It’s been a great summer, full of lovely sun-filled days but as we start entering a shift in seasons in the coming months, it’s hard not to notice sunspots, dark marks and sun damage even if we were vigilant with sun protection and sun cream.
While Summer is more known for bringing on an increase in pigmentation, uneven skin tone and skin issues can occur at any time of the year.
Fortunately, cosmetic technology has come a long way, and many treatments can remove and fade pigmentation and offer the skin a healthy glow.
What Is Pigmentation?
You may have heard the term hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation. Pigmentation is the colouring of a person’s skin. Put simply; hyperpigmentation is the problem of having too much pigmentation in an area of the skin while hypopigmentation is having too little. One goes darker, and one goes lighter.
Many things can occur besides sun exposure, including hormonal fluctuations, inflammation, ageing, and certain medications. These can produce too much melanin or pigment the pigment-producing cells resulting in spots and dark marks or red markings on the skin.
Are there different kinds of pigmentation?
Yes, there are a few different kinds and not all sunspots and marks are the same. Here are a few different types:
- Sunspots & Age Freckles
Sunspots and freckles caused by aging are caused by chronic skin ageing and sun exposure. You’ll typically find them on the face, chest and back of the hands where most people find their skin most exposed to the sun.
Melasma is brownish discolouration and patches on the forehead, cheeks and moustache area and around the lips. It’s the result of hormonal factors such as the oral contraceptive pill, pregnancy, genetics and sun exposure.
- Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is more of a reactionary increase in pigmentation due to inflammation such as acne or a superficial trauma like picking acne or scratches that won’t heal well.
- Drug-Induced Pigmentation
Some medications such as antimalarials and some antibiotics can cause pigmentation and uneven skin tones.
- Generalised or Widespread Pigmentation
Generalised or widespread pigmentation can be due to dermatological conditions such as Lichen Planus or could be due to underlying medical conditions such as Addison disease.
What products are the best for pigmentation?
The best way to combat pigmentation is using appropriate skincare. At MD Cosmetic and Skin Clinic our private label medical skincare elixis MD is thoughtfully tailored to your specific skin type and needs by using the best in applied science.
By using formulations with specific gentle active ingredients, we can fade pigmentation
and reduce the rapid recurrence that many people experience. This also ensures better results and quicker healing after procedures like peels, IPL, laser, and needling.
- Vitamin A – Pigment may be in both the top two layers and often doesn’t shed as quickly as we age, so Vitamin A will assist the turnover. A retinaldehyde formulation acts like a prescription without the side effects of irritation and sun sensitivity like older products used elixisMD retinaldehyde /B3 years ago. It also normalises the over-active cells (melanocytes) that cause the pigmentation.
- Vitamin B3 – Niacinamide also normalises pigmentation and repairs the skin barrier because frequently pigment results from overall sun damage, sensitivity and anti-inflammatory (10% B3/HA elixisMD)
- Vitamin C – Most of our ageing appearance and pigmentation is a result of sun damage and in Australia our summers are the hottest in the world and difficult to avoid completely with our lifestyle. Vit C protects the UV induced cell damage and oxidation that cause much of the damage and colour changes we see on the face and body. Vitamin C also promotes new collagen and has a lightening effect on the skin. We don’t recommend using any products with Vitamin C, as formulation is everything and cheaper products won’t work. (CE Feurlic 25% C +10% Peptide serum elixisMD)
- Sunscreen – Using sunscreen might seem mundane and an obvious choice to protect your skin but you’d be surprised at how much this low-cost product can help your skin if you use it every day. Most sunscreens have improved immensely over the last few years and often include a moisturiser and antioxidants. The sheer cosmetic feel and tint makes compliance a breeze to use every day and often not require make up! (zinc/ antioxidant – SPF 30+ 3 tints)
What treatments are the best for pigmentation?
Each type of pigmentation will require a different kind of treatment and the number of treatments needed will vary for each person specific case.
