Urban Effects MedSpa Blog

Hyperpigmentation and Melasma — the Differences and How to Treat Them

Posted by Susan Cross on Dec 11, 2018 1:44:00 PM


Hyperpigmentation is very common and can people unhappy with the appearance of their skin. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that many types of hyperpigmentation, including melasma, are different conditions with different causes and symptoms. Fortunately, effective treatments are available for various types so you can keep your skin looking beautiful. 



Melasma causes grey-brown patches on the skin, primarily on the face. Affecting upwards of 5 million Americans, it is a common condition. Although they’re not dangerous, people who develop these patches are often unhappy with the appearance of the discoloration.

The specific cause of melasma is not fully understood, but it is believed to be triggered by hormonal changes, UV exposure, and skin irritation. These factors can cause melanocytes, the color-making cells in the skin, to over-produce pigment in certain areas, resulting in the darker spots.

In general, women are more likely than men to develop melasma, and it is particularly prevalent during pregnancy. People with darker skin and those with relatives who have melasma are also more likely to develop the condition. 



Hyperpigmentation refers to any condition in which patches of skin become darker than the surrounding skin. It includes melasma as well as sun or age spots, freckles, and discoloration caused by acne scarring, eczema, psoriasis, burns, surgical incisions, and other factors.

Unlike melasma, sun spots are not caused by changes in hormone levels; instead, extended sun exposure is to blame. These patches are smaller than melasma and can affect both men and women of all skin colors. 



Melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation have different causes, but sunscreen is a crucial part of effectively preventing all types. If your skin looks like it’s developing melasma or another type of hyperpigmentation, try applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher once every two hours. Sunscreens with higher SPF are generally more effective in preventing sunburns and preventing and lessening the effects of melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation. Since the sun’s UV rays magnify hyperpigmentation by stimulating the melanocytes that over-product pigment, using sunscreen alongside your treatment method will help make it more effective.

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Prevention is only half of the solution when it comes to this type of skin condition. Fortunately, there are efficient and effective treatment options available for people who are already experiencing hyperpigmentation!

Cutera’s Secret RF microneedling technology can lighten pigmentation by stimulating your body to produce new collagen, creating a more consistent color. Secret RF combines the benefits of both microneedling and radio frequency (RF) treatments by delivering radio frequency treatment from the tips of microneedles. These needles are adjustable, meaning Secret RF can precisely treat different levels of your skin based on your specific concerns. By delivering radiofrequency waves exactly where your body needs them, Secret RF promotes collagen production and creates fresher, younger-looking skin. One study even found that four microneedling treatments spaced one month apart quadrupled collagen production! This combination makes Secret RF far more precise and efficient than just microneedling or RF treatments alone. And, a Secret RF treatment only takes 20 minutes, so it can fit easily into your daily schedule.

Another treatment option is Obagi Nu-Derm, a professional, prescription skin care product that can be applied at home to treat age spots and other types of hyperpigmentation. The product contains 4% hydroquinone, which is recommended for treating hyperpigmentation.

Additionally, Forever Young BroadBand Light (BBL) is a light therapy treatment that can reduce the signs of aging and discoloration from sun exposure—and it provides the option of personalized treatments to fit your individual needs. BBL heats the upper layers of skin, causing cells to regenerate and leaving your skin looking fresh and rejuvenated. Results are visible and long-lasting after just one treatment! 


Ultimately, the best treatment for any type of discoloration will be determined by your skin care professional. The treatment that works for you may not be the same one that produces results for someone else, so it’s important to let a professional provide tailored treatments to best address your hyperpigmentation issue. For continued advice about ways to keep your skin healthy, refreshed, and looking beautiful, subscribe to our blog! 


Topics: skin wellness, skin care products, microneedling, light treatment, rf treatments