What Causes Hyperpigmentation Spots & How Do You Prevent Them?

What Causes Hyperpigmentation Spots & How Do You Prevent Them?

A glowing complexion is the goal, but an uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation spots can cause some people to be self-conscious. Here at Seven:Thirty, we believe in understanding the core of the issue, diving deep into research, and presenting solutions that not only address the surface but the root cause.

Hyperpigmentation is the result of an overproduction of  melanin—your skin’s natural pigment. This results in dark spots or patches that are darker than your natural skin tone. If you’ve been noticing hyperpigmentation spots, you may be wondering what’s the cause and how you can address it and prevent new brown spots or patches from forming. 

This guide will cover everything you need to know about hyperpigmentation spots, including the various types of hyperpigmentation, causes, treatment measures, and prevention tips.



There is no one-size fits all when it comes to hyperpigmentation. While there are several different types of hyperpigmentation spots, the three most common are melasma, age spots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.


Melasma is a common skin condition triggered by hormones that causes brown or gray-brown patches to appear on the face. It’s also known as chloasma or the “mask of pregnancy,” as pregnancy is a common cause of melasma.

Melasma is more likely to appear in women than men and occurs in 15–50% of pregnancies. In addition to pregnancy, melasma can also affect peri and postmenopausal women as well as those taking birth control pills or using hormonal IUDs. It’s also more likely to affect those with medium-brown to dark-brown skin.

Fortunately, melasma doesn’t feel itchy or painful, and it isn’t cancerous.


Age Spots

Age spots—also known as sun spots, solar lentigines, or liver spots—are small, dark spots on the skin that resemble freckles. They generally appear on areas of skin that get the most sun exposure, like the: 

  • Face
  • Hands
  • Arms
  • Shoulders

Unlike melasma, age spots are a form of sun damage. They’re triggered by natural ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, as well as artificial UV light, like those used in tanning beds. They present as dark spots  on the skin that range from millimeters to centimeters in size. 

It’s important to emphasize the need for sunscreen and hats throughout childhood. The age-spots that become visible as we age are the result of overexposure to the sun’s damaging rays while we are in our teen years, 20’s, and above. 

While age spots are generally harmless, they may be an early indication of skin cancer if they: 

  • Change color overtime
  • Change in shape overtime 
  • Bleed

Remember to schedule an annual appointment with your dermatologist for a skin check, and keep an eye on skin concerns you may have.



Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is excess pigmentation in the skin that occurs due to inflammation triggered by acne, Eczema, or damage from injury. PIH is very correctable with consistent usage of melanin inhibiting skincare products and professional peels. 

While this type of hyperpigmentation can affect anyone, it’s more likely to affect medium to dark-skinned individuals. In contrast to melasma, PIH affects men and women equally. 

Symptoms include dark brown to black flat spots that appear on any part of the body, not just areas of sun-exposed skin like age spots. However, ultraviolet light exposure may worsen the condition.

Depending on the cause, some post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation cases can resolve on their own. However, other cases can be chronic and may require months of prolonged treatment.



Sun exposure  

This is one of the leading causes of hyperpigmentation. In fact, it’s prolonged sun exposure that can cause the appearance of age spots.



Genetics can also influence hyperpigmentation. For example, freckles are a type of hyperpigmentation that have a genetic factor.



Hormonal changes or imbalances can cause areas of the skin to produce more melanin. This can occur during pregnancy or while taking hormonal contraceptives.


Skin inflammation 

Skin inflammation may be due to conditions like eczema, acne, allergic reactions, and insect bites. 


Skin damage 

Damage to the skin includes cuts, burns, surgery, laser therapy, radiation, and chemical peels. These types of damage can all lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Because there is variation in hyperpigmentation causes, there is also variation in treatment options.



Many cases of hyperpigmentation, like age spots, are considered harmless and don’t require treatment. However, if you’re looking for treatment due to cosmetic or medical reasons, let’s walk through some of your options:

Retinoid creams

Retinoid creams  utilize a powerful form of vitamin A that exfoliates the skin and allows for faster cell turnover. This helps increase collagen which can help lighten pigmented spots caused by acne, sun damage, and melasma.


Topical treatments 

If your hyperpigmentation is caused by an inflammatory skin condition, talk to your dermatologist about anti-inflammatory topical treatments like a corrective serum that you can use to manage your hyperpigmentation spots.

Chemical peels

Because chemical peels remove the outer layer of skin that contains excess melanin, they can be effective in reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation spots. However, it’s important to be cautious if considering this route. If not performed correctly, chemical peels can also cause inflammation and may worsen hyperpigmentation. We carefully assess the skin prior to performing chemical peels and pre-treat the skin for 30 to 60 days with our melanin inhibiting LUMEN Correcting Serum and THE FIX Retinoid Cream. 



While you can’t completely prevent all types of hyperpigmentation (as in the case of melasma caused by pregnancy, for instance), there are a few ways you can reduce the likelihood of developing certain types of hyperpigmentation, like age spots. In particular:

Apply sunscreen daily  

Add SPF to your daily routine. Regularly applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, even on cloudy days, will help protect your skin from harmful UV rays and sun damage. 


Wear protective clothing

Style to protect your skin. Wear clothing that limits your skin’s sun exposure, like long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats.


Avoid excessive UV exposure 

The sun’s UV rays are especially powerful during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During this time, it’s best to limit direct sunlight when possible. Additionally, try to avoid tanning beds whenever possible, as artificial UV light can also cause hyperpigmentation.

With melasma, avoid high heat environments such as cooking over a hot stove, and using hot tubs and saunas



Regardless of the cause of your hyperpigmentation spots, you can discover a personalized skincare routine by reaching out to our experts at Seven:Thirty. Simply schedule a skin consult, and our experienced  licensed estheticians will work with you to determine which products are best for your skin type. For a personalized professional treatment plan, schedule an appointment with one of our estheticians, either virtually or in-person at our Berkeley, California location. The road to radiant skin is within reach, contact us today to get started.

Back to blog