Changes in Skin Tone: Hyperpigmentation and Hypopigmentation


Changes in skin tone are common. Some patients will experience dark spots such as melasma or post-inflammatory spots after a breakout. Others may experience loss of pigment in the skin from conditions such as vitiligo or albinism.

Both hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation will result in a change in skin color. Anyone is susceptible to either condition based on certain environmental factors and genetics. In many cases, an excess in pigment or loss of pigment is preventable and treatable with the help of a board-certified Atlanta dermatologist.

Dr. Straughn at Buckhead Dermatology in Atlanta and College Park wants to share information about hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation so patients are aware of how these conditions develop, how they can be prevented and how they can be treated. 

What is hyperpigmentation?

When the body produces too much pigment, it is known as hyperpigmentation. Dark spots can come in the form of age spots, acne scars or patches like in melasma. While dark spots can occur anywhere on the body, they most commonly develop on the face. While there are no serious ramifications of hyperpigmentation, many patients want to prevent and treat the dark spots for cosmetic reasons.

Hyperpigmented spots on the skin can form for a number of different reasons. One of the most common reasons people develop dark spots is from sun exposure. Harmful UV rays trigger the body to produce additional pigment in order to protect the skin. The production of excess pigment results in visible dark spots. 

To prevent dark spots from too much sun exposure, it is important that you wear an SPF of at least 30 every day. Anytime you will be exposed to the sun, be sure to wear sun protective clothing. As much as possible, reduce your time outdoors, especially when the sun is at its peak.

Another common form of hyperpigmentation is called melasma. Melasma is often called the “mask of pregnancy” because it is commonly found in pregnant women. It appears as dark patches on the face, often on the forehead, above the lip and on the chin. Melasma is a hormonal response to the changes that occur during pregnancy and from taking oral contraceptives. 

In most cases, melasma will fade over time. If you are experiencing melasma, you should take extra care to protect your skin from the sun. Working with a dermatologist may also help to fade the dark patches more quickly.

Another common reason for hyperpigmentation is post-inflammatory dark spots. If you have acne, burns, cuts or scrapes on your body, your body may respond by producing additional pigment. It may take time for these spots to fade. There are products that may help speed the process along. Consult with your dermatologist to address hyperpigmentation as a result of post-inflammatory dark spots.

What is hypopigmentation? 

In contrast to hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation is a loss of pigment. There are a number of conditions that cause the body to decrease or stop the production of melanin, the pigment found in the pigment-producing cells of the skin. Light or white spots from hypopigmentation are not harmful. But again, many patients seek treatment for cosmetic reasons.

A common form of hypopigmentation is vitiligo. Vitiligo has no clear cause. However, it is considered an autoimmune condition that results in patches of pigment loss on the skin. Albinism is another condition that results in similar types of pigment loss, including the skin, hair and eyes.

In some cases, the body’s response to an injury will result in pigment loss rather than an excess in pigment. Some patients experience loss of pigment on their skin after a burn or skin cancer removal procedure. Just like dark spots, light spots from hypopigmentation should be protected with sunscreen every day. These patches of skin may be very sensitive to UV rays.

Dark Spot Dermatologist Atlanta

If you are noticing dark or light spots or other changes in skin tone, contact Dr. Straughn at Buckhead Dermatology to schedule your appointment. As a leading dermatologist in the area, Dr. Straughn can help you understand the changes in your skin tone and guide you to proper preventative and treatment measures.

With two convenient locations in Atlanta and College Park, our board-certified dermatologist is ready to help you achieve your skin goals.