How to Treat Dark Spots & Discolourations

How to Treat Hyperpigmentation

If you find yourself always looking for ways to treat dark patches and spots on your face, you’re not alone. Hyperpigmentation is a common skin concern in Australia, affecting all skin types and people of all ages. Whether you want to specifically target your dark spots, or simply achieve an all-over brighter complexion, there’s a solution for you. Learn about what hyperpigmentation is, what causes it, how to treat it, and about long-term prevention methods.

What is hyperpigmentation?

In simple terms, hyperpigmentation is when dark spots occur on the skin. This is due to an overproduction of melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its colour.1 Some common types of hyperpigmentation include sunspots and melasma.

What is melanin?

Melanin is the name of the substance that gives our skin, hair, and eyes its colour.2 Melanin is produced in skin cells by a substance known as melanocytes. When an overproduction of melanin occurs, these clusters of pigment bleed into other skin cells. This causes what we know as hyperpigmentation through discolouration and dark spots on our skin.

How does hyperpigmentation occur?

Hyperpigmentation can occur in a number of ways. These include:

  • Pollution and environmental factors
  • Overexposure to sun
  • Genetics and hormones
  • Skin damage and irritation

What is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a common type of pigmentation that can occur when skin cells attempt to repair themselves after damage. This repairing action can trigger melanocytes to become overactive, which results in an overproduction of melanin. An example of this is the dark spots or blemishes that can sometimes appear after acne has cleared. This type of hyperpigmentation is most prominent in those with darker skin tones.

How does sun exposure cause hyperpigmentation?

Prolonged exposure to UV is one of the leading causes of hyperpigmentation in Australia, particularly for those with fair complexions.3 Not only can sun exposure cause new dark spots to form on the skin’s surface, but it can also make existing hyperpigmentation appear darker.

What effect does pollution have on hyperpigmentation?

Pollution and environmental factors can also play a role in hyperpigmentation of the skin. Pollution, in particular smog and particulate matter (small particles within the air around us) can get deep into our pores causing oxidative damage. This causes free-radical damage and chronic inflammation which breaks down collagen and sends melanocytes into overdrive, resulting in an overproduction of melanin.

Does hyperpigmentation go away on its own?

Some types of hyperpigmentation will eventually fade away on their own, while others may require a bit more help along the way. The rate at which your dark spots fade will depend on how dark they are compared to the surrounding skin. For example, a dark spot that is similar to the colour of your skin may take 6-12 months to fade, while deeper discolouration may take years.4 To speed up the fading process, try using targeted treatments like Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution which works to visibly reduce the appearance of dark spots over time and brighten overall skin tone.

How can you treat hyperpigmentation?

Using a targeted solution is an effective way to treat hyperpigmentation, particularly with deeper discolouration as it requires a product that works deeper within the skin. Incorporating brightening ingredients into your skincare routine through tailored serums and ingredients also works to treat hyperpigmentation, lightening dark spots for a more even complexion.

Can exfoliating skin help visibly reduce hyperpigmentation?

Ensuring that exfoliation is included as part of your skincare regime will help to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, as healthy skin cell turnover is essential in helping to visibly diminish dark spots. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin, and in doing so helps brighten your overall complexion, stimulating the skin renewal process. Be careful not to over exfoliate or scrub skin too harshly, as this could aggravate or intensify your hyperpigmentation.

How can you help prevent hyperpigmentation?

In addition to treating existing hyperpigmentation, it is essential to also provide skin with preventative care. Follow these simple tips to stop the formation of dark spots on your skin:

  • Protect yourself from harmful UV rays by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day. Try the Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense CC Cream with SPF 30PA++++ and pollution protection.
  • If you suffer from acne or pimples, try using products like cleansers and serums with salicylic acid or sulphur in them. This will work to visibly reduce breakouts and help prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Products such as the Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser are especially designed to treat acne prone skin, and are formulated with salicylic acid.
  • If you are suffering from a bout of breakouts, using an acne spot treatment like our Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment will help clear skin faster, and reduce the likelihood of hyperpigmentation.
  • Avoid picking at acne, as this may increase irritation and the likelihood of post-acne marks.

What are the best skincare ingredients for hyperpigmentation?

When looking for products to combat hyperpigmentation, look for specific ingredients that have been proven to brighten skin.

Vitamin C

Also known as l-ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is primarily used for its brightening qualities. This antioxidant ingredient works to neutralise free radicals in skin, helping to stimulate collagen production when used. Activated C is a derivative of Vitamin C that penetrates more deeply, for a longer period of time. Used within Kiehl's formulas, Activated C helps to brighten dark spots by decreasing the skin’s melanin production, preventing new clusters from forming, and slowing melanin transfer to the skin’s surface.

Salicylic Acid

Often used in anti-spot treatments and acne skincare products, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that works by deeply exfoliating the surface of the skin, removing impurities and unclogging pores. Using products with salicylic acid can help to decrease the intensity of hyperpigmentation and in doing so, reduce the appearance of dark spots on your skin.

Peony Root

Extract While beneficial for a range of health concerns, white peony roots can also help to reduce the effects of hyperpigmentation on skin, working to create a luminous bright complexion.

Liquorice Root Extract

Recognised mainly for its calming, soothing properties, liquorice root is also used as an effective ingredient to enhance skin clarity.

White Birch Extract

White birch extract is a sugar derived ingredient known to improve signs of aging, as well as help prevent dark spots on the skin’s surface.

What is the best skincare routine for hyperpigmentation?

If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, there are certain steps in your skincare routine you can follow to help quickly fade dark spots and achieve an all-round brighter complexion.

Kiehl’s Best Skincare Products for Hyperpigmentation

If you suffer from hyperpigmentation and are looking for a tailored skincare range that will help fade your dark spots faster, start with Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective™ Collection. Our signature #1 treatment, the Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution has inspired a range of products specifically aimed to reduce the signs of hyperpigmentation.

Reduce the signs of dark spots with a facial serum for hyperpigmentation with Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution

Enriched with Activated C, white birch, and peony extract, this proven facial serum for dark spots helps to visibly brighten skin, while simultaneously decreasing the intensity of skin discolorations and significantly improving a well-balanced complexion over time. This efficacious formula is scientifically proven* to visibly reduce:

Hyperpigmentation by -49%

Post-Acne Marks by -27%

Dark Spots Colour by -39%

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

Hydrate and brighten with moisturiser Clearly Corrective™ Brightening and Smoothing Moisture Treatment

Formulated with Activated C and white birch extract, this brightening and smoothing formula delivers 24-hour hydration while also helping to improve skin clarity.

Defend Against Early Signs of Aging with a Daily Sunscreen Ultra Light Daily UV Defense CC Cream

Daily use of sunscreen is essential to help prevent the formation of future dark spots, as well as avoid the darkening of current hyperpigmentation. Help defend skin from harmful UV rays and environmental aggressors while evening and brightening skin tone at the same time.

If hyperpigmentation and dark spots don’t fade over time, they can be effectively treated through a range of targeted skin care solutions. Explore the Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective™ range today.

  1. “Dermatologist shines light on natural ingredients used in new topical treatments for hyperpigmentation.” American Academy of Dermatology. 17 Mar 2014
  2. “What gives skin its color?” American Academy of Dermatology.
  3. “Hyperpigmentation.” American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
  4. m, J., Im, S., and H. Lui. “Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.” Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2009 Jul-Aug;13(4): 183-91.College of Dermatology.