How To Treat Pigmentation In Darker Skin Tones

Addressing pigmentation is an issue that hits close to home for Dr. Maryam Zamani, aesthetic doctor and founder of MZ SKIN, who counts many A-listers in the U.S. and U.K. among her clientele. 

“As an Iranian, I suffer greatly from hyper pigmentation,” she says. “Just remember you are not alone. It is not a quick fix, but a condition that we can treat or help prevent.”

There are a wide range of types of pigmentation. For some, it appears as uneven skin with light and dark patches, while post inflammatory hyper pigmentation commonly follows outbreaks of acne. Finally, she adds, dark periorbital skin can be attributed to hereditary or genetic predispositions. 

Dr. Zamani spoke exclusively to the Brown Skin Essentials Team about the latest treatments available to WOC.


  • Ingredients in skincare products: Hydroquinone (prescription only), tretinoin, corticosteroids, arbutin, niacinamide, azelaic acid as well as other topical acids, like kojic acid, can be used to help treat hyper pigmentation with varying degrees of success.
  • Skin lightening: “Works by decreasing the production of melanin while increasing the breakdown of melanosomes by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase (the enzyme needed to produce melanin). Coupled with tretinoin, a vitamin A derivative used to increase cell turnover, the process of decreasing the appearance of pigmentation is enhanced. Acids or peels help exfoliate or remove the top layer of the skin. When this occurs, new skin emerges. When coupled with topical ingredients that help decrease melanin production, clearer skin can be achieved.”
  • Peels: “Chemical peels are generally effective for management of post-inflammatory pigmentation and melasma when used properly. Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, trichloracetic acid or Jessners solution can be used with a pre-treatment course of hydroquinone to help improve outcomes.”


Some of the latest innovations come in the form of laser skin resurfacing, which Dr. Zamani says treat WOC with varying degrees of success.


  • “Ablative lasers remove layers of the outer skin while non-ablative lasers work to promote collagen synthesis. Not all lasers are created equal and great care must be used when treating WOC.”
  • “The pico laser is a relatively new laser where pulses are faster, and therefore less heat generating which means it is less likely to damage darker skin types. Lasers are programmed to have their energy absorbed by only the skin cells that contain excessive concentrations of pigment without affecting the surrounding normal skin. This laser heat energy effectively causes efficient destruction of the pigment while leaving the surrounding tissue intact.”

Dr. Zamani adds that when she treats WOC for pigmentary changes using a laser, the skin is prepped in advance of the treatment with topical creams to help suppress the creation of pigment. More than one treatment is usually needed to achieve the best results and dealing with a skilled practitioner is critical.



Relapses may also occur so ongoing treatment and prevention may be necessary, says Dr. Zamani.

Irrespective of the plan that is undertaken, she stresses that wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen is absolutely necessary, alongside strict compliance with post treatment protocols.

This is in addition to health fundamentals.

“Hydration and nutrients are vital to every organ in our body,” says Dr. Zamani.

“While diet cannot improve pigmentation, it can improve the overall health of our skin.”

To read more articles related to issues affecting women of colour, please visit Brown Skin Essentials.