Here what’s really causing your hyperpigmentation, why simply covering it up won’t work, and what actually will

Dark spots. Freckles. Melasma. Sun/age spots. These are just some of the words and phrases used to describe a fairly broad and often misunderstood skin condition known as hyperpigmentation.

The prefix “hyper” means overexcited or overactive. While “pigmentation” stems from the word pigment, as in the colour of skin. Thus, hyperpigmentation describes skin in which the colour is overactive – there’s too much colour.

And, since our skin is made up of millions of semi-independent skin cells (some of which are affected, some not), the hyperpigmentation may influence only small areas at a time. So, you end up with spots or splotches, areas of slightly darker skin on the face.

Though some might consider freckles cute during childhood, hyperpigmentation loses its charm as we age. You might think darkened skin is harmless and that it’s okay to cover it up with concealer. But you’d be wrong.

It’s not just about your appearance. As we get older, hyperpigmentation often goes hand in hand with other, much more serious and often detrimental skin conditions.

Here’s what you need to know about hyperpigmentation, and how to effectively treat it with Lamelle Research Laboratories’ specialist Luminesce range.

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Granules called melanin, created in specialist skin cells called melanocytes, control the pigment in all skins and skin types. Melanin is like your body’s natural, built-in sunscreen: it helps the skin defend against the harmful effects of UV light.

All skins contain melanin, just in different quantities. Darker skin has more natural melanin present, while fairer skin has less. But, even when fair skin spends a little time in the sun it will go darker (what we call getting a tan) over time. What’s happening here is that the sunlight is triggering the fair skin’s melanocytes to produce more melanin, to help protect it from the sun.

That’s the first and most obvious cause of hyperpigmentation. You’re quite literally spending too much time unprotected in the sun.

But there are other causes, some a little more devious. Being inside your body and part of your skin, melanocytes are also affected by what happens inside your body. Your hormones, for example, have a direct effect on the melanocytes in your skin. As does wounds and skin healing. We distinguish between three prominent types of hyperpigmentation.

3 Types of hyperpigmentation

Ask your doctor or skincare therapist to help you identify which type of hyperpigmentation you’re suffering from:

Sun-induced hyperpigmentation

The easiest to understand: the sun activates your melanocytes. And, it will take a while, but simply protecting yourself better against the sun will make a massive difference in your hyperpigmentation. Also, note that conventional sunscreens are not always enough to protect you from the full spectrum of UV. Scientists recently found that even SPF 50 is only effective 53% of the time.

Melasma (pregnancy)

Melanocytes in your skin are very susceptible to changes in your hormones. Hyperpigmentation known as melisma is also called “the mask of pregnancy” because it is so prominent in pregnant women due to the incredible hormonal fluctuations caused by bearing a child.

However, it’s not just during and after pregnancy that you’re at risk. Even the slightest change in your hormones will affect the melanin in your skin. Some women get melasma just from starting or stopping birth control. Literally, anything that affects your endocrine (hormonal) systems, could lead to this type of hyperpigmentation showing up on your skin.

As we showed a few weeks ago, there are quite a few very surprising everyday things that can worsen hyperpigmentation.

Post inflammatory

Other natural systems that affect melanocytes are the enzymes that facilitate wound healing. When skin is bruised or damaged, the body releases enzymes that caused localised inflammation, while the cells repair themselves.

The inflammation-inducing enzymes directly affect the melanocytes in the area, and you’re often left with Post Inflammatory HyperPigmentation (PIHP).

You should already be able to recognise that scar tissue is a slightly different colour to the skin around it. That’s PIHP. But, while it’s present in most types of scars, it’s perhaps most debilitating for those suffering from bad acne. Particularly during puberty, bad acne can leave splotches of discoloured skin in their wake.

How is hyperpigmentation treated?

The good news is that hyperpigmentation is entirely treatable. In fact, if the pigmentation is mild and you’re good about staying out of the sun for a few months, the hyperpigmentation might even go away by itself. But it will take several months.

To speed up the cure, or treat more deep-seated hyperpigmentation, we employ several tactics, depending on the type of hyperpigmentation:

  • Rule number one: sun protection
    Staying out of the sun and investing in proper UV protection is rule number one for fighting any type of hyperpigmentation. It’s obvious: melanin’s purpose is to appear when you’re exposed to sunlight. So the more you’re exposed, the darker your skin will get.Regardless of the type of hyperpigmentation, the sun will always make it worse. You could do everything else on this list diligently, but, if you skip rule number one, your hyperpigmentation won’t go away. In fact, it’ll probably just get worse.
  • Treat the underlying condition
    When it comes to internally-caused hyperpigmentation, such as melasma and PHIP, your therapist or doctor will start with a therapy that sorts out the root cause of the hyperpigmentation.For hormonally-induced melasma, for example, your doctor might prescribe Lamelle’s lauded Ovelle D3, which is proven to increase skin’s resistance to UV light by 80% and reduce the effects of hormonal pigmentation by 37%. As a bonus, Ovelle contains added vitamin D3 – a vital vitamin created in your body when you’re in the sun.ovelle
    This allows you to still get in enough vitamin D3, even while safely avoiding the sun.imgFor post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by acne, your therapists or doctor will help you treat the acne to avoid it caused any further PHIP in the future. Have a look at our recent post on effectively treating using Lamelle’s Acnevelle and Clarity ranges.
  • Treat existing hyperpigmentation
    While you’re avoiding the sun and the underlying cause is being treated, you’ll also want to get rid of any already existing hyperpigmentation. Often, a combination of professional and home care treatments work best here.In the therapist’s rooms, laser treatments are a popular way of treating hyperpigmentation. And we also recently did a post explaining how very effective skin peels are for doing the same. Speak to your doctor or therapist about the professional solution that’s best suited to you and your skin.Your daily beauty regimen, however, is perhaps the most important step. Using a range of products that’s specially designed to fight hyperpigmentation is probably the most effective way of treating hyperpigmentation from day to day. Possibly South Africa’s most effective home care system for hyperpigmentation is Lamelle’s Luminesce range.


Most advanced home care system: Luminesce


Luminesce by Lamelle Research Laboratories is designed to fight hyperpigmentation. Every product in the range, from the advanced sunscreen in Luminesce Brightening Defence to the specialised purifiers in Luminesce Brightening Cleanser and the pigmentation-perfect exfoliators in the day and night creams, is specially designed to restore an even tone to your skin.

Ask your doctor or therapist about Lamelle’s Luminesce, they’ll know it well.


Need a travel-sized solution for your sunscreen, moisturiser and cleanser? Lamelle’s Luminesce range is now also available in a handy travel pack for your convenience.


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