Skip to content

Follow us!

100-Day Money-Back Guarantee

    Melasma Vs Hyperpigmentation: Understanding The Difference

    Melasma Vs Hyperpigmentation: Understanding The Difference

    Ava Estell Editor Ava Estell Editor
    6 minute read

    If you've heard of melasma, hyperpigmentation may also cross your mind. But are these two the same thing? 

    On darker skin tones, there are many ways dark spots or even brown patches appear on different areas of your skin. But determining the cause may help identify if it's melasma or another type of hyperpigmentation.

    So, what is the difference between melasma vs hyperpigmentation? In this guide, we'll compare these two well-known skin concerns to help you understand what factors apply to each.

    And if you're looking for treatment options to improve discolouration on your skin, keep reading as we go through what may be impacting hyperpigmentation, specifically melasma.

    [Disclaimer: We break down the differences between melasma and hyperpigmentation in this guide and what treatment options work the best. However, if you're unsure about a particular skin concern, consider speaking with a dermatologist.]

    Understanding Melasma vs Hyperpigmentation

    Generally, many use the terms hyperpigmentation and melasma interchangeably, but that isn't completely accurate. So, how can we differentiate melasma vs hyperpigmentation?

    What is Hyperpigmentation?

    Hyperpigmentation is the excess production of melanin, resulting in dark spots and colour imbalance in the skin.

    It can be used as a broad term to describe too much darker pigment appearing due to multiple factors. Different forms of hyperpigmentation include:

    Sun exposure: Excessive sunlight can lead to skin damage because the UV rays harm the skin. Over time, it can look like sunspots, age spots, and even skin burns. It's a common form of hyperpigmentation that even darker skin tones are susceptible to.

    Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This can be due to skin trauma that causes the cells to work to repair the skin. For example, if you scratch your skin, it may initially appear red and inflamed. Over time, due to melanin production, that redness will darken to help that scratch heal.

    What is Melasma?

    On the other hand, melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that is caused by a hormonal imbalance in women only. This could be due to the specific contraceptive medicine you're taking that leads to side effects, like dark patches on your face.

    It's prevalent on pregnant women's faces in the forehead, cheek, nose, or upper lip areas. It has the nickname the "mask of pregnancy" and is something that can lead to a dip in self-confidence because of its difficulties in fading.

    Thankfully, with a consistent skincare routine and topical treatment creams, you can soon see a difference in complexion and brightness.

    Comparing Similarities and Differences

    When comparing hyperpigmentation vs melasma, there are some similarities and differences regarding these skin concerns.


    • Both hyperpigmentation and melasma are examples of skin damage. However, they're not affecting deep layers of skin.
    • Hyperpigmentation and melasma can cause skin irritation.


    • Hyperpigmentation can result in brown patches, whereas melasma can appear greyish.
    • A trigger of melasma is hormonal imbalance only found in women. Hyperpigmentation can affect men and women.

    Causes of Melasma and Hyperpigmentation

    With melasma vs hyperpigmentation, melasma is a type of discolouration, whereas hyperpigmentation can have a lot of causes behind it.

    It can be more difficult to determine a general hyperpigmentation trigger if you're not pregnant or on birth control tablets, as there are a variety of potential causes.

    That's why confirming where the dark patches of skin originated from with a dermatologist first is a great place to start.

    Melasma Causes

    Because melasma is mostly down to hormonal changes, some common causes include:

    • Contraceptives
    • Pregnancy hormones
    • Excess sunlight
    • Stress
    • Thyroid concerns
    • Tanning beds

    Hyperpigmentation Causes

    Causes for hyperpigmentation include:

    • Harsh chemical peels
    • Laser treatments
    • Excess sunlight
    • Genetic predisposition
    • Medication
    • Skin trauma

    Symptoms and Appearance

    Symptoms with hyperpigmentation vs melasma are similar. So, it may be an obstacle to differentiate the dark spots from the mask of pregnancy or just all-around hyperpigmentation.

    Identifying Melasma

    Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation vs melasma symptoms can include:

    • Dark grey patches
    • Dryness
    • Symmetrical discolouration on the face, i.e. the same pattern on both cheeks

    Identifying Hyperpigmentation

    • Redness
    • Irritation
    • Itchiness
    • Dark patches all over the body

    Treatment and Prevention Options for Melasma and Hyperpigmentation

    What are the most suitable treatment options? This depends on your skin type and tolerance. For example, chemical peels and laser treatments might not be best for sensitive skin.

    Treatment and Prevention

    Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation vs melasma treatment varies. At Ava Estell, topical treatments like their Night Cream are tailored to hydrate and restore the skin cells to fade the melasma or hyperpigmentation marks.

    The Activating Face Scrub is also great at exfoliating dead skin cells, particularly for melasma. The brown sugar and kaolin clay work in harmony to cleanse and buff the skin.

    Additionally, keeping the skin out of the sun for long periods can help prevent discolouration. So, keep in mind the environments you're in and if your skin is protected.

    Final Thoughts on Melasma vs Hyperpigmentation

    Individuals with darker skin tones may be unsure what form of hyperpigmentation they're experiencing. However, when discussing melasma vs hyperpigmentation, only women going through hormonal changes would have melasma.

    And because hyperpigmentation is a general term used for excess melanin production, there could be several reasons why you're noticing dark patches of skin. They could originate from a genetic skin condition, trauma, or too much sun exposure.

    To help target your hyperpigmentation, we recommend trying Ava Estell's Activating Face Scrub and Night Cream in combination.

    Not only will you get to the cause of the discolouration with the scrub, but you'll also help remove dead skin cells and rehydrate with the treatment cream to make way for a more flawless complexion. So, discover the full range today.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I know if I have melasma or pigmentation?

    Melasma only affects women due to hormonal changes in pregnancy or with contraceptive medicine.

    What is the difference between melasma and hyperpigmentation?

    Hyperpigmentation is the umbrella term for an excess production of melanin pigment, whereas melasma is just a type of hyperpigmentation.

    Is melasma just hyperpigmentation?

    Essentially, it's a form of hyperpigmentation. However, not every example of skin discolouration can be melasma.

    What are the three types of hyperpigmentation?

    The most common types include post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, sun exposure, and melasma.

    « Back to Blog