Are dark spots and patches on your skin ruining your constant effort to look flawless? You might be facing a condition of hyperpigmentation.
Localised excess production of melanin can give your skin an uneven tone. The ancient science of Ayurveda recommends the use of special 'Varnya' herbs that balance your Doshas, lighten your complexion and enhance your overall skin health.
Scroll down to know the various types and causes of hyperpigmentation and their best Ayurvedic treatments.
- What Is Hyperpigmentation?
- What Does Hyperpigmentation Look Like?
- Types Of Hyperpigmentation
- What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperpigmentation?
- What Are The Main Causes Of Hyperpigmentation?
- Hyperpigmentation Treatment For Darkened Skin
- How Can You Prevent The Formation Of Hyperpigmentation?
- Melasma Vs. Hyperpigmentation: What Are The Differences?
- Frequently Asked Questions About Hyperpigmentation
What Is Hyperpigmentation?
Melanocytes in your skin's basale layer are specialized cells that synthesize the pigment melanin. Melanin gives your skin its unique colour and does the prime job of protecting your skin from sun damage. However, an excess release of melanin can cause hyperpigmentation  resulting in uneven skin tone.
Hyperactivity of melanocytes leading to hyperpigmentation can be triggered by various causes. The most common ones are prolonged sun exposure, tissue damage or skin injury, age and hormonal imbalances.
According to Ayurveda, the Bhrajaka Pitta, a sub Dosha of the Pitta Dosha, present in your skin, is responsible for regulating various skin functions such as melanin production and thermoregulation. An aggravation of the Bhrajaka Pitta can cause over-synthesis of melanin, leading to hyperpigmentation or ‘Vyanga’.
What Does Hyperpigmentation Look Like?
Depending on the type of hyperpigmentation affecting your skin, it may have the appearance of:
- Tiny darkened spots on skin (freckles)
- Flat, round or oval patches of slightly raised, darkened skin (lentigines or melasma)
- An overall darker tone in some parts of the body that doesn't match the rest of your body’s skin tone (tanning)
As you age above 40, the number of melanocytes (cells that produce melanin) present in your skin gradually decrease. Low numbers of melanocytes are more prone to hyperactivity making hyperpigmentation a common skin issue amongst aged people.
Types Of Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation of skin caused by UV ray exposure is known as tanning. Depending on the degree of sun exposure, there are two different procedures involved in the release of melanin. Oxidation of pre-synthesized melanin released to majorly combat UVA ray induced cell damage, causes immediate tanning.
On the other hand, intense sun exposure can result in the production of fresh melanin or melanogenesis. This indicates a higher level of skin damage and causes delayed tanning which may last more than a week.
Lentigines , also known as liver spots are dark brown or black, slightly raised spots that appear on skin as a result of hyperpigmentation. Lentigines are more likely to occur on light-coloured adult skin. They can be caused by various factors such as sun exposure (sun spots), tanning beds, radiation therapies or photo therapies.
3. Freckles Or Ephelides
Freckles or ephelides, is a pigmentary disorder caused by sun exposure but also has a genetic influence at play. Common in fair complexioned people, freckles can be chronic in nature. It is characterised by hyperpigmentation on the nose, face, legs and other areas frequently exposed to the sun.
Freckles may appear during summer when your skin gets more sun exposure and fade during winter.
Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that often affects the face of women during their pregnancy. Hormonal imbalances or sun exposure can trigger the condition of melasma. It causes dark brown patches mainly on the forehead, nose bridge or cheeks. However, it can also affect other areas of the body.
5. Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
A cutaneous injury or inflammation is naturally followed by hypermelanosis. According to medical research, this excess production of melanin by the melanocytes is triggered by inflammatory mediators. As a result you develop a darker patch at the site of injury. Post- inflammatory hyperpigmentation  mainly affects people who have a darker skin tone and have suffered from skin conditions like acne, impetigo or atopic dermatitis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperpigmentation?
