Pigmentation refers to the coloring of the skin. Skin pigmentation disorders cause changes to the color of your skin. Melanin is made by cells in the skin and is the pigment responsible for your skin’s color.

Hyperpigmentation is a condition that causes your skin to darken. This can affect patches of your skin or your entire body. Age spots, also called liver spots, are a common type of hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation is usually harmless but can sometimes be caused by an underlying medical condition. Certain medications can also cause your skin to darken. It’s more of a cosmetic issue for most people.

There are several ways that you can treat hyperpigmentation at home. While several of the remedies we share here are anecdotal, some research suggests their main ingredients work on skin pigmentation.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which research shows may lighten pigmentation.

To use this remedy:

  1. Combine equal parts apple cider vinegar and water in a container.
  2. Apply to your dark patches and leave on two to three minutes.
  3. Rinse using lukewarm water.
  4. Repeat twice daily you achieve the results you desire.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera contains aloin, a natural depigmenting compound that has been shown to lighten skin and work effectively as a nontoxic hyperpigmentation treatment, according to a 2012 study.

To use:

  1. Apply pure aloe vera gel to pigmented areas before bedtime.
  2. Rinse using warm water the next morning.
  3. Repeat daily until your skin color improves.

Red onion

Red onion (Allium cepa) extract is an ingredient in some commercially available skin- and scar-lightening creams. Research has found that the dried skin of red onions can effectively lighten skin. Look for creams for hyperpigmentation that contain Allium cepa and use as directed.

Green tea extract

Research shows that green tea extract may have a depigmenting effect when applied to skin. You can purchase green tea extract and apply it as directed. Some websites suggest applying green tea bags to dark spots for a lightening effect, though there is no evidence to back this claim.

If you’d like to give it a try, follow these steps:

  1. Steep a green tea bag in boiled water for three to five minutes.
  2. Remove the tea bag from the water and let cool — you don’t want to burn your skin.
  3. Rub the tea bag over your dark patches.
  4. Repeat twice a day until you get results.

Black tea water

An animal study published in 2011 found that black tea water lightened dark spots on guinea pigs. The black tea water was applied twice a day, six days a week for four weeks.

To try your own version of this hyperpigmentation treatment at home:

  1. Add a tablespoon of fresh black tea leaves to a cup of boiling distilled water.
  2. Steep for two hours and strain to remove the leaves.
  3. Soak a cotton ball in the tea water and apply to areas of hyperpigmentation, twice a day.
  4. Repeat every day for six days a week, over four weeks.

Licorice extract

Licorice extract contains active ingredients that have been shown to lighten hyperpigmentation caused by melasma and sun exposure. Topical creams containing licorice extract are available over the counter. Use as directed on the packaging.

Milk

Milk, buttermilk, and even sour milk have all been shown to effectively lighten skin discoloration. Lactic acid is the ingredient responsible for this effect.

To use any of these to treat pigmentation:

  • Soak a cotton ball in the milk.
  • Rub it over darkened skin patches twice a day.
  • Repeat daily until you see results.

Tomato paste

A study published in The British Journal of Dermatology in 2011 found that tomato paste rich in lycopene protected the skin against short-term and long-term aspects of photo damage. Study participants consumed 55 grams of tomato paste in olive oil daily for 12 weeks.

Orchid extracts

Orchid extracts are just as effective as vitamin C hyperpigmentation remedies, according to research. Applying orchid-rich extracts to the skin for eight weeks improved the size and appearance of dark patches.

You can buy skin products containing orchid extract, including masks, creams, and scrubs. Use as directed for the best results.

Masoor dal (red lentils)

Masoor dal face masks, which are made from red lentils, are popular as a hyperpigmentation treatment. Though there isn’t any evidence to back these claims, red lentils are rich in antioxidants that are known to be good for the skin.

To make your own masoor dal mask:

  • Soak 50 grams of red lentils overnight in a bowl of water.
  • Use a blender or food processor to create a fine paste.
  • Apply the paste evenly over your face and leave it on for 20 minutes.
  • Rinse with cold water and pat your skin dry with a towel.

Sun damage is the most common cause of skin pigmentation and usually affects the parts of the body that are most frequently exposed to the sun. Other causes include:

Depending on the cause of your hyperpigmentation, treatment may involve addressing an underlying medical condition or stopping a medication. There are several medical treatment options available if home remedies for pigmentation fail to give you the results you want. These include:

Hyperpigmentation is usually a cosmetic concern rather than a medical one. There are several home remedies for pigmentation that can help you lighten dark patches.

Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about your skin pigmentation or suspect that your skin discoloration is caused by an underlying medical condition or medication.