Hyperpigmentation: Dealing with uneven skin tone

Hyperpigmentation, or uneven skin tone, is a common complaint that can be successfully treated with the right plan.

Brown spots or patchy brown marks on the skin are often known as hyperpigmentation, or uneven skin tone.

The condition can be successfully treated, but first you need to identify the cause to establish the best course of action to take.

What causes uneven skin tone?

There are a number of triggers for hyperpigmentation, with exposure to the sun’s UV rays the most common, according to Qr8 MediSkin founder and skin scientist Dr Michele Squire.

“It can sometimes be influenced by hormones such as melisma, which can occur during pregnancy; as a result of a skin trauma or injury such as after a pimple heals,” Dr Squire says.

She says “chronic sun exposure” also causes hyperpigmentation, and it appears as “age spots, or liver spots” as we grow older.

What can you do about hyperpigmentation?

Protecting yourself when in the sun is the first (and most inexpensive) step in managing uneven skin tone.

Dr Squires recommends developing a daily sun protection routine, including applying sunscreen, seeking shade and wearing protective clothing when you are outdoors.

“Without addressing sun protection behaviours, and proper use of sunscreen, there is absolutely no point in spending time and money treating pigmentation,” Dr Squire says.


Once you have ticked the sun protection box, you could try skincare designed to treat uneven skin tone.

Dr Squire says prescription topical treatment creams with hydroquinone (in triple therapy with hydrocortisone and tretinoin) can help treat hyperpigmentation, and is seen as “the gold standard treatment”.

This can help with pigment removal, along with enhancing the skin’s natural protective measures and also reducing the production of melanin (the skin’s natural pigment).

If you want to take it a step further, Dr Squire says clinical treatments such as peels, laser and lights are designed to fade pigmentation.

“Just ensure your therapist has experience with these modalities, and can accurately diagnose the type of pigmentation you have,” she says.

How make-up can help hyperpigmentation

In the interim, cosmetics are an effective way to address hyperpigmentation but make-up artist Zoe Slatyer says it’s important for “skin to still look like skin”.

When covering any form of pigmentation, ensure the skin is well hydrated by following your usual skincare routine (and ensuring product is absorbed) prior to applying any product, Zoe advises.

This will allow the foundation to be more easily buffed into the skin using a foundation brush, and will achieve a more natural finish.

To ensure lasting coverage, Zoe says to opt for a full-coverage foundation, such as double wear, or one that is silicone based.

“Apply the foundation a little at a time and blend in,” she says.

“Then using a concealer that is the same colour as your foundation/skin, use a small brush and tap gently over the area so it blends in, and lightly press with your finger.”

Written by Tania Gomez.