Over-the-counter products such as retinol, vitamin C creams, and niacinamide may improve an uneven skin tone. Other treatments include laser therapy and microdermabrasion.

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, and hypopigmentation 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, where the skin overproduces a pigment called melanin. This condition has various causes, such as injury to the skin, medications, genetics, and underlying medical conditions.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation issues are more likely to affect people with darker skin due to an increase in the density of melanocytes, which determines skin color.

Some common causes of an uneven skin tone include:

Sun damage

This is the primary 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. In itself, any tan is an indication of skin damage. Over time, however, this sun damage can lead to brown spots and an uneven skin tone.

Moreover, many do not know or forget about ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, which penetrates the skin barrier into the dermis and causes long-term skin damage. Many only and newer studies confirm the significant damage of UVA, including pigmentation.

While UV rays are most likely to damage skin if a person goes out in direct sunlight without wearing sunscreen, indirect sunlight, such as on cloudy days can cause damage. Additionally, UVA rays can penetrate windows causing pigment changes and collagen breakdown.

This 2009 study confirms that UVA rays significantly worsen the skin and increase pigmentation. A 2022 study points out that protection against all UVA and UVB rays, including up to 400 nanometers, is crucial for skin health and its integrity.

The same 2022 study points out that tanning beds can do even more UVA damage than sun exposure. People should avoid these products, especially if they have skin cancer, aging, pigmentation, and overall skin health. concerns

Acne and acne scars

Acne can cause skin inflammation and flushing, giving the skin an uneven tone. It can also lead to redness or hyperpigmentation in people with darker skin.

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.

Melasma is more common in females than males. However, anyone who has exposure to UV rays may produce more of the hormone that increases melanin.


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.

UV exposure to the sun can also trigger rashes. Certain medications, phytophotodermatitis, and genetics can interact with UV light.

Other skin conditions

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

Hypopigmentation, such as pityriasis alba, and post-inflammatory hypopigmentation can also cause uneven skin tone.

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

The ‘wait-and-see’ approach

  • Price: $0

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.

However, people should ensure they wear broad-spectrum sunscreen daily during this approach to prevent sun damage. It is important to wear sunscreen even if a person is not in direct sunlight or inside, as UV rays penetrate windows.

Pros and cons

The ‘wait-and-see’ approach does not cost anything.

However, waiting does not mean that hyperpigmentation cannot become worse. A person should contact a dermatologist before deciding on this approach, as these professionals can schedule checkups to monitor the skin’s condition and offer any remedies.

Removing the cause

  • Price: $0

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

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

Pros and cons

Stopping the use of products or birth control is most likely free.

However, it is important to note that if a person is using a skin care product for a condition, such as acne, stopping its use can make that condition worse.

Additionally, people who use birth control should ensure they use other methods to prevent pregnancy, such as condoms.

Treating any underlying conditions

  • Price: depends on the treatment

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.

To properly treat any underlying conditions, individuals should first consult with a board certified dermatologist. Dermatologists can recommend suitable treatments.

Wearing sunscreen can also help protect the skin while a person treats any underlying conditions.

Pros and cons

Treating any underlying conditions that cause hyperpigmentation may help improve a person’s self-esteem. Additionally, dermatologists will work with individuals to find the treatment that best suits their circumstances and budget.

However, the cost of this method depends on the treatment a dermatologist recommends. People may wish to contact their healthcare insurance provider to ensure it will cover part or all of the costs.

Using sunscreen

  • Price: depends on the sunscreen, but can start from under $10

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.

People should reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours, and reapply immediately after swimming.

Pros and cons

Sunscreen is easily available in most stores and online. Manufacturers offer sunscreens for different people, such as children and those with sensitive skin. People can also choose different levels of SPF.

It is important to purchase sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, while sunscreen can be inexpensive, applying it regularly may make the product run out faster, leading to more costs.

However, people should be aware that if they do not use sunscreen as a dermatologist directs, it will not protect the skin.

Trying OTC products

  • Price: depends on the product, but can start from under $25

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.
  • Azelaic acid: This acid occurs naturally in rye, wheat, and barley. This acid can help improve the appearance of acne and reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
  • Kojic acid: This acid may have some skin-lightening properties, although more research is necessary.
  • Hydroquinone: This treatment, alongside other topical therapies such as tretinoin and fluocinolone acetonide, is an effective treatment for melasma.

Pros and cons

OTC products tend to be less expensive than dermatologist treatments and are easily available in most drugstores and online.

However, some people may have a sensitivity or allergy to the ingredients. People should contact a dermatologist before using these products to treat hyperpigmentation.

Trying medical treatments

  • Price: depends on the treatment

If home treatments do not yield the desired results, professional medical treatments can help even 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. However, this therapy can make rosacea worse and is not suitable for people who have a history of keloids or hypertrophic scarring.
  • 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, or even making skin tone worse.

Pros and cons

Medical treatments can be the most effective way of treating hyperpigmentation. Additionally, dermatologists or other healthcare professionals will monitor people who undergo treatments and ensure they give individuals the treatment best suited to their circumstances.

However, medical treatments can be very expensive. Insurance considers these treatments cosmetic, which means the companies will not cover the cost.

The following table provides a comparison of the treatment methods in this article.

Wait-and-seeRemoving the causeTreating underlying conditionsSunscreenOTC productsMedical treatments
Costfreefreedepends on the treatmentinexpensive inexpensive depends on the treatment
Requires a dermatologistmaybe maybeyesnonoyes
Home remedyyesyesmaybeyesyesno

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, wearing sunscreen daily, and avoiding triggers such as visible light
  • 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 and green tea.

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.

However, people should be aware of the ingredients as some can result in sensitivity or irritation, which can potentially worsen the skin’s uneven tone. It is also important to purchase noncomedogenic makeup, which does not block pores and may help prevent acne.

People should contact a dermatologist before starting any home remedies for hyperpigmentation. These healthcare professionals can help people decide on a treatment plan that works and, if necessary, prescribe medication or recommend medical treatments.

Seeing a dermatologist can also help rule out other possible causes of the change in skin tone.

If a person does not notice any difference in hyperpigmentation, or if they notice it becomes worse, they should contact a dermatologist as soon as possible.

Here are some common questions about skin tone.

How do I even out my skin tone?

There are several home remedies and medical treatments that can even out skin tone.

People may find results by using the ‘wait-and-see’ method, removing any products or medications that may cause uneven skin tone with a healthcare professional’s advice, treating any underlying causes, wearing sunscreen, or undergoing medical treatment.

How can I even my skin tone naturally?

As stated above, one of the best ways to even skin tone naturally is to ensure a person protects their skin against sun damage.

Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, avoiding the sun during the hottest times of the day, and wearing sun-protective clothing can help reduce skin damage and uneven skin tone.

There are additional natural remedies, such as topical vitamin C and azeliac acid, that may help improve skin tone.

What causes uneven skin tone?

There are several factors that can cause uneven skin tone, such as:

  • acne
  • psoriasis
  • a wound, such as a burn or an insect sting
  • skin care products that irritate the skin
  • hormonal changes, such as pregnancy

Is uneven skin tone permanent?

Depending on the cause of uneven skin tone, it may resolve itself within months.

However, dermatologists can diagnose whether skin tone changes are permanent, provide an estimation of how long it will take for the condition to resolve, and whether or not it requires treatment.

It is important to wear sunscreen every day, even if a person is not in direct sunlight, to avoid worsening of uneven skin tone.

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.