Knowing the Difference Between Hyperpigmentation and Melasma

Knowing the Difference Between Hyperpigmentation and Melasma

When you have dark spots on your face that don’t look like the rest of your skin tone, it can make your skin look uneven and unhealthy. Two of the most common skin conditions that cause this issue are hyperpigmentation and melasma.

Although melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation, not all types of hyperpigmentation are melasma. Find out from Joseph Fodero, MD, PA, and licensed aesthetician Luba Lander, of Northeastern Plastic Surgery in Florham Park, New Jersey, the difference between hyperpigmentation and melasma and the available treatment options.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that causes patches or spots of your skin to be darker than the rest of your skin. There are many causes of hyperpigmentation, including:

Hyperpigmentation can appear anywhere on your body. Sun-induced hyperpigmentation most often occurs in areas where you get the most exposure to the sun, like your face and hands.

Other types of hyperpigmentation can appear anywhere on your skin where you get inflammation or a rash. The spots often appear more dramatic in areas that get more sun exposure.

What is melasma?

Melasma is a specific type of hyperpigmentation that occurs almost exclusively in women. It most frequently occurs during pregnancy or in women taking oral contraceptives with estrogen. It tends to be worse in women with darker skin.

Like other forms of hyperpigmentation, melasma can become worse from sun exposure. However, it’s not triggered by skin rashes, irritation, or direct sunlight.

Treating hyperpigmentation and melasma

Treatments for hyperpigmentation and melasma are similar. However, melasma treatments are most successful if they also address the underlying hormonal issues that cause it.

If melasma develops as a result of pregnancy, giving birth can cause the hormones to rebalance and the issue to go away. Changing to a different type of contraceptive and taking certain medications can also treat melasma.

When hyperpigmentation is inflammatory in nature, treating the cause of the irritation is similarly important. Topical or oral medications to treat acne, eczema, or other skin issues can stop melasma from occurring.

Skin care that can treat both conditions includes:

Sun prevention and protection

Avoiding the sun as much as possible helps reduce the size and appearance of hyperpigmentation and melasma. Make sure to wear sunscreen at all times when you’re outside and reapply regularly.

Topical creams

The right combination of topical creams that address the cause of your hyperpigmentation or melasma can treat the conditions. Licensed aesthetician Luba Lander chooses the right combination of products to treat your unique needs.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels gently exfoliate your skin to reveal new, fresh skin underneath. This skin is usually more even in tone and less impacted by melasma and hyperpigmentation.

Laser treatment

NeoSkin by Aerolase® is a sophisticated laser treatment that quickly and effectively treats hyperpigmentation and melasma spots. Aerolase uses selective heat energy to penetrate damaged skin, helping break up and treat these spots for good.

Hyperpigmentation and melasma aren’t dangerous, but they can cause unsightly spots that make you self-conscious about your appearance. Thankfully, the right combination of nonsurgical remedies fixes the problem for good.


To find out more about which treatment is right for you, contact us to make an appointment.

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