This is how skin peels fix hyper pigmentation

The long-term treatments for dark spots, freckles and Melasma may differ, but chemical skin peels are ideal for removing existing hyper pigmentation.


Hyper pigmentation is extremely common in our sunny South Africa. And it only gets worse in summer. That’s why chemical skin peels are such a popular choice for achieving and maintaining your ideal tone of skin.

Now, we already know that most conventional sun-protection measures are less than ideal. Even sunscreen offering SPF 50 is only effective about 53% of the time. And, apart from the far longer lasting effects of premature ageing, the sun also causes visible patches of dark, hyperpigmented skin.


What is hyper pigmentation?

All skins contain pigment (colour); some just have a little more than others. But all of us want to have the same, even tone amount of colour in our face. Nobody likes dark spots, splotches or patches of skin, which is why science has long searched for the answers to what is one of the most difficult skin conditions to treat: hyper pigmentation.

If pigmentation is normal – basically the amount of the organic granule melanin contained in skin cells – then hyper pigmentation is an abnormal amount (too much) pigment in the skin. For various reasons, the skin or parts of it starts producing too much melanin, and you’re left with an uneven skin tone and dark spots on the face.

The result is hyper pigmentation: areas of skin with spots, splotches, freckles or patches that are darker the skin around it.


We distinguish between 3 main types of hyper pigmentation :

  • Sun-induced hyper pigmentation

Please note that the sun not only causes this condition by itself, but it will also exacerbate any other or existing hyper pigmentation. Basically, rule one when starting treatment on any kind of hyper pigmentation is: avoid the sun and wear lots and lots of sunscreen – all the time.

This is because the pigment in our skins, melanin, is actually a kind of natural built-in sunscreen. Melanin exists in skin to absorb UV rays, before they can do more serious damage like sunburn or irreparable DNA damage in skin. And the body’s natural response to sun exposure is to create more melanin to try and better protect itself.

But by doing so, the body often creates uneven amounts of melanin, and you’re left with dark spots on the face. Most types of hyper pigmentation you can think of, freckles, sun spots and age spots, are all caused by the sun.

See our article on sun protection for summer here.


  • Hormonal causes such as melasma (common during and after pregnancy)

This one is caused by hormone fluctuations, and almost 70% of pregnant women will experience it to some extent. But, while pregnancy is a big trigger for it, even birth control and the slightest change in oestrogen levels can cause melasma. Thyroid dysfunction is also a possible cause.

What happens is that melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin in the skin) are very sensitive to hormone levels in the body. If there’s a hormone imbalance, melanocytes tend to overproduce melanin. And the dark spots appear.

As mentioned before, the sun makes it worse. Your melasma could disappear with time, but overindulge just a little in the sun and it could come right back.


  • Post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation (to do with scarring and acne)

The only time “post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation” is funny, is when you convince your tipsy friend to try and say it fast several times at a party. PIH is discoloration of the skin after it’s been damaged: bad acne, burns, wounds that form scars, excessive skin irritation and some skin disorders. And it is most common or visible in darker skin types.

What happens here is that the injury causes inflammation, and many of the molecules the body naturally releases to the inflamed area have a tendency to “aggravate” melanocytes in the area. These start producing excess melanin and hyper pigmentation is the result. PIH in the top, epidermal layers of skin is sometimes less visible, but when the damage goes as deep as the dermis you could end up seeing a blue-grey skin discoloration.


Treating hyper pigmentation

Long-term treatments may differ for the underlying causes of the different types of hyper pigmentation. But all treatments will contain a more immediate element, for helping you get rid of any existing dark skin in the meantime.


Firstly – Protect

As we’ve already mentioned, sun protection is an absolutely crucial part of treating any kind of pigmentation. It’s a case of wearing sunscreen all the time, every day, to help with the repair and lightening, as well as to prevent recurring hyper pigmentation.

“You need to be diligent with your sunscreen use,” Dr Wagemaker advises. “Preferably wear a hat and stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Because this allows those pigment-forming cells to calm down and to work less aggressively.”

Sun protection alone could help lighten most hyper pigmentation within about four to eight weeks. But to fast track recovery, you’ll need to lighten the skin to restore normal skin tone.


In some instances like when hormones are to blame, or severe acne, oral therapies as prescribed by a doctor. This might be necessary to help manage the root causes, but treating the hyper pigmentation itself really comes down to lightening the skin.

This is where specialist treatments such as chemical peels or laser exfoliation come in.


Types of skin peels used for hyper pigmentation:

Your skincare therapist or doctor will advise you which peel is best for your particular case. But, in general, there are three main types of skin peels commonly used to treat hyper pigmentation.

  • Glycolic acid – Part of the fruit acid family, glycolic acid peels are alpha-hydroxy acid and one of the mildest and most popular types of skin peels available. Used to treat epidermal hyper pigmentation (on the surface layers of the skin), it’s an ideal lunchtime peel since there’s no downtime after the treatment.


  • Salicylic acid – Called beta-hydroxy acid, the alpha’s slightly harder working cousin. Salicylic acid peels also exfoliate (make skin shed) the top layers of skin like alpha peels, but they have an added antibacterial effect and helps clean and renew pores in the face.  Salicylic acid peels are used to treat all three types of hyper pigmentation. But, like alpha peels, only a qualified skincare therapist or doctor can do the treatment on you.
  • TCA – TCA is an acid commonly used in medicine to destroy or kill unwanted skin imperfections, such as warts. Thus, TCA peels (a variation specifically designed to be used as a peel on the face) are stronger and penetrate deeper than the other peels. It’s used to treat really deep-seated hyper pigmentation.


The most notable differences between this peel and others are that TCA peels will cause your skin to visibly shed (there might be a little downtime involved)

Because they exfoliate and promote new cell turnover, skin peels speed up the treatment of any kind of hyper pigmentation.

Read more on type of peels in our blog article of – What are chemical peels and how do they work?



How to maintain going forward

Once one’s skin is lightened and the pigmentation returns to normal, using sun protection remains very important. If not only to prevent future flare-ups of hyper pigmentation, then also to combat skin ageing. The two can be closely linked: the same sun that’s causing/worsening hyper pigmentation is also ageing your skin.

That’s why most therapists will recommend a third step to combating hyper pigmentation (and ageing at the same time): Ovelle D3. Made with Pycnogenol®, a patented natural plant extract made from the French Maritime Pine Tree and the most powerful oral antioxidant known to man, Ovelle D3 not only binds to and protects collagen and elastin fibres in skin, but also shuts down collagen breakdown.

Ovelle D3 also reduces pigmentation by 37% (especially hormonally-induced) from the inside. And on top of that, it contains Vitamin D3, which is vital for a healthy nervous system, bones and heart.


To find out more or book a treatment, contact:
079 351 1771