According to Ayurveda, Vyanga or hyperpigmentation leads to the formation of ‘varna mandalas’ or discoloured round patches.
Based on the type of hyperpigmentation, the common symptoms include:
- Dark brown or black spots
- Uneven, discoloured patches on skin
- Hyper-pigmented macules
What Are The Main Causes Of Hyperpigmentation?
1. Sun Exposure
Your body's defence mechanism is so designed that whenever your skin is over exposed to harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun, melanin is released to absorb and reflect these rays. This prevents direct DNA cell damage. Melanin released by the melanocytes is transported to the upper layers of your skin by special organelles called melanosomes. The increase in melanin in the uppermost epidermal layer causes your skin to tan.
2. Hormonal Imbalances
Hormones are an important causative factor of hyperpigmentation. Skin conditions like melasma are caused when melanocytes are stimulated by estrogen and progesterone into overproducing melanin. Birth control pills can also cause hormonal fluctuations resulting in melasma.
Senile lentigo, or age spots affect elderly people whose skin’s have suffered from photodamage. These uneven, hyperpigmented patches or spots appear in areas of the body more exposed to the sun such as arms, back of the hand, face, shoulder. There is a gradual reduction in the number of melanocytes as one ages. This further adds to the uneven distribution of pigment in aged sun exposed skin resulting in lentigines.
4. Skin Injury And Inflammation
Inflammation is an immune response of your body to any kind of tissue damage or skin infection. There are certain chemical mediators that trigger inflammation to initiate the healing process. However, these mediators also trigger overproduction of melanin resulting in hyperpigmentation at the injury site.
PIH or post- inflammatory hyperpigmentation at the deeper dermal level caused by damage to basal cells can take a long time to heal if left without treatment. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation can also become a recurring problem in chronic inflammatory skin conditions like Psoriasis.
5. Vitamin B Deficiency
Vitamin B12 can affect the synthesis of the pigment melanin in your body. An important Vitamin in the production of DNA, Vitamin B12 deficiency  cases have reported hyperpigmentation as one of its symptoms. Some researchers also claim that along with Vitamin B12, a folic acid deficiency can also cause irregular production of melanin.
6. Addison’s Disease
In conditions like Addison’s disease, your body produces low amounts of certains hormones such as the cortisol hormone. Low cortisol levels in the body stimulate the release of the ACTH hormone. High ACTH hormone levels trigger melanocytes into producing excess melanin leading to hyperpigmentation. Other medical conditions causing hyperpigmentation are hyperthyroidism and hemochromatosis.
Known as smoker’s melanosis, hyperpigmentation around the mouth and inside the oral cavity is widely observed among people who smoke regularly. Frequent exposure to nicotine, benzopyrene (a compound found in tar) and other toxic compounds in tobacco smoke triggers uneven production of melanin. Recent studies show how hyperpigmentation can also occur in passive smokers or people constantly exposed to tobacco smoke, including children.
8. Dry Skin
Dry skin caused by skin damage and a weakened epidermal barrier often leads to tissue damage related hyperpigmentation. Chronic skin conditions like eczema can trigger melanosis leaving behind darkened patches of skin.
Certain types of drugs can influence melanin synthesis. Medicines such as antimalarial, non- steroidal anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic and others can cause uneven skin tone during the treatment. Such drug side effects are known to worsen with sun exposure.
10. Tanning Beds
Tanning beds are machines designed to give you a desirable tan. They emit ultraviolet radiation which increases melanin synthesis in the same way as would happen if you were exposed to the sun. However, they come with their own risks. Tanning beds can lead to sunburns or worsen a previously existing condition of hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation Treatment For Darkened Skin
“Good blood circulation, plenty of healthy fats, and clean digestion are the firsts to heal hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
A. Home Remedies For Hyperpigmentation
Remedies for hyperpigmentary disorders mainly focus on two methods of treatment- the control of tyrosinase and other enzymes that trigger melanogenesis and the regeneration of new skin cells in place of the old, damaged layer.
