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Hyperpigmentation (Age Spots), Chloasma & Melasma

Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the surrounding area. Hyperpigmentation is usually harmless and can affect the skin color of people of any race. It is caused by an excess production of melanin, the brown pigment present in the skin. Hyperpigmentation can be widespread (diffuse) or localized (focal) such as in the face or hands. Common types include lentigines (often called age spots or liver spots) and melasma (also known as chloasma). With the proper treatment, melanin-induced pigmentation variance can be reduced and effectively controlled to reflect the skin's natural tones.

Lentigines are generally dark, uneven patches of skin. Age spots or liver spots are actually solar lentigines, usually appearing as dark patches on areas frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the hands and face.

Melasma or chloasma spots are similar in appearance to age spots, but are triggered by changes in hormones and can appear in areas such as the abdomen that are not frequently exposed to the sun. Melasma is often associated with pregnancy or with certain medications.

 What is melanin?

Melanin is produced by melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanin is a class of pigments, responsible for producing color in the body, such as in the skin, eyes, and hair. As our skin, eye, and hair color are genetically determined, so are the distribution and types of melanin present in our body. Melanin acts as a natural sunscreen when stimulated by sunlight. Melanin converts UV rays to usable forms of energy in the body, reducing free radicals that can damage cells. Excess or uneven melanin production can be triggered by sun exposure, hormones, or
certain medications.

 How do lentigines form?

As our body matures, cellular processes decrease and skin tissue has a reduced capacity for regeneration and repair. Skin damage or trauma from burns or blisters can result in temporary loss of pigment as the dermal layers regenerate and cellular processes are restored. Consequently, melanocytes may not be as diffuse in the basal layer of the damaged tissue. When melanin is produced, the uneven distribution of melanocytes results in age spots or lentigines.

 What causes melasma?

An increase in melanin production can be stimulated by hormones or by synthetic hormones in medications. Chloasma is synonymous with melasma, usually referring to hyperpigmentation associated with pregnancy (also called the mask of pregnancy). Melasma can also be triggered in some individuals by birth control pills or thyroid medication. Hormonal changes effect focal hyperpigmentation through melanocyte-stimulating hormones. Melasma is generally transient and resolves when hormone balance is stabilized-after pregnancy or when medication is stopped.

 What causes hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is stimulated chemically by the effects of the sun's rays, by hormones, or by medication, increasing melanin production and resulting in darker skin (e.g., a tan). The excessive production of melanin is characterized as hyperpigmentation, a condition that has the ability to compound, further darkening areas that were previously hyperpigmented (melanin is accumulated locally).

 How is hyperpigmentation treated?

Though hyperpigmentation is usually harmless and can subside on its own (e.g., hormone- or medication-induced hyperpigmentation dissipates once the imbalance is restored), it can be treated topically with products containing alpha hydroxy acid, vitamin A or alpha arbutin to improve tone and promote cell turnover. An optimal treatment strategy follows a multimodal approach using natural active ingredients to stimulate melanocyte degeneration, promote skin repair through keratolysis and support regeneration through hydration and collagen production: a mild peel used in conjunction with alpha arbutin and rejuvenation agents (such as those in the Advanced Melanin Repair Serum) is an effective approach.

 Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) - Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is the preferred form of AHA in topical applications because it is a small, water-soluble molecule, better able to penetrate the epidermal layer. Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and promotes keratolysis (exfoliation) which also stimulates collagen synthesis for repair and rejuvenation of the underlying tissue. As our body matures, cellular processes slow down; glycolic acid stimulates the natural mechanisms to shed the epidermal layer and to reduce the variance in pigmentation. In doing so, it supports hydration of the underlying cells for continued rejuvenation effects of enhanced texture and tone. For more information about glycolic acid, click here.

High concentrations of glycolic acid can cause burns and irritation. KAVI Glycolic Acid products are available in highly purified therapeutic concentrations and contain a buffered formulation to reduce the risk of burns. All KAVI Glycolic Acid treatments are prepared with naturally soothing witch hazel to reduce inflammation (instead of SD alcohol which can dehydrate the tissues). For more information on choosing the appropriate glycolic acid product for your skin needs, click here.

 Alpha Arbutin

Extracted from the bearberry plant, arbutin is a non-phenol alternative to hydroquinone. Arbutin has been used to effectively treat hyperactive melanocytes that induce hyperpigmentation. Topical application of arbutin has a two-fold effect: it inhibits melanocyte activity and it supports the breakdown of melanin in the basal layer of the epidermis. With regular use, the darkened patches will fade to match the surrounding skin. For more information on alpha arbutin, click here.

