Hyperpigmentation vs. Melasma: Differences, Causes, and Best Treatments at Sakhiya Skin Clinic

Difference between hyperpigmentation and melasma

In simple terms, skin discolouration of any type like dark spots, sun damage, acne scars, age spots, or melasma is known as hyperpigmentation. On the other hand, melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that can be caused by various reasons and hence requires different treatment. There is a sleek difference between the two, as these are represented more or less in a similar fashion. Read further to know the differences between the two.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Melanin is a pigment in the body that gives skin its colour. Hence, hyperpigmentation is nothing but skin discolouration due to this increased melanin. This can happen from inflammatory conditions like acne, injury, medication and UV exposure along with the aforementioned factors.

The simple reason is that these things trigger melanocytes (cells that make pigment in the skin) and that causes the cells to drop the melanin in abundance at the lower levels of the skin. This eventually leads to skin discolouration mainly in the form of freckles or patches. The affected skin appears to be darker than the surrounding skin.

Hyperpigmentation is most common in people with dark skin tones as the amount of melanin is already higher in them which gets triggered by any of the aforementioned external factors. Majorly there are three types of this pigmentation disorder namely, melasma, age spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

There can be a variety of causes of hyperpigmentation, the most common ones are mentioned below.

UV Exposure

Due to long sun and UV exposure, more melanin is produced in order to shield the skin. This causes sun damage and dark spots/ age spots/ sun spots.

Skin inflammation

If people have skin inflammation due to any reason including lupus, eczema, acne or any injury, certain areas of the skin get darker which is technically known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Reaction to medications

There are certain drugs like oral contraceptives, antimalarial and antidepressants, that may cause grey patches on the skin. Topical application of certain medicines also causes hyperpigmentation at times.


There are certain medical conditions like thyroid, hemochromatosis and Addison’s disease that can cause hyperpigmentation in certain body areas like elbows and knees, knuckles, etc.

Miscellaneous reasons

There can also be reasons like genetic factors of a family with acne or freckles, and lack of certain vitamins like folic acid and vitamin B12.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a skin condition that is featured by different coloured patches, majorly brown, blue-greyish or something like freckles. As aforementioned, it happens due to the overproduction of melanocytes that darken the skin colour. This is generally harmless and fades in a few months/years but treatments are there if the person wants those patches to be removed sooner.

Skin discolouration under melasma happens majorly on the forearms, forehead, upper lips and cheeks. It’s a very common skin pigmentation disorder that leaves blue-grey, light brown or dark brown patches on the skin. This can be either flat patches or spread like freckles. This generally affects pregnant women and is known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’. This doesn’t harm the person but makes him/her self-conscious.

 ➞ चेहरे पर काले दाग को हटाये | Melasma Pigmentation Causes & Treatment

Causes of Melasma

Melasma can be stimulated by numerous factors, major ones are mentioned below.

Sun exposure

Just like hyperpigmentation, skin pigmentation due to melasma is also triggered by UV exposure. Sun damage is real and heat stimulates the melanocytes, hence causing melasma.


It has been reported in a study that approximately 33-50% of the people having melasma have at least one person in their family who also has melasma. So, yes genetics also play a key role in developing melasma in a person.


Hormonal changes majorly occur during pregnancy and the quantum of estrogen and progesterone increases during this period. These hormonal triggers play a major role in developing melasma.

These are also affected due to birth control pills as such pills contain the aforementioned hormones. Sometimes, women are given progesterone post-menopause as well. This may also cause melasma in them.

Medications and medical conditions

Certain drugs like anti seizure medication, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, retinoids, antipsychotics, diuretics, hypoglycemics, etc. can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. Skin conditions like hypothyroidism also cause skin pigmentation.

LED Lights

LED screens of electronic gadgets like televisions, mobile phones, tablets etc. emit radiations that cause melasma.

Cosmetic products

Cosmetic products nowadays contain chemicals that may cause phototoxic reactions, leading to melasma in the users. If a product irritates your skin, it would worsen your melasma.

Hyperpigmentation or Melasma: How to tell the difference?