With consumers now being more aware of the benefits of natural, plant derived compounds that control hyperpigmentation in place of their artificial substitutes, there is an increased demand for them in the cosmetic and dermatological field. This has also brought to light the skin brightening abilities of many new natural and herbal ingredients that were unknown to us before.
1. Milk, Soy Milk Or Green Tea Cleansing
Cleanse your face with natural depigmenting ingredients like milk, soy milk or green tea regularly to treat hyperpigmentation on the face. Milk has lactic acid that exfoliates dead skin cells and speeds up the cell regeneration process. Soy milk is known for lightening skin tone, prevent discoloration of skin. High in Vitamin E soy milk acts as an anti-ageing formula for dry damaged skin.
Green tea has flavonoids which are known tyrosinase inhibitors. Regular cleansing with green tea reduces chances of acne, effects of sun damage and post- inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
How To Use
Use a cotton pad to apply milk/ soy milk/ green tea on your face. Gently massage for 1 to 2 minutes and wash off.
2. Natural Depigmenting Scrubs For Hyperpigmentation On Face
Gentle exfoliation helps rejuvenate hyperpigmented skin. Depigmenting compounds found in these natural scrubs not only unclog your pores and remove dead skin but also prevent the excess production of melanin.
- Orange Peel Scrub Orange peel scrub is an amazing hyperpigmentation treatment. Citric acid, a natural alpha hydroxy acid found in orange peel, exfoliates and brightens your skin in no time. Further the presence of Vitamin C protects your skin from sun damage and helps in skin regeneration. Combine orange peel powder with honey and use it like a scrub 2 to 3 times a week.
- Oatmeal Scrub A great combination of essential amino acids and Vitamin E brightens hyperpigmented skin while gently washing away dead skin, dirt and oil build ups. Coarsely blend oatmeal with milk to form a paste and gently exfoliate to reduce hyperpigmentation on the nose, face and other areas. Use the scrub at least 2 to 3 times a week to see results.
- Barley Scrub Azelaic acid is a natural pigment reducing compound that is found in barley. Research shows that frequent use can lighten hyperpigmentation of skin. Make a paste by adding lukewarm water to barley and gently exfoliate your skin.
- Coffee Scrub The new member in skincare is coffee. Its skin brightening properties due to the presence of flavonoids and other skin benefitting compounds and antioxidants makes it a great scrub for reducing hyperpigmentation. You can combine coffee powder with orange peel powder for more effective results.
3. Curd, Saffron And Turmeric Pack
Curd, saffron and turmeric are all amazing ingredients that are packed with skin brightening elements. Lactic acid in curd removes the damaged, hyperpigmented layer. Quercetin in saffron inhibits over synthesis of melanin and curcumin in turmeric brightens your complexion and helps to heal skin that is sun damaged or affected by post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
How To Use
Soak the saffron in curd for an hour. Add turmeric to this and apply on your face. Wash off after 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Papaya And Aloe Vera Pack
The natural enzyme papain found in papaya and aloin found in aloe vera are both powerful depigmenting agents. Papaya also helps in clearing your skin, giving you a super smooth feel. Aloe vera moisturizes your skin and helps reduce skin infections and acne problems.
How To Use
To reduce hyperpigmentation on the face, mash a ripe papaya and add aloe vera gel to it. Apply this on the affected areas and wash off after 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Cranberry, Black Grape, Wheat Germ Oil Pack
Natural compounds in cranberry act as hydroquinone substitutes that inhibit the tyrosinase enzyme responsible for hyperpigmentation of skin. Black grapes are super rich in antioxidants that scavenge free radicals that cause skin damage. Wheat germ oil being packed with Vitamin B and E is extremely beneficial for reducing hyperpigmentation around the mouth and other parts of the skin that are caused by Vitamin B deficiencies.
