What is pigmentation?

Pigmentation is the colour of your skin. People with more pigmentation have a darker skin tone whereas people with less pigmentation have a lighter skin tone. However, sometimes pigmentation problems occur. 

There are various types of pigmentation problems such as:

Hyperpigmentation: excessive pigmentation resulting in dark patches of skin that is different from an individual’s normal skin tone. Examples include melasma, freckles, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), sunspots/liver spots, etc.


Hypopigmentation: reduced pigmentation in a certain area that results in light patches of skin that are different from an individual’s normal skin tone. Examples include vitiligo, albinism, pityriasis alba, etc.


What causes pigmentation problems?

Pigmentation means colouring. Our skin gets its unique colouring from a substance called melanin that is created by skin cells. When melanin becomes damaged or unhealthy, the skin overproduces melanin, causing it to become clumpy or darken the skin. This is known as hyperpigmentation. 

There are several factors that can trigger an increase in melanin production, leading to hyperpigmentation. The common ones are:

  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Ageing
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Skin injury and trauma
  • Acne

What are the types and symptoms of pigmentation problems?

There are various types of pigmentation problems such as:

  • Melasma: although they may appear in any area, melasma typically appears on the face. It is usually due to hormonal changes and commonly develops during pregnancy. 
  • Sunspots: sunspots, also known as liver spots or age spots, usually occur due to regular or excessive sun exposure. They are common and often appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin such as the hands and face. 
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH): the skin cells can become damaged due to injury or inflammation from acne, causing pigmentation.

If you notice any of the symptoms above, make an appointment with us today for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. 

Are pigmentation problems painful?

Pigmentation itself is usually not a painful condition. Dry patches may become itchy or uncomfortable. However, it may be damaging to mental health as it affects the appearance and may appear on the face, causing feelings of self-consciousness and low self-esteem. 

How are pigmentation problems diagnosed?

Pigmentation problems are diagnosed through a visual examination by your doctor or dermatologist. Further tests, including blood tests, may be ordered to determine the underlying cause. 

Who is at risk of pigmentation problems in Singapore?

While pigmentation problems can happen to anyone, there are a number of factors that may put you at a higher risk of developing the skin condition. These include:

  • Sun exposure: too much sun exposure, especially for those with lighter skin tones, can cause hyperpigmentation.
  • Hormonal imbalances: hormonal fluctuations and imbalances can cause melasma, which often occurs during pregnancy.  
  • Dark skin tone: those with darker complexions are at higher risk of developing hyperpigmentation. 
  • Inflammation: injury or trauma to the skin can inflame and damage it, leading to hyperpigmentation.
  • Metabolic conditions: according to some studies, vitamin deficiencies and metabolic imbalances may also be risk factors for hyperpigmentation disorders.
  • Addison’s disease: if you have this endocrine disease, you may be at risk of developing hyperpigmentation in areas of sun exposure (face, neck, hands), and areas prone to friction (elbows and knees).

How are pigmentation problems diagnosed?

Pigmentation problems are typically diagnosed visually by a dermatologist. The treatment will depend largely on the type and severity of the problem as well as your skin condition.

What are the treatment options for pigmentation problems in Singapore?

Depending on the severity of the pigmentation symptoms, there are varied treatment options for the skin condition. At The Dermatology Clinic, we suggest and offer the following treatment: 

  • A wide range of topical creams containing anti-inflammatory creams, tretinoin, hydroquinone and tranexamic acid
  • Oral medications

Contact us to find out more about treatment for pigmentation.


Can skin pigmentation problems go away on their own?

It depends on the individual and their particular skin type. For some people, dark spots and patches caused by pigmentation disorders fade over time, usually within six to 12 months. However, if it is deep in your skin, it usually takes several years to fade. 

What removes hyperpigmentation?

Topical creams and supplements that contain ingredients such as hydroquinone, arbutin, and vitamin C have been known to reduce hyperpigmentation. 

What is the main cause of pigmentation?
Skin gets its colouring from melanin, which is made by our skin cells called melanocytes. When those skin cells are damaged or are not healthy, they produce too much melanin which leads to hyperpigmentation.


What does a contact allergy look like?
Skin rashes, hives, itchiness, redness, burning, swelling, and tenderness could be symptoms of a contact allergy, especially after coming into contact with a particular substance.
How do you relieve contact allergies?
Applying anti-itch creams and taking anti-itch medications, cold compresses, cool baths, and avoiding the particular substance that causes the allergy can all provide relief for contact allergies.
How long does it take to treat contact allergies?
Upon avoiding the contact allergen, symptoms typically clear up in 2-4 weeks. However, it depends on the individual and treatment plan.
Are contact allergies contagious?
No, contact allergies are not contagious and will not spread to other people.



Dr Uma Alagappan is a MOH accredited consultant dermatologist in private with more than 15 years experience as a medical doctor. She sub-specialises in paediatric dermatology, women’s dermatology and general dermatology. Dr Uma’s interests include chronic eczema, food allergy and immunodermatology. She is also well versed with the use of lasers for treating paediatric and adult patients.
Dr Uma completed her dermatology training in Changi General Hospital and National Skin Centre in 2015. She joined KKH Dermatology Service to subspecialize in paediatric dermatology in 2017. She was awarded the Ministry of Health Manpower Development Plan Award in 2019 to pursue paediatric immunodermatology and allergo-dermatology in the renowned Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts, USA. Upon her return, she spearheaded a number of clinics at KKH including the food allergy eczema clinic for the paediatric eczema patients, immunodermatology clinics and the psychology eczema multi-disciplinary clinics.
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Tel: +65 9023 0905

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Fax: +65 6592 1411

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Fax: +65 6592 1411

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321 Joo Chiat Pl, #05-01A Parkway East Specialist Hospital, Singapore 427990

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Tel: +65 6320 0310

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290 Orchard Road 09-01/02 Paragon Medical Centre, Singapore 238859

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321 Joo Chiat Pl, #05-01A Parkway East Specialist Hospital, Singapore 427990 | Tel: +65 6517 9760
290 Orchard Road 09-01/02 Paragon Medical Centre, Singapore 238859 | Tel: +65 6320 0310


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