The KAVI Advanced Melanin Repair Serum contains a combination of active ingredients formulated to correct pigmentation and promote skin rejuvenation: alpha arbutin to correct pigmentation variance, glycolic acid to promote collagen synthesis and hyaluronic acid to hydrate the dermal layers for cellular repair. KAVI Advanced Melanin Repair Serum is non-comedogenic and is appropriate to use on all skin types. For more information on the KAVI Advanced Melanin Repair Serum, click here.

 Vitamin A - Retinoids

Retinol is one of the most usable forms of vitamin A, which is essential for proper cellular function. Topical formulations of retinol stimulate keratolysis and promote tissue hydration and dermal repair. Retinol penetrates the skin through the sebaceous glands to produce antiseptic and mild anti-inflammatory effects, reducing acne-causing bacteria and promoting keratolysis by stimulating cell production in the deeper dermal layers. Retinol stimulates normalized cellular function, which includes an increase production of healthy epidermal cells, enhanced collagen production for maintenance of a hydrated scaffold necessary for dermal repair and reduction of melanin synthesis that causes pigmentation. As a topical form of vitamin A, retinol supports normalizing epithelial function with minimal to no systemic absorption. For more information on retinol, click here.

The KAVI Anti-Aging Systems are specially formulated for different skin types. As a form of vitamin A, retinol will degrade over time. KAVI Enhanced Retinol 0.30% includes the benefits of retinol with the stability of a longer shelf life for continued results during treatment and maintenance. KAVI Enhanced Retinol 0.30% is an active ingredient in the KAVI Anti-Aging System II. For more information on KAVI Enhanced Retinol 0.30%, click here.

 What can I expect from treatment?
 Glycolic Acid Masks

When applied to the target area once weekly, keratolysis and rejuvenation effects will yield improvements in texture in as early as two weeks and improvements in tone in as early as six weeks. After the first two peels, skin should appear smoother and brighter. While lines will still be visible, they should be less noticeable than before. Pigmentation variance typically takes longer to correct because spotting tends to extend to deeper layers and requires more time to lift. By twelve weeks, results will be close to optimal levels, and following a four-week hiatus, recommencement at two-week intervals is recommended to maintain skin in peak condition. It is important to note that KAVI's retail line of glycolic acid peels are buffered to safely exfoliate surface layers, and at no time should the skin begin to peel profusely. Acute peeling is an indication that the peel concentration is too strong for your skin and that either a lower-strength peel should be considered or the current peel should be left on for a shorter length of time.

 Alpha Arbutin

Alpha arbutin inhibits melanocyte activity and helps break down melanin in the basal layer. Twice daily application will yield a visual improvement to pigmentation variance beginning from two to four weeks. If used in conjunction with weekly peels using glycolic acid masks, results may be accelerated. Optimal results typically require eight to twelve weeks of treatment. For areas prone to hyperactive melanocyte activity, application once daily following a 12-week treatment cycle can maintain consistent levels of melanin production and serve as a preventive measure against future incidents of hyperpigmentation.


Retinol works both as an anti-aging and an anti-acne agent, stimulating cell turnover and dermal matrix repair, reducing melanin production, and clearing clogged pores of cellular debris, sebum, and acne bacteria. When applied twice daily, the following improvements can be observed in as early as two weeks:

o Reduction in fine lines
o More consistent pigmentation
o Reduction in blackheads and whiteheads
o Improved skin texture
o Strengthened connective tissue

Optimal results can require eight to twelve weeks of treatment, at which time application should be reduced to once per day to maintain results for the longer term.

 What are other options to manage hyperpigmentation? Do they work?

Laser treatment performed in a physician's office has been shown to remove pigment effectively with minimal scarring. However, a test spot must first be treated to determine that the laser procedure does not exacerbate the condition. Prescription creams containing hydroquinone or tretinoin and hydrocortisone can also be applied to produce similar effects as alpha arbutin and retinol. Topical prescription medication may cause irritation to sensitive skin. Chemical or hormonal stimulation of melasma should be treated by a physician.

 How can I avoid hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation can be managed with consistent use of sun block and by limiting exposure to the sun. Even without the sun, however, lentigines can result from stimulation of melanocytes that are unevenly distributed. A comprehensive regimen that employs the KAVI Advanced Melanin Repair Serum in concert with the active ingredients in the KAVI Anti-Aging Systems can balance skin tone and promote skin rejuvenation and repair.

All KAVI products are formulated with natural ingredients that invigorate cellular processes to restore your skin's natural beauty safely and effectively.
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