How To Use
Add wheat germ oil to cranberry and black grape pulp. Apply this to reduce hyperpigmentation on the neck and face. Wash off after 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Jackfruit And Honey Pack
The young leaves of jackfruit  along with its pods and seeds pack in special tyrosinase inhibiting compounds that reduce hyperpigmentation of skin. Honey adds moisture to your damaged skin and also helps in removing tans and spots caused by hyperpigmentation.
How To Use
Grind 6 to 7 jackfruit leaves, pods and seeds and add honey to make a paste. Apply on your face and wash off 20 minutes.
B. Ayurvedic Treatment For Hyperpigmentation
Ayurveda recommends Abhyanga or herbal massage in the treatment of hyperpigmentation or Vyanga. Abhyanga is done with special Varnya herbs and medicinal oils that holistically treat the condition from its roots. Herbal massaging also improves blood circulation, removes Ama toxins from the skin and balances your Doshas. This not only helps in reducing hyperpigmentation but also strengthens your skin barrier to prevent further recurrence of the problem.
Every morning massage your full body with the essential oils mentioned below for half an hour before taking a bath to reduce hyperpigmentation on legs, hands, neck and face.
Essential oils that clear hyperpigmentation are:
1. Sesame Oil
Oil derived from sesame seeds contains the compound Sesamol  which has amazing melanogenic enzyme inhibiting properties. Research shows its abilities in actively preventing melanogenesis in skin.
2. Tea Tree OIl
Tea tree oil has several skin benefits, one of which is lightening scars, spots and blemishes on your skin caused by hyperpigmentation. Being rich in active antioxidants it also helps your skin to recover quickly.
3. Turmeric Oil
Turmeric oil has been an ancient hyperpigmentation treatment. Compounds such as curcumin present in turmeric heal various skin conditions and prevent post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and hyperpigmentation around the mouth and on the face.
4. Lemon Oil
Citric acid in lemon oil acts as a natural bleaching agent that clears hyperpigmentation around the mouth and face. However, lemon oil should be combined with a carrier oil before using to avoid skin sensitivity.
5. Sandalwood Oil
Alpha santanol present in sandalwood oil is a great melanosis inhibitor. Apart from reducing hyperpigmentation on the neck and face especially caused by tanning, sandalwood oil also soothes irritated skin and prevents skin sensitivity caused by conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne.
6. Kumkumadi Oil
The major component of kumkumadi oil being saffron, makes it an apt treatment for hyperpigmentation of skin. Massaging your body regularly with this oil improves your complexion and your overall skin health.
Vedix Tip: Ayurvedic scriptures mention the use of Varnya Gana Lepa that infuses 10 powerful Ayurvedic herbs to treat Vyanga or hyperpigmentation. Thus, at home you can combine more than one Varnya herbs to achieve better results.
Gingerols and shogaols give fresh ginger its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and skin whitening properties. Regularly apply a fresh paste of ginger and honey to reduce hyperpigmentation on the face and other parts of your body. Wash off after 30 minutes.
Packed with Vitamin C and other depigmenting compounds, the Ayurvedic herb Vacha is a perfect hyperpigmentation cure. Mix vacha powder with milk, honey or rose water and apply to reduce hyperpigmentation around the mouth and face. Wash off after 30 minutes.
Mix lodhra powder with lukewarm water or rose water and apply on skin affected by hyper melanogenesis. Wash off after 20 to 30 minutes of application. Lodhra, also being anti- inflammatory in nature, helps reduce post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
4. Tulsi Or Holy Basil
Tulsi or holy basil has natural anti- pigmentation properties that heal skin affected by hyperpigmentation. Mash 20 tulsi leaves and make a paste by adding honey or aloe vera gel to it. Apply on hyperpigmented skin and wash off after half an hour.
5. Arjuna Twak
Arjuna twak lepa made from the bark of the arjuna tree is a powerful herbal treatment for hyperpigmentation in Ayurveda. With miraculous skin healing properties, regular application is effective on all forms of pigmentary skin issues. Apply arjuna twak powder with milk on the affected areas. Wash off after half an hour.