Gentle medi peels can help with pigmentation. Low-level peels, often combined with light therapy, can help to break down the pigment and even out the complexion gradually.
This non-invasive refining and resurfacing treatment helps to eliminate and rejuvenate the upper layers of the skin cells and dermis using botanical- and chemical-based peels, such as:
- Lactic, peptide & vitamin A
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty fix and are game to undertake multiple sessions, there are a variety of different laser treatments that can significantly reduce the look of pigmentation.
The HALO is the world’s first laser to utilise both Ablative and Non-ablative wavelengths of light, delivering a new way to resurface the skin and maximise the results without the discomfort and downtime typically experienced from fully ablative lasers.
BBL, also known as a ‘photo facial’, is a subtle form of light therapy and considered one of the most popular types available. It uses a series of short, high-intensity light blasts to give the skin a younger, firmer and more refined tone.
BBL differs to a laser in that it uses the entire visible light spectrum in the form of filters to effectively and safely treat specific signs of ageing and various skin conditions, such as:
- Redness flushing from rosacea & sun damage
- Skin laxity
- Uneven skin texture & tone
At MD Cosmetic and Skin Clinic, we have a range of treatments and products we can advise to help minimise and erase damaged skin and pigmentation problems. Call us today for the right treatment and let us help you look your best.
What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?
Though the causes vary depending on the type of hyperpigmentation, there are many reasons why your skin has darkened in a particular area. Here are the most common causes of hyperpigmentation outlined and explained in detail:
Excess exposure to the sun
Being exposed to the sun is the primary cause of hyperpigmentation. This is because sunlight is the trigger of melanin production; melanin is your body’s natural protectant against UV rays, which is why you tan in the sun. While it is possible to reverse the aesthetic signs of excessive sun exposure, such as sunspots, much of the deeper damage caused cannot be taken back.
Hyperpigmentation is also commonly caused by the natural process of ageing. As we get older, our skin naturally becomes thinner and more translucent, leading to the exposure of areas damaged by the sun. You can help to prevent hyperpigmentation as you age by maintaining a protective skincare routine, such as applying sunscreen and moisturiser, and by remaining hydrated.
There are a few reasons why being pregnant may result in hyperpigmentation. Largely, this is down to the increased production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, or else a melanocyte-stimulating hormone. Hyperpigmentation as a result of pregnancy can occur throughout all three trimesters and, in fact, can vary greatly from person to person.
The reason smoking nicotine leads to hyperpigmentation of the skin is because it causes your blood vessels to shrink, reducing the flow of your blood. This reduced blood flow causes your skin to thin, leading once again to the exposure of sun-damaged spots. Not only this, but frequent exposure to nicotine can lead to the darkening of the melanin in your gums and lips, resulting in uneven pigmentation in those areas.
Acne scars lead to a specific type of hyperpigmentation, called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). PIH is a result of an open wound, such as a picked spot, scratch, or scrape, following which the skin becomes inflamed. When inflammation occurs, it leads to the overproduction of melanin. When excessive melanin is produced in an area, that area then becomes discoloured.
Some chemotherapy drugs
Hyperpigmentation caused by chemotherapy drugs typically only appear on a temporary basis. There are many drugs that are associated with the production of hyperpigmentation, including fluorouracil and daunorubicin. In particular, these result in hyperpigmentation of the skin and nails.
There are many medical conditions that cause hyperpigmentation, either on a temporary basis or a permanent one. Though you will likely be informed if hyperpigmentation is a side-effect of your condition, here is a brief list:
- Addison’s disease
- Hereditary hemochromatosis
- Actinic lichen planus
- Post-chikungunya fever pigmentation
- Diabetic dermopathy
Many of the conditions that cause hyperpigmentation are inflammatory diseases or illnesses. This leads to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is a form of hyperpigmentation caused by the pigment of the epidermis leaking into the dermis layer and becoming trapped there.