Hyperpigmentation Vs Melasma

Since both look like dark patches on the skin, it can be a little difficult to identify whether it’s hyperpigmentation or melasma. So here are a few hints that can help you find the difference.


Peeping at history can help in clearing the doubt. If you are on medication or any therapy that causes hormone fluctuations, there is a high probability that you have melasma.

If you have been moving out in the Sun without applying sunscreen, you are most likely to cause hyperpigmentation.

Patch pattern

The pattern of the patches also determines if it’s melasma or hyperpigmentation. If the patches are focused, isolated and uneven, it’s hyperpigmentation and if the patches are broad and scattered but symmetrical, it’s melasma.


The patches of melasma occur mostly on the face, especially the forehead, cheeks, nose and upper lips. On the other hand, hyperpigmentation can occur on any part of the body including the back, arms, legs and chest.



The most common symptoms of hyperpigmentation are-

  • Dark-coloured age spots on the skin,
  • Uneven patches of skin pigmentation,
  • It can occur on the whole body,
  • Skin discoloration after inflammation and
  • Raised dark patches on the skin.


The most common symptoms of melasma are-

  • Dark brown, light brown, blue-greyish patches, red and inflamed or freckle-like spots on the skin,
  • Melasma can appear on any part or the whole of the face.

Best Treatment Options for Hyperpigmentation and Melasma

It’s always good to know the reasons behind skin pigmentation to treat the same.

Treatment options for melasma

Melasma is generally harmless but treatments are available for those who want it for aesthetic purposes.


Retinoids are best for lightening and evening the skin tone by promoting the skin cell turnover. Pregnant women are not recommended to use retinoids. Hence, melasma caused due to pregnancy can’t and shouldn’t be treated with retinoids.


Hydroquinone has the property of reducing the melanocytes which in a way, bleaches the skin. The skin lightening cream containing hydroquinone helps reduce the visibility of patches gradually.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid promotes cell turnover, exfoliates the skin and brings out healthier and newer skin. It also has antioxidant properties that remove free radicals and brighten the complexion.

Kojic Acid

Kojic acid is derived from certain species of fungi and is used in skin and cosmetic products. It prevents the production of tyrosine, an amino acid converted by tyrosinase (an enzyme located in melanocytes). This eventually reduces melanin, improves the complexion and reduces the dark patches.

Treatment options for Hyperpigmentation

Treatment options for melasma can also be used for hyperpigmentation as the target is more or less the same, the dark spots. However, topical treatments work far more effectively for hyperpigmentation as skin discolouration here is majorly caused by UV exposure.

Vitamin C

Hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage or excessive UV exposure is treated by skin brightening products that contain vitamin C as vitamin C reduces the synthesis of melanin, slows down the skin’s darkening and evens the skin tone.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels remove the upper layers of skin that are darkened due to hyperpigmentation. Glycolic Acid Peels and Salicylic Acid Peels are the most effective ones used for treating this type of pigmentation disorder.

Laser therapy

Skin laser resurfacing helps in removing the damaged epidermis and promoting cell turnover and eventually, collagen production. This helps in reducing the visibility of dark spots and skin discolouration. The most popular ones are Intense Pulse Light, PicoSure, CO2 laser resurfacing and Q-Switch Laser.


Microneedling uses super fine needles to break down the melanin pigment below the skin surface without damaging the upper layer of skin. It boosts collagen production and repairs the skin.


Microdermabrasion uses a handheld device to remove the topmost layer of skin. This procedure plumps up the skin, boosts collagen production and removes fine lines and wrinkles.

Hyperpigmentation and melasma both cause the skin tone to turn darker than the normal one. Both are harmless and can be treated cosmetically. Certain precautions need to be taken to enhance the effects on skin health like applying topical creams, sun protection, home remedies, etc.

If the concern seems to be tougher, dermatologist advice is recommended. The aforementioned treatments are available at all the branches of Sakhiya Skin Clinic as well. Our skilled staff and experienced dermatologists treat hyperpigmentation as well as melasma efficiently.

We serve people of northern and western India in prominent cities including Surat, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Mumbai, Anand, Ankleshwar, Bharuch, Bardoli, Valsad, Vapi, Navsari and Nandurbar.