigmentation

Although hyperpigmentation is generally harmless, you might wish to get rid of it. There is a range of possible treatment methods, products and home remedies that you can try to best limit the effects of hyperpigmentation.

Preventing Hyperpigmentation

Prevention is always better than cure. To prevent hyperpigmentation, or at least stop it from becoming more prominent:

  • Avoid exposure to the sun. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher to protect the skin and stop hyperpigmentation from becoming darker. Best to choose a sunscreen with broad spectrum sun protection to save you from the harmful effects of UVA/UVB as well as Blue Light damage.
  • Use brightening skincare actives. Brightening actives work by inhibiting melanin production. Invest in a brightening treatment cream and add it to a hyperpigmentation-focused skincare routine.
  • Avoid picking at the skin. To prevent hyperpigmentation from forming after an injury, avoid picking at spots, scabs, and acne. Treat any inflammatory skin conditions promptly to reduce the duration of active inflammation.

Cosmetic Procedures as a Treatment for Hyperpigmentation

Cosmetic procedures can lighten areas of the skin to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. It is the fastest way to see results.

Chemical Peels

How does it work: Chemical peels use highly concentrated acids to treat the desired area of the skin. They lighten hyperpigmentation by removing the epidermis (the top layer of skin). Some chemical peels may contain ingredients that helps in the suppression of new melanin production.

More aggressive treatment may be chosen if the condition of melasma is very severe.

Who should try this?

Chemical peels work best if you have:

  • Age spots
  • Blotchy skin
  • Melasma
  • People with fairer skin tone
  • Sun damage

If you’re being exposed to the sun on a regular basis, chemical peels may not be the best treatment option for you. Chemical peels cause your skin to be more sensitive to the ultraviolet rays.

Laser Skin Resurfacing

How does it work: Laser skin resurfacing targets light at irregular skin precisely removing skin layer by layer. There are two types of lasers used, carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium. Each laser vaporises skin cells damaged at the surface, giving room for new cells to form. Laser skin resurfacing is more for skin TEXTURAL improvements, not so much skin pigmentation

Who should try this?

Laser skin resurfacing works best if you have:

  • Crow’s feet
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Sagging skin
  • Scars
  • Uneven skin tone and texture

Microdermabrasion

How does it work: Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive treatment to renew overall skin tone and texture. The treatment uses a special applicator with an abrasive surface to gently remove the outer layer of skin to rejuvenate it.

Who should try this?

Microdermabrasion works best if you have:

  • Acne and acne scars
  • Age spots and brown spots
  • Enlarged pores and blackheads
  • Dull-looking skin complexion
  • Sun damage
  • Uneven skin tone and texture

Skin Whitening Products for Hyperpigmentation Treatment

Topical creams usually work best for lightening dark patches, even out your skin tone, and as a treatment for hyperpigmentation.

Lightening Creams

Many lightening creams (sometimes known as depigmentation creams) can be found over-the-counter (OTC). This simple treatment method works with select ingredients to help lighten hyperpigmentation.

Some of these creams are also available in stronger prescription forms. They’re usually applied once or twice a day to help lighten the skin over time.  

What to look out for:

  • Kojic Acid
  • Niacinamide
  • Citrus Extract
  • Glycolic Acid
  • Arbutin
  • Licorice Root Extract

Stay away from:

  • Hydroquinone
  • Mercury

Who should try this:

Lightening creams or gels work best for flat patches, such as melasma or age spots. They’re great for spot treatment and patches of discoloured skin.

You might be interested in: Treatment creams for melasma and hyperpigmentation 

Retinoids

At this point, you’ve probably heard the hype around retinoids. Most know this as a saviour for acne but they’re a great treatment for hyperpigmentation too. 

They work by increasing the rate of cell turnover and reducing epidermal melanin. It’s for these reasons that they can help fade dark spots so effectively.

There are many different types of retinoids and how they are formulated can affect how effective they are.

What to look out for:

  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Retinoic acid
  • Retinol
  • Retinal
  • Tretinoin

Who should try this:

Those battling acne issues and wrinkles will benefit the most from retinoids. For those with sensitive skin, start off with a lower dosage to allow the skin to become used to the cell turnover rate.

Face Acids

Face acids or skin acids work by exfoliating or shedding the top layer of your skin. Whenever you exfoliate, dead and damaged skin is removed, allowing new skin cells to emerge.

This gives rise to a lighter, smoother and more radiant complexion.

What to look out for:

  • AHA, BHA
  • Salicylic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Kojic acid

Who should try this:

Face acids work well for mild hyperpigmentation on fairer skin tones.

*Note:  Take caution that too high concentrations may increase your risk of unwanted side effects. For more aggressive hyperpigmentation treatment, it’s best left to the professionals to perform chemical peels.

Supplements

Skin whitening supplements work by improving your skin from inside-out. It works by converting melanin to a lighter color and deactivating the enzyme tyrosinase, which helps produce the pigment. 

The best supplements can help decrease wrinkles, increase skin elasticity, fight free radicals and even increase the skin’s natural SPF. 

Because the supplement is orally ingested, it might take a little more time to see its effects.

What to look out for:

  • Colourless Carotenoids
  • L-Cysteine
  • Citric acid

Who should try this:

People who want skin lightening effects throughout the entire body.

You might be interested in: Supplements as a treatment for melasma and hyperpigmentation

Diagnosis

People with melasma and other unsettling pigmentation problems are encouraged to see a specialist for treatment. They may take a sample of skin, or perform tests to determine the cause.

The doctor or dermatologist will then be able to customise a treatment plan for your case of melasma or pigmentation if necessary.

Summary

Finding treatment and getting a product to rid your hyperpigmentation quickly and effectively is important. 

And with online retailers selling skincare products, it can be tempting to go with the cheapest option that promises the fastest results. 

However, dermatologists encourage consumers to only purchase products from manufacturers they trust and are proven safe. After all, these products are going to affect your appearance.

Preventing hyperpigmentation and melasma starts with sun protection. We’ve got you covered with Beyond Sun Protection Cream.

treatment for hyperpigmentation sunscreen