What causes hyperpigmentation?

20/05/2020 — By Alexandra Julian

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Have you noticed your skin tone has started to appear patchy? Or have brown marks suddenly appeared on your skin? Here we look at the causes of hyperpigmentation and reveal the skin-lightening plant actives that can help restore your skin tone.

What is hyperpigmentation?

The skin colour we have depends on the amount of pigment in our skin. Darker skin has more pigment than lighter skin[i], but all skin types can be vulnerable to hyperpigmentation, a skin condition caused by the over-production of a dark pigment called Melanin[ii].


What causes hyperpigmentation?

Exactly how hyperpigmentation affects the skin can vary, depending on the cause of the hyperpigmentation and your ethnicity.



Hyperpigmentation in darker skin is thought to be produced as a result of an injury to the skin[iii], with some suggesting that cuts, acne, eczema and even insect bites could trigger the over production of Melanin[iv]. When Melanin reaches the upper skin layers it becomes visible in the form of patches of dark skin and causes the skin tone to look discoloured and uneven.


In Caucasian skin, it is thought that hyperpigmentation is triggered by sun exposure[iv] because Melanin is one of the skin’s natural defences against UV damage. It is produced in the lower dermis and helps the skin to filter out UV light. We shed skin cells from the epidermis daily and over time the Melanin produced to defend the skin comes to the surface, causing patches of dark pigment to become visible. You can find signs of hyperpigmentation all over the body but, due to the amount of sun exposure they receive, our hands, forearms and face are particularly vulnerable to the condition[v].


Hormonal changes can affect the amount of Melanin we produce too[ii]. Women of menopausal age may find their skin becomes particularly vulnerable to hyperpigmentation, and pregnant women may experience a form of hyperpigmentation called melasma. This is a temporary form of facial hyperpigmentation that usually fades once the pregnancy is over[vi]. Pregnant women may also develop linea nigra, a form of hyperpigmentation which affects the abdomen[vii].


Is hyperpigmentation preventable? 

Your chance of experiencing hyperpigmentation can vary with many factors but regardless of whether the condition emerges as a result of your ethnicity, age or genetics, it is unlikely to fade on its own, unless caused by pregnancy. This being said there are several things you can do to limit its impact on your skin tone:



A review of clinical research recently revealed that several natural botanics, including mulberry, could be effective at reducing hyperpigmentation in the skin. According to the review, published in February 2018, azelaic acid, soy, lignin peroxidase, ascorbic acid iontophoresis, arbutin, ellagic acid, liquorice extracts, niacinamide and mulberry all showed promise as natural treatments for patients with hyperpigmentation[viii].

Green People has long recognised the benefit of plant-based skin care and we combine White Mulberry Bark with Cucumber Seed and Hibiscus extracts in our Age Defy+ 24 Hour Brightening Cream. Designed to deliver intense skin hydration whilst reducing age spots, fine lines and wrinkles thanks to the slightly exfoliating effect of the organic acids found in Hibiscus, it helps to speed up cell turnover. In addition to this, the combination of Cucumber Seed, White Mulberry Bark and Hibiscus extracts produces a synergistic action which, when used daily, has been shown to reduce melanin production and even the skin tone.

Age Defy+ Brightening Moisturiser 30ml

Age Defy+ Brightening Moisturiser 30ml

Innovative moisturiser to target age spots and boost skin-cell metabolism



Our skin sheds and develops cells all the time and exfoliating regularly can bring younger, brighter skin cells to the surface. To remove old, hardened skin from the surface be sure to opt for an exfoliator containing Pineapple extract such as Green People’s Age Defy+ Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator. Made with high-potency enzymes from Pineapple, it gently dissolves the bond that holds dead skin and hard skin cells to the skin’s surface



Hyperpigmentation can become darker and more noticeable in sunny weather. To minimise its visibility the British Association of Dermatologists recommends applying a broad-spectrum sun lotion and shield the face from UV light by wearing a sun hat[v].


Scent Free Facial Sun Cream - SPF30 50ml

Scent Free Facial Sun Cream - SPF30 50ml

High factor, scent-free SPF30 facial sun cream for sensitive skin


Age Defy+ Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator 30ml

Age Defy+ Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator 30ml

A facial exfoliator to deliver skin clarity and a refined, revived complexion


Edelweiss Sun Cream with Tan Accelerator - SPF15 100ml

Edelweiss Sun Cream with Tan Accelerator - SPF15 100ml

Travel-size organic SPF15 sun cream with tan accelerator


Scent Free Sun Cream - SPF30 200ml

Scent Free Sun Cream - SPF30 200ml

High factor fragrance-free SPF30 sun cream suitable for sensitive skin



Please note, according to The British Association of Dermatologists, hyperpigmentation conditions such as Melasma are often harmless and should not cause discomfort or cause for concern. However, we should all proactively check for changes to the skin and The British Association of Dermatologists, recommends that, if you are concerned about any skin changes, you should seek guidance from your GP or a Dermatologist[v].

Have you been affected by hyperpigmentation? Let us know by using #GreenYourRoutine on social.

[i] http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120529-does-darker-skin-not-wrinkle

[ii] https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/beauty/a8974/how-to-handle-hyperpigmentation/

[iii] https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/beauty/a8989/banish-hyperpigmentation-in-ethnic-skin/

[iv] https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/skin-conditions-people-with-dark-skin#1

[v] http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/patient-information

[vi] https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-melasma-pregnancy-mask-on-cheek

[vii] https://patient.info/doctor/physiological-changes-in-pregnancy