Having an uneven skin tone is a common concern. It may appear as irregular areas of a different color on the face or other parts of the body. For people who want to reduce the appearance of an uneven skin tone, there are a few different options to consider.

Although most cases of uneven skin tone do not indicate a medical concern, some people may wish to correct it for cosmetic reasons.

Several home remedies and professional treatments are available that can help a person get a more even skin tone.

This article will discuss uneven skin tone and what people can do about it.

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Uneven skin tone is an umbrella term that typically refers to texture issues, blotchy skin, facial flushing, or hyperpigmentation.

Some people may refer to these conditions as pigmentation disorders. Many different conditions can affect the pigment cells, or melanocytes, present in the skin and cause discolored patches of skin.

One of the more common causes of an uneven skin tone is hyperpigmentation, wherein the skin overproduces a pigment called melanin.

Hyperpigmentation issues may be more likely to affect people with dark skin due to their stronger skin pigmentation.

Some common causes of an uneven skin tone include:

Sun damage

This is a common cause of an uneven skin tone, as sun exposure triggers melanin production to protect the skin.

In the short term, this causes a tan to develop. Over time, however, this sun damage can lead to brown spots and an uneven skin tone.

Acne and acne scars

Acne can cause skin inflammation and flushing, which can give the skin an uneven tone.

Some people may refer to this as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or hyperpigmentation acne.

Hormonal changes

A type of hyperpigmentation known as melasma occurs due to increased hormone production.

This commonly occurs during pregnancy, and it may also affect people using hormonal birth control.

Aging

Older adults may have a more uneven skin tone than younger adults for many reasons, including sun exposure and the use of medications that may increase skin hyperpigmentation.

Some research indicates that hyperpigmentation issues, including post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma, can occur across all skin types with aging.

Skin damage

Bug bites, burns, and other forms of skin trauma can also contribute to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Other skin conditions

Some skin conditions, such as rosacea or dermatitis, can cause flushing and give the appearance of an uneven skin tone.

There are many options available to those who wish to even their skin tone, ranging from over-the-counter (OTC) products to professional treatments. Options include:

The ‘wait-and-see’ approach

Sometimes, treatment is unnecessary, as the skin tone will even out with time.

This is often the case with pregnancy-related hyperpigmentation, which typically resolves without treatment within 12 months of delivery. It can also happen with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Removing the cause

If a new skin care product or birth control pill is causing the hyperpigmentation, stopping its use may resolve the issue within 6–12 months.

However, some very dark patches or spots may take longer to fade.

Treating any underlying conditions

Proper treatment of skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and psoriasis may help prevent the formation of new areas of hyperpigmentation.

This may also allow existing areas of hyperpigmentation to fade over time.

Using sunscreen

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone — regardless of their skin type or color — use a water resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day.

Blocking out the sun’s UV rays will stop the triggering of excess melanin production, which can help prevent the formation of new areas of hyperpigmentation and allow any existing ones to fade.

Trying OTC products

Several OTC products can help treat an uneven skin tone. These typically contain at least one of the following ingredients:

  • Vitamin C: This potent antioxidant can protect against sun damage and reduce the formation of melanin.
  • Glycolic acid: This is a common skin care ingredient for acne-prone skin. It works to remove dead skin cells to reveal healthier skin underneath. Some research indicates that it may reduce acne, scarring, melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and sun-related aging.
  • Salicylic acid: This works in a similar way to glycolic acid. It may be especially beneficial for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Retinol: Retinol increases cell turnover to speed up the generation of healthy, new skin. It can improve an uneven skin tone and reduce the signs of sun damage. In addition to treating pigmentation disorders, retinoids can also help with skin aging.
  • Niacinamide: This form of vitamin B3 reduces inflammation to stop flushing associated with acne and other skin conditions. It may also help treat hyperpigmentation and improve the signs of aging.

Trying medical treatments

If home treatments do not lead to the desired results, professional medical treatments can help even out skin tone.

Individuals should discuss their options with a dermatologist, who may suggest one of the following:

  • Laser therapy: This treatment uses a beam of light to remove hyperpigmentation. Some research indicates that it is highly effective and provides lasting results.
    Microdermabrasion: This exfoliating treatment uses tiny particles to remove dead skin cells. It is a relatively minor treatment that is suitable for mild cases of hyperpigmentation.
  • Chemical peels: These treatments also exfoliate the skin but go deeper than microdermabrasion. They can be highly effective, but there is a risk of burning the skin with improper use.

There are several steps that people can take to reduce their chance of developing an uneven skin tone. These can include:

  • wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, and reapplying it every 2 hours and immediately after swimming or sweating
  • avoiding direct sunlight when the sun is at its strongest during the day
  • with melasma, avoiding triggers such as visible light and heat
  • having a gentle skin care regimen that includes daily cleansing and moisturizing
  • avoiding the use of harsh exfoliating products that may irritate the skin
  • treating acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and other skin conditions promptly
  • reducing the risk of skin trauma or infection by avoiding dry shaving and not touching the face
  • discussing other options with a doctor if hyperpigmentation results from hormonal birth control pills or other medications
  • eating a balanced diet that contains plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats
  • exercising regularly to improve blood flow to the skin

Some home remedies may also help improve a person’s uneven skin tone, including:

Using topical treatments

Some people claim that applying natural products directly to the skin can reduce hyperpigmentation. Some popular options include:

  • aloe vera gel
  • green tea
  • lemon juice
  • rosehip oil
  • tea tree oil
  • turmeric
  • witch hazel

In most cases, however, there is little or no evidence to indicate that these items can improve hyperpigmentation or flushing. Some of them even may cause other issues, such as skin dryness or irritation.

Staying hydrated

Staying hydrated may help skin dryness and flushing, which could even out mild skin tone issues. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to hydrate from the inside.

People can also hydrate the skin directly by using a moisturizer, ideally with an SPF.

Avoiding certain foods and beverages

Some foods and drinks can cause skin flushing, dryness, and wrinkles. For healthy, youthful skin, it is advisable to limit or avoid:

  • alcohol
  • dairy
  • foods high in refined sugars
  • oily, greasy foods
  • processed foods

Following a balanced diet

Consuming a balanced diet is one of the best things a person can do for their physical health, including the health of their skin.

For example, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants can protect against sun damage and other signs of aging and may help reduce an uneven skin tone.

Vitamin C is an especially important antioxidant for skin health. It is present in:

  • bell peppers
  • kiwifruit
  • oranges
  • strawberries

Vitamin E is another important nutrient that acts as an antioxidant to protect against sun damage. It is present in various nuts and seeds, as well as wheat germ oil and sunflower oil.

Other nutrients present in a balanced diet — including other vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats — are also essential for skin health.

Wearing makeup

Although it is not a cure, makeup can help even out skin tone in the short term.

Options include concealers, foundations that offer thick coverage, and green tinted products to cover up minor flushing.

Some people with an uneven skin tone may wish to treat or reduce it for cosmetic reasons. There are many OTC products, home remedies, and professional treatments available for this.

If home treatments are ineffective after a few weeks, a person may wish to discuss further options with a dermatologist.

Those who have an underlying skin condition should never treat an uneven skin tone without first seeking medical advice.