Pigmentation is triggered by a number of stimulatory factors, with sunlight being the most powerful stimulant. Other factors include many oral medications, hormones such as oral contraceptive and also pregnancy. Inflammation and irritation, including acne, can also lead to pigmentation, particularly in darker skin types.

It is the same basic process for everyone, however each person is more or less sensitive to the various factors. A suntan is the skins normal reaction to UV exposure. over the next 2-3 days a tan develops. Over the next few months that tan gradually begins to fade, however for many (particularly with ongoing sun exposure and skin damage), the pigment does not dissipate normally, and they are left with blotchy, uneven skin tone. Also for many people it can take very little stimulation to end up with big pigmentation problems ie: the skin is over producing melanin in certain areas.


  1.   Genetic predisposition: darker skin types will develop more hyperpigmentation. Their melanocytes are more reactive to stimulation from sun exposure, inflammation, irritation or skin injury
  2.   Sun exposure: This is the main cause of hyperpigmentation
  3.   Oral and topical medications: including contraceptive pill and antibiotics, but there are many medications that make the skin more sensitive to the sun and pigmentation
  4.   Biological effects: e.g. pregnancy and even normal ageing.


There are many variables of uneven skin tone and these are the ones we commonly see at Prescription Skin Care

  •         Age spots or liver spots (not actually caused by ageing but more that they appear as we age due to the number of years of sun exposure).
  •         Photodamaged/sundamaged skin – blotchy uneven skin tone
  •         Melasma or chloasma – hormonally hyperpigmented areas, common during pregnancy and from oral contraceptive
  •         Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation – more common in olive and darker skin types that tan more easily. This is where trauma or injury to the skin e.g a superficial burn or graze heals and leaves a darker appearance.


REMOVE TRIGGERS: Sun avoidance where possible and absolutely essential is sun protection. This is the most important step – I can’t stress it enough, as sunlight is the most powerful stimulant. Obviously some triggers cannot be removed e.g. pregnancy or some medications. Following pregnancy pigment will tend to improve, but of course this can be helped with products and treatments. With inflammatory conditions such as acne, we need to control and treat the acne and inflammation to improve the post inflammatory pigmentation.

Treatment #1: Medical Grade Skin Care Products

Zinc based sunscreen

Although the SPF is always a good guide of sun protection, it does not tell us how much UVA protection the product offers. When it comes to treating pigmentation, it is UVA we need to protect against and the ingredient we need for this is zinc oxide. Sunscreens have come a long way and in the medical skin care market we have sunscreens with added skin care benefits, that are more cosmetically elegant, and help to treat sun damage and pigment as well as protect from future damage. ELTA MD SUNSCREENS WITH 9% ZINC OXIDE. Our most popular are the UV clear spf 46 (perfect for those wanting a light sunscreen or those with oily skin or acne. Also contains ingredients to help with acne; UV daily SPF 40 which contains a light hyaluronic acid mosituriser so no need to add extra moisturiser under, and perfect under makeup. Also UV facial spf 30 for dry skin as this is creamier and more moisturising. At $55 probably your best beauty product both in the fight against pigmentation and general skin ageing. 

Skin lighteners

New formulations have safer ingredients for both preventing pigmentation and treating existing pigmentation. They are more powerful and more effective than previous skin lightening products. Ingredients include tyrosinase inhibitors that limit the synthesis of melanin; antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, including vitamin C which along with being an antioxidant is a tyrosinase inhibitor, and newer ingredients that prevent the transfer of pigment to other skin cells and that way the pigment is not visible.

See info on lytera and also PCA pigment gel

Topical exfoliation and stimulation products

Namely AHA’s and vitamin A. Many of these ingredients are also natural skin lighteners, but they also work to speed up the progression of pigmented cells to the skin surface and of course their removal. By reducing the build up of dead skin cells on the skins surface they remove pigment in the upper layers and unveil healthier skin. These products also allow better penetration of other ingredients such as lighteners and antioxidants.

Ideally, treatment products for pigmentation will contain many key ingredients in one product. We have a product which contains AHA’s, vitamin A, antioxidants and tyrosinase inhibitors.

Treatment #2 : Lightening & Brightening Skin Peels

These are not scary hide away peels, but rather are skin healthy peels designed to lighten pigmentation and improve overall skin texture and tone. They are used in combination with skin lightening products and sunscreen. They offer faster more dramatic results. The peels increase cell turnover and exfoliate the skin, again making your home care products more effective. If you have a rough uneven texture, there will be more gathering of pigment.

Treatment#3: IPL/Limelight  & Acutip Treatments

These are medical grade pulsed light treatments that are exceptionally effective at treating pigmentation on virtually any part of your body. The face , neck and backs of the hands are popular treatment areas. Larger areas such as the whole face can be treated, or with the specialised acutip treatment, individual smaller patches can be treated. A significant difference can be seen after one to two treatments, however often a course of four treatments is recommend for the ultimate result.

Everyone’s skin type and pigment type and severity is different and therefore a consultation is the first step to find out which products and treatments will get the best results. There is something for everyone.

Studies have shown, when looking at perceived age of subjects, pigmentation irregularities was a stronger determinant of age than wrinkles.