6. Yashtimadhu Or Licorice
Phenolic compounds in Yashtimadhu or the licorice root have powerful melanin suppression abilities. Regular application can visibly reduce acne scars, tan, melasma and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Apply yashtimadhu powder with milk or rose water on affected areas and wash off after 20 to 30 minutes.
7. Rakta Chandanam Or Red Sandalwood
Due to the natural presence of Santalin , a non-toxic tyrosinase inhibitor, red sandalwood is widely used for treating hyperpigmentation on the face and other skin areas. It is also a popular ingredient in both cosmetic and herbal skincare products that target melanin disorders. Add rose water and milk to red sandalwood paste and apply on the affected areas. Wash off after 20 to 30 minutes.
8. Jatiphala Or Nutmeg
The common spice nutmeg or jatiphala has amazing skin brightening and healing properties. Nutmeg can heal acne conditions, lighten scars and tan, giving you an even skin tone. Powder nutmeg and add milk or honey to it. Apply on affected skin for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce hyperpigmentation on the face.
Thanaka powder has often been used to reduce hyperpigmentation on the face due to its skin whitening and anti-ageing properties. Mix thanaka powder with any one of the essential oils mentioned above and apply on the affected areas. Wash off after 15 to 20 minutes.
Do a patch test on a small area that is affected by hyperpigmentation, preferably on your arm. Wait a day to check for skin sensitivity before frequent use.
10. Shweta Palandu
You must have noticed the popular ingredient Allium Cepa in various skin brightening products including the Korean skincare range. Allium cepa or Shweta Palandu is the bulb of a white onion that has some miraculous melanin regulating compounds. Apply the paste of white onion on hyperpigmented skin regularly for half an hour before washing off.
C. Hyperpigmentation Medical Treatments
Before opting for a medical treatment for hyperpigmentation it is important to analyse the conditions causing it. Underlying medical conditions, if any, need to be addressed first before starting treatment for hyperpigmentation of skin.
In this cosmetic process, a skin specialist gently removes the top layer of your skin with a specialized device, revealing your natural, youthful skin underneath. Considered a safe procedure, microdermabrasion can remove hyperpigmentation caused by acne, injuries and melasma.
2. Laser Therapy
Laser treatments are considered one of the best when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation. In this process, laser light is directly targeted to skin areas affected by melanin disorders. The laser beam breaks up the pigment which is then absorbed by your body. 3 to 4 sessions are usually enough to treat hyperpigmentation with laser therapy.
3. Chemical Peels
Chemical peels can involve using glycolic or salicylic acids to exfoliate the pigmented layers of your skin. A few sessions are enough to give your clear, even toned skin, provided you follow it up with a good skincare routine.
D. Topical Creams To Remove Hyperpigmentation
Hydroquinone  is the most effective and most frequently prescribed hyperpigmentation topical treatment. Your dermatologist is likely to suggest the concentration of hydroquinone based on the intensity of your hyperpigmentation.
OTC retinol creams and prescribed retinoid ointments have shown positive results in reducing hyperpigmentation of skin. Retinoids are powerful exfoliators that remove the damaged upper layer and speed up your skin’s natural healing process. According to research, topical creams that contain tazarotene 0.1% are more effective in removing hyperpigmentation than other substitutes.
3. Vitamin C
Apart from being a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C possesses the ability to suppress the tyrosinase enzyme that stimulates the synthesis of melanin by converting tyrosine into melanin. Gels, creams and serums that contain Vitamin C can reduce minor cases of hyperpigmentation.
A natural tyrosinase inhibitor, arbutin is derived from various natural sources like bearberry plants. Topical skincare products containing arbutin prove to be good skin hyperpigmentation healers.
5. Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acids are often prescribed as combination therapies with topical corticosteroids to treat skin hyperpigmentations.
