Dermatologist-Approved Strategies for Hyperpigmentation

By Caroline Robinson, MD, FAAD

Hyperpigmentation is a common concern for people of color and is often listed as a top concern when visiting a dermatologist. But what is hyperpigmentation? Hyperpigmentation is excess pigment within the layers of the skin related to the intricate process of melanin production. Melanocytes, residing in the lowest layer of our skin, produce melanin carried in melanosomes, transferred to keratinocytes, ultimately determining skin color. Many things can trigger melanocytes to produce melanin in excess, including skin injury, inflammation, genetics, and sun, leading to hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation is not a diagnosis, many medical conditions (such as Melasma) and even natural skin changes can lead to darker areas of skin and uneven tone. It is important to involve a dermatologist in your care for persistent hyperpigmentation. Finding effective products for melanin-rich skin can be daunting, as harsh or ineffective treatments often clutter the market. In this guide, we delve into dermatologist-approved tips and treatments, offering practical tips for those grappling with stubborn dark spots.

Sunscreen: The First Line of Defense

Sunscreen is critical when addressing hyperpigmentation. While it’s known to protect against UVA and UVB rays, we are learning that other wavelengths of light actually impact the skin as well. Visible light, especially for those with darker skin tones, can exacerbate hyperpigmentation. Tinted mineral sunscreens, with proven protection against UVA, UVB, and visible light spectrums, are essential for improving hyperpigmentation over time. Tinted mineral sunscreens often contain an additional ingredient called iron oxide which shows promise in guarding against hyperpigmentation by providing protection against visible light. Finding a cosmetically elegant formula that blends to your skin tone can be challenging with mineral sunscreens in general so the additional tint can be helpful for blending purposes as well. Unfortunately, most sunscreens in the US provide limited protection against this crucial light spectrum. Discussing the right sunscreen for you with your dermatologist is key.

Topical Treatments for Hyperpigmentation

Beyond sunscreen there are some helpful topical treatments that can be incorporated into a routine to address stubborn pigment. Topical Vitamin C and other antioxidants play a pivotal role in reversing past skin damage but also help address excess pigment by influencing the enzyme responsible for excess pigment production (tyrosinase). Hydroquinone (available by prescription at your dermatologist) and non-hydroquinone preparations (with ingredients like Niacinamide, Azelaic Acid, and/or Kojic Acid) can also be good options for treating hyperpigmentation depending on the cause. But common skincare ingredients like retinoids which work to increase skin cell turnover can also be helpful additions to address uneven skin. As with any skin condition/concern, hydrating the skin barrier itself through topical application of rich moisturizers, helps to draw water to the skin is essential for promoting a healthy skin barrier that ultimately leads to more radiant skin. I recommend the Vaseline Radiant X Even Tone Nourishing Body Lotion that includes 1% niacinamide, clinically proven to visibly reduce dark spots and even skin tone in just two weeks. The lotion also includes Unilever’s proprietary ultra-hydrating lipids to help skin replenish its own ceramides and foster a more resilient, healthier skin barrier.

In Office Treatments for Hyperpigmentation

For excessive, stubborn, or persistent hyperpigmentation, in office treatments with your board-certified dermatologist may be required. Superficial chemical peels offer a potential solution for those battling acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation for example because they unclogging pores, smooth texture and even tone. Other treatments such as laser and microneedling are options that your doctor may propose to address your concerns. A dermatologist’s expertise can guide individuals toward the most suitable treatment based on their unique skin concerns. Find a board-certified dermatologist in your area by using Vaseline See My Skin dermatologist directory.


Hyperpigmentation isn’t a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Various medical conditions and natural skin changes can result in darker areas and uneven tones. Consulting with a dermatologist is crucial for persistent hyperpigmentation, ensuring a personalized and effective treatment plan. Dermatologist-approved strategies such as sun protection with a broad-spectrum tinted mineral sunscreen and incorporating topical preparations that address pigmentation can help you embark on a journey to healthier, more radiant skin. Remember, the key to success lies in understanding your unique skin and seeking professional guidance for a personalized approach to skincare.