Do you have dark patches or dark spots in certain areas on your skin? Also known as hyper pigmentation these can be a result of excessive melanin production, triggered by a range of factors including: sun damage, acne scars, medications, skin injury and hormonal fluctuations. Hyper pigmentation can also occur on the elbows and knees, underarms and inner thigh areas that are most exposed to friction or heat.
To be noted is that hyper pigmentation has varying causes, hence there are different treatment options to remove and/or reduce the problem.
What Is Hyperpigmentation?
In essence, hyperpigmentation is the bi product of increased melanin synthesis.
Hyper pigmentation is the overproduction of melanin, which is what gives colour to the skin. While sun exposure has the biggest impact on discolouration, other situations can also spike the production of melanin in a person’s body including: Hormones, the birth control pill, and some medications.
There are three common types of hyperpigmentation, namely:
1. Sunspots – Often referred to as liver spots, sunspots or age spots are a com- mon type of hyper pigmentation that develop over time due to excessive expo- sure to the sun. They are spots that generally appear in areas that are often exposed to the sun, including the hands, scalp and face.
2. Melasma – This type of hyper pigmentation occurs due to hormonal changes and is common to pregnant women (only about ten percent of men experience this). Melasma appears as large, dense patches that fluctuate with seasonal changes and exposure to sunlight. While it appears during pregnancy, Me- lasma can also develop on those who have never been pregnant, appearing on mainly on the face. Melasma is also more common in persons with darker skin. Those that suffer from Melasma notice that it gets worse in the summer months, when there is prolonged sun exposure.
3. Post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation, also known as P.I.H. These dis- colorations are a result from inflammation or injury to the skin. One common cause of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is acne, which leaves behind brown spots, acne scars or a trauma to the skin such as a cut.
Understanding Melasma – Also known as pregnancy mask:
The changes in hormonal levels that women experience during pregnancy can also alter melanin production, resulting in the appearance of large patches of discolouration. This appears on the areas that get the most exposure to the sun, particularly the cheeks, forehead, chin or upper lip.
Also known as melasma the change in skin colour can also be triggered by medications
such as the birth control pill. While stress and thyroid disease have also been identified as a possible contributor, external factors such as heat, electrolysis, laser and other skin traumas can exacerbate the condition, with the biggest trigger being the sun.
Freckles, Acne Scarring, Age spots
Freckles, age spots, discoloured scars from acne breakouts, or skin discolouration due to psoriasis or eczema all fall under hyper pigmentation. This is because sunlight, acne, and skin rashes all can activate melanocytes, the skin cells that create a surplus of pigments. When there is an abundance of pigment, melanocytes store them into the lower levels of the skin where it doesn’t originally belong.
The deeper the pigment is embedded, the more difficult it is to treat. If you happen to see discolouration on a certain area on your skin that wasn’t there before, it can be a result of hyperpigmentation. Make sure to consult with a trained medical aesthetic expert first before undergoing any treatment.
The best approach to treating melasma is to:
1) Pre-treat the area by suppressing the melanocyte activity;
2) incorporate exfoliation and
3) include steps to increase cellular repair. Corrective facials, Spectra Carbon Laser Peels, Micro Needling, Fraxel Laser and Chemical Peels are options for reducing melasma, while also providing results.
What is critical is that one work with a treatment provider who understands the benefits and risks with each option.
Melasma skincare that includes ingredients with tyrosinase inhibitors and natural brightening agents such as resveratrol, kojic acid, arginine and arbutin can be effective; this said, each individual may present with specialized formulations.
Before stepping out into the sun, be sure to apply sunscreen – this is critical in preventing further damage at source. Consider these factors when looking for a sunscreen:
● Choose a sunscreen that offers UVA & UVB protection
● Choose one with an SPF 40 to 50
● If you are swimming or sweating, find a sunscreen that is waterproof.
● Find a product you like wearing, otherwise you will not use it.
Apply sunscreen daily and reapply it every two hours if you’re in sun for an extended period or swimming.
Other Treatment Options
● Exfoliating Facial Acids – These ingredients & products shed off the top layer of the skin. Each time you exfoliate, you’re paving the way for new skin cells to replace the old ones. This important process evens out your skin tone and makes your skin smoother. Examples of face acids are azelaic acid, salicylic acid, kojic acid, glycolic, Vitamin C (or ascorbic acid), and alpha hydroxy acids (e.g. lactic, malic, or tartaric acids).
● Chemical peels for Melasma & Pigmentation- These treatments lighten the skin and minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation by eliminating thin layers of damaged skin cells. Medical grade peels are available in deeper strengths and will target varying depths of damage, while addressing pre and post-synthesis of tyrosinase. Avoid over the counter peels, especially if you have Melasma, opting for science-based treatments that also address the root cause of patchy discolouration.
● Spectra Carbon Laser Toning – Also known as the Hollywood Facial this treatment is not painful and is very safe, for all skin types, especially when pre- treated with products that will suppress / “turn the tap off” on the production of melanin. The key to laser toning lies in a carbon facial mask that is highly attracted to the laser light, resulting in tiny micro-explosions that dislodge debris and excessive buildup of discoloured cells. The result is brighter, clarified skin.
● Silk Peel Dermal Infusion- This is a non-invasive dermal infusion treatment designed to reju- venate and clarify the appearance of the skin. Silk Peel simultaneously exfoli- ates while infusing products such as Vitamin C or Peptides that will help reduce discolouration, all at the epidermal level, while also restoring balance.
Shopping for the right treatment for hyper pigmentation can feel like guesswork, but it doesn’t have to be. Seeking the expertise of a reliable dermatologist will cut the chase. At Clarity Med Spa, we can help you identify the root cause of your skin condition and create a unique treatment plan that’s consistent with your needs.
Our experienced and specialized technicians can also assist you in finding the perfect regimen for your skin’s needs.