Pigmentation is one of the biggest issues we deal with in the clinic each day. Many people want to get rid of the brown spots to obtain the clear complexion they have always wanted. However, understanding the cause of the pigmentation is most important in achieving the desired outcomes. Pigmentation is characterised by the darkening of an area of skin caused by the overproduction of melanin. The causes, however, can be quite varied.
Causes of Hyperpigmentation
The sun is the biggest cause of hyperpigmentation. UV directly stimulates the over-production of melanin. Melanin acts as your skin’s natural sun protection against harmful UV rays but in excessive sun exposure this process is disrupted as leads to hyperpigmentation. These pigment spots and age spots tend to appear mainly on body parts that are frequently exposed to the sun such as face, hands and arms.
Melasma or Choasma is often referred to as the “pregnancy mask” and can affect up to 90% of pregnant people. It occurs as a result of hormonal influences such as birth control pills and pregnancy and tends to appear on the cheeks in patches and the outer aspects of the face such as the sides of the forehead. Oestrogen and progesterone can cause the overproduction of melanin when the skin is exposed to the sun. Certain cosmetics, such as perfume, deodorants and toiletries can cause a phototoxic reaction that triggers melasma which may persist long term.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs when a skin injury or trauma heals and leaves a darkened discolouration behind. Inflammation such as acne, eczema, allergies, or injury or trauma to the skin cause a release of inflammatory cells that in turn stimulate melanocytes to produce more pigment. Severe inflammation can disrupt the bottom layer of the epidermis which can lead to pigment becoming trapped in the dermis. This results in a more resistant pigmentation and can be harder to treat.
Hyperpigmentation is also a side effect of certain illnesses such as autoimmune and gastrointestinal diseases, hemochromatosis, metabolic disorders and vitamin deficiencies. Medications such as chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, antimalarial and anti-seizure drugs can also be a trigger of pigment.
Here at complete skin we offer a few different options for treating pigmentation. A thorough consultation is required to understand the cause of the pigmentation and try to alleviate that problem first if possible. IPL Laser (photo facial) is a fantastic way to blast stubborn pigment and bring it to the surface of the skin, after which it exfoliates off in 7-10 days. Normally three treatments are required. The skin may feel hot for a few hours after the treatment and any pigmentation will darken over the next few days. Otherwise there is no significant downtime. Complete pigment peel combines the powerful skin renewal and clarifying action of clinical strength alpha and beta hydroxyl acids to lift away the accumulated layers of dull, discoloured skin. It’s the gentler treatment option with little to no downtime. Skin may flake for up to 2-4 days after. Topical retinol serums are also a fantastic way to help lighten the skin and encourage cellular turnover. We also offer Complete pigment serum, which contains tyrostat, a skin lightening ingredient which is responsible for preventing new pigment from forming. Finally, I cannot recommend sunscreen enough. For every Envirostat SPF 50 sold this summer, we will be donating $10 to the Amie St Clair melanoma trust. Call us today to discuss the best treatment option for you.
Ruth Gorman (RN).