Pigmentation & Sun Spots
What Is It?
Pigmentation occurs when the skin produces more melanin, by specialised cells called melanocytes. This can make patches of skin appear darker than surrounding areas. It is a common skin condition which affects people of all skin tones and skin types.
Some forms of pigmentation, including melasma and sun spots, are more likely to affect areas of skin that get large amounts of sun exposure, including the face, arms, and legs. Other types of pigmentation form after an injury or inflammation such as cuts, burns, acne or lupus (also known as post-inflammatory pigmentation). These can occur anywhere on the body.
Having extra pigment in some areas of skin is usually harmless but can sometimes indicate a medical condition. In some cases, pigmentation can give an aged appearance to skin, along with an uneven skin tone.
Types Of Pigmentation
Sun spots (also called liver spots or solar lentigines) are brown, tan or black spots that appear on mature skin or after extended exposure to sun.
Melasma (also called chloasma or pregnancy mask) large patches of darkened skin in women who are pregnant or taking birth control.
Post-inflammatory (also called hyperpigmentation) spots or patches of darkened skin that appear after an inflammatory skin condition such as acne or eczema.
What Causes It?
External triggers include sun or heat exposure, environmental damage, inflammation or trauma to the skin.
Internal triggers include hormones (pregnancy, contraceptive methods or hormone replacement therapy), your genetics or Fitzpatrick skin type (which informs any predispositions of how your skin will pigment) and medication can influence melanin production or can make your skin more sensitive to sun.
What Can I Do To Help It?
When pigment becomes present it is important to figure out how the pigment got there.
Whether it has come to the surface after a recent holiday, or if you have had a change in hormones, these factors will determine how we can treat the pigment, how long it will take to treat and expectations around results.
- Wear SPF every single day rain, hail or shine! This should go without saying by now, but the sun is the biggest threat to our skin and not all SPF formulas are created equal.
Any SPF is absolutely better than none, however, if you are concerned with pigmentation, it is really beneficial to use a mineral SPF over a chemical SPF. This is because a mineral or zinc-based SPF is designed to sit on the surface of the skin and act as a shield over the surface of your skin, deflecting and stopping any UV penetration. When UV penetrates the skin, it stimulates melanin product and makes pigment darker.
While a chemical SPF protects you from getting sunburnt, instead of reflecting the UV rays off the skins surface it actually allows your skin to absorb these harmful UV rays — resulting in darkening of pigmentation. Reapplication of SPF every 2-4 hours is essential.
- Avoid picking breakouts or any other skin lesion as this leads to scarring or pigmentation.
- Use vitamins A, B, C, antioxidants and a pigment inhibitor in skincare routine to treat and protect skin.
- AHA’s or BHA’s will give you quicker results to reduce pigmentation by speeding up skin cell turnover to slough off those pigmented cells.
- Reduce inflammation in your skin by looking at your diet and stress levels.
- Always wear a hat and sunglasses when outside. Fun fact: you can absorb UV rays through the eyes and that can actually stimulate the melanin production in your skin!
Treatments To Try
When you come in for a skin consultation, we will look at your skin under our skin diagnostic machine to see what is the main cause of your pigment.
Is it sun damage? Is it post inflammatory? Is it hormone-driven? Once the cause has been established, we can then develop your treatment plan.
Red LED Light Therapy acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, which is part of what causes pigmentation. In addition, red light has a long enough wavelength to penetrate the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) and reach the dermis (the middle layer of the skin) to promote healing and repair.
Skin Needling is a safe and effective way to treat scarring and can help to lighten pigmentation, (provided you don't have sensitive skin that scars easily). Known for its incredible ability to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, skin needling delivers real results in overall skin rejuvenation. Not only will this leave you glowing, it can heal and repair damaged skin cells resulting in healthier, more even-toned skin.
Peels like a lactic acid peel will help to get hydration back, repair and strengthen the skin barrier and move out epidermal pigment. Next, you can progress into more advanced peel options such as salicylic, vitamin A and C or pigment-inhibiting peels.
IPL Rejuvenation is without a doubt the best, most effective treatment for sun damage. It uses intense wavelengths of light to heat the surface of skin enough to stimulate it to naturally regenerate while boosting collagen production and breaking down pigmentation. Over a course of treatments, clients are left with a smoother skin tone, healthier complexion and less visible sun damage.
Build You Perfect Skincare Routine
Start by using an SPF every single day and making sure you are cleansing and moisturising AM and PM.
Incorporating vitamins A, B and C into your routine and a pigment inhibitor are essential (these can be combined in one or two products – it doesn’t have to be a whole lot of different products to be effective.
It is also beneficial to include an AHA or BHA product in your routine to speed up skin cell turnover to remove darkened skin cells — whether that’s included in your daily serum or as a treatment product like a mask or exfoliant to be used 1-2 times per week.