6. Other Topical Treatments
Apart from the ones mentioned above, Kojic Acid and Zinc Sulphate are also used to treat melasma and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation conditions. Patient reports prove their effectiveness in gradually reducing hyperpigmentation in a short time.
How Can You Prevent The Formation Of Hyperpigmentation?
1. One of the best ways to prevent hyperpigmentation is by limiting your direct sun exposure. Avoid stepping out when the sun is at its peak, that is between 11am in the morning to around 3pm in the afternoon.
2. Always use sunscreen before stepping out. Don’t skip your sunscreen even on a cloudy day, as UV rays can easily penetrate a cloud cover and cause skin damage. Choose one that is non-comedogenic and has a minimum SPF of 40 and contains Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide.
3. Wear protective clothing to further prevent sun damage. Sunglasses and hats are a good way to prevent dry skin and hyperpigmentation on the face.
4. Drink lots of water to keep your skin hydrated at all times. Keep your skin moisturized to avoid dry skin related hyperpigmentation. Natural moisturizers such as aloe vera, honey and coconut oil are a great choice for keeping your skin healthy and improving your skin tone.
5. Maintain good skin hygiene. Exfoliate and keep your skin pores oil and dirt free to prevent acne conditions that may lead to post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Include skincare products that regulate the production of tyrosinase and other melanogenic enzymes.
6. In case of injuries or skin inflammation, seek proper medical treatment to avoid post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
7. Foods for hyperpigmentation include a wholesome diet that has all types of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Vitamins B deficiencies can be battled by including foods such as meat, eggs, fish and dairy products that are rich sources of Vitamin B 12.
8. Stop smoking or stay away from tobacco smoke to prevent smoking induced hyperpigmentation.
9. Stay away from foods that cause hormonal fluctuations. Foods with a high glycemic index, processed oily foods are best avoided if your hyperpigmentation is hormone related.
10. Consult your Ayurvedic doctor for a complete diagnosis of your Prakriti to get a better understanding of what is causing your hyperpigmentation. An analysis of your Doshas will help you to choose the perfect diet, skincare and Ayurvedic treatment that will improve your skin condition holistically.
Melasma Vs. Hyperpigmentation: What Are The Differences?
A type of pigmentary disorder.
An umbrella term referring to all kinds of melanin hyper secretions.
Hormone related and influenced by sun exposure.
Most hyperpigmentation skin conditions are related to excess sun exposure with no hormonal influences.
Often clears off on its own after pregnancy.
May require treatment to completely heal.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hyperpigmentation
1. Is Hyperpigmentation Permanent?
Hyperpigmentation is not permanent. How long your hyperpigmentation will last depends on the factors causing it and the layers of skin affected by it. Hyperpigmentation that is limited to the epidermal layer can be more easily cured with topical treatments than that in the deeper dermal layers.
2. Is Hyperpigmentation Dangerous?
Hyperpigmentation is usually an indication of skin damage. However, benign conditions are harmless and clear away soon. But if your mole or patch of discoloured skin keeps growing in diameter, it is advisable to get it checked by a doctor. A skin biopsy can quickly reveal if the condition is cancerous which is often the case in melanoma.
3. How Long Does It Take For Hyperpigmentation To Fade?
Mild tans or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation from minor injuries or acne, generally clears off after a few weeks with natural skin renewal. However, those caused by chronic skin conditions or medical diseases may last longer and require proper treatment to heal.
The Last Word
Melanin disorders leading to hyperpigmentation are often caused by excessive sun exposure. Thus half of your pigment related problems can be sorted out by regular, mindful application of sunscreen. Apart from this, there are various cosmetic and herbal treatments available for treating the different types of hyperpigmentation.
However, needless to mention, artificial and cosmetic procedures have their own set of side effects that soon follow after the completion of the treatments.
On the other hand, following a good Ayurveda recommended herbal skincare routine not only guarantees zero side effects but also holistically improves your entire body system to prevent such skin conditions from occurring again.Know Your Dosha Now
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