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Hyperpigmentation From Shaving

confident handsome man with acne

Picture the scene: you’re showered, groomed and looking like a million bucks as you’re just about to step out the door. All of a sudden, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the hallway mirror. What is that dark spot on your face…? Is it your imagination or has that thing only just appeared out of nowhere…?

You’ll definitely want to take a closer look to make sure it isn’t just an errant drop of coffee on your cheek, but if a light dab with a moistened kitchen towel won’t wipe it away you may be dealing with a spot of hyperpigmentation.

Before you panic and get on the phone to a dermatologist, keep in mind that hyperpigmentation is a common condition and usually harmless. Instead of letting the hieroglyphics of medical jargon send you into a spiral of doom, just stay with us as we explain the causes and treatments of hyperpigmentation.

Seeing spots

Throw your mind back to high-school biology and you’ll recall that a pigment called melanin is what gives your skin its natural tint. When excess melanin is produced, it results in increased pigmentation and this can cause darkened spots on the skin.

These spots can occur on any part of the body. They may be few in number and cover relatively little area, or they may be very numerous and cover a significant portion of the body. In any case, there are a number of causes of hyperpigmentation and shaving is a common one.

How shaving can cause dark spots on the skin

Among the many causes of dark spots on the skin, hormonal changes (as experienced by pregnant women) and sun exposure are typical culprits. In men, a surprisingly common cause is shaving. This is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and it results in darkened patches of skin that appear on the face and neck after shaving.

This type of hyperpigmentation can occur whenever there is trauma to the skin. For instance, it can be caused by a burn or other type of skin injury. It can also occur as skin heals from an acne breakout. But for guys who shave regularly, one consequence of the irritation that follows shaving is an increased risk of hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation of this type can occur in men of any ethnicity, but is more common in those who have dark skin. This is because they naturally produce more melanin than those with fair skin.

Should I be worried…?

You may have been a little alarmed when you first caught sight of a new spot on your face or neck, but hyperpigmentation is usually nothing to be worried about. In most cases, there is no serious underlying medical condition and the only symptom is darkened skin.

Having said this, it’s a reasonable precaution to consult with a trusted dermatologist if you’re concerned about these spots. They’ll take a full medical history and conduct a thorough examination. In some cases, they may also wish to take a biopsy of your skin so that more serious conditions can be ruled out.

What can I do about the spots?

Once your doctor has excluded any serious underlying conditions, you have a number of options available for treatment. Before you consider which is suitable, remember that in some cases hyperpigmentation is self-limiting. This means that your skin may return to normal on its own without any need for intervention on your part.

That being said, even in these cases it may still take a number of weeks before you see any improvement. If all that waiting makes you impatient, here are a number of additional suggestions:


Many cases of hyperpigmentation are wholly caused or worsened by sun exposure. If the parts of your skin that are affected are those that are particularly exposed to the sun, then it’s reasonable to speculate that this may have been a factor.

In this case, a sunscreen with zinc oxide and a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is a sensible precaution. Apply daily, even when the weather’s cloudy, and reapply after you’ve been sweating or swimming.

Better shaving

The regular irritation to your skin that can result from daily shaving is a common cause of hyperpigmentation, so it makes sense to be careful not to aggravate your face any more than is necessary. If your work or lifestyle prevent you from skipping your shave every now and then, at least do what you can to minimize the trauma to your skin.

front view man holding shaving razor

Prepare your skin and hair before a shave by taking a hot shower. While you’re in there, use a cleanser that’s suitable for sensitive skin to wash away dirt, oil and old skin cells. And once or twice a week, use a gentle scrub to give yourself a little extra exfoliation.

Be sure to use proper technique when shaving. This will reduce the trauma to your skin and make inflammation and hyperpigmentation less likely to occur. Take short, gentle strokes with the blade and only shave in the same direction as the hair naturally grows. Finally, splash cool water on your face after you’ve finished and apply a soothing aftershave.

Other treatments

Exfoliating the outer layer of skin can reduce the obviousness of dark spots and help them to fade over time. Over-the-counter (OTC) products available in supermarkets and drugstores may not be effective enough, so try to find more concentrated formulations containing salicylic or glycolic acid.

Your dermatologist may also suggest trying hydroquinone. This medication works by reducing the number of melanin-producing cells in the skin. Applied consistently over weeks and months, this has a bleaching effect on the skin that will reduce or eliminate the appearance of dark spots.

Hydroquinone can be a very effective treatment for some people, but long-term usage is associated with side effects and your dermatologist may not want you to use it indefinitely. It’s best to seek trusted medical advice before taking this option.