Sun damage, or pigmentation, occurs when patches of skin turn darker in colour causing an uneven skin tone. Hyperpigmentation is a concentrated and often localised increase in your skins melanin (colour), often caused by sun exposure. It is a common and usually a harmless condition, in which patches of the skin become darker than the surrounding skin.
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What is pigmentation?
Pigmentation is essentially the colouration in the skin; it’s determined by the amount of melanin (the colour) which the body produces from its melanocyte cells. The amount of melanin produced depends primarily on skin type and exposure to sunlight. Fairer skin is the result of a lower melanin production, while darker tones are the result of higher production. Other than colouring the skin (plus hair and eyes), melanin provides protection by absorbing UVB radiation from the sun. A sun tan (Melanogenesis) is the result of higher melanin production; the body’s own defences against damaging UVB. Hormonal and environmental factors can also have an impact on melanin production, resulting in pigmentation disorders.
What causes pigmentation?
Melanin deposits – also known as solar lentigines and commonly referred to as age or live spots – are small darkened patches of skin. They are usually found on the face, hands or other areas frequently exposed to the sun. Pigmentation can also be connected to genetics, hormonal changes, medical conditions, burns or spots. With age, the visible effects of pigmentation can become more obvious; therefore, earlier treatment will both help your present skin condition and prevent further damage. There are two main types of pigmentation: Hyperpigmentation and Hypopigmentation. HYPERPIGMENTATION This is the darkening of the skin in patches or localised areas due to the over-production of melanin:
- Moles: a form of pigmented growth on the skin.
- Freckles: a cluster of cells which have produced more melanin. They’re prominent on people with fair skin and most common in children. They’re caused by exposure to the sun.
- Birthmarks: caused by the over-production of melanin in localised areas from birth.
- Sun spots/age spots: a result of exposure to the sun over a long period of time.
- Melasma: also known as pregnancy mask. This is the darkening of the skin on the face and body – commonly the linea nigra on the stomach.
- Post-inflammatory marks: any dark mark which is left on the skin after a burn, spot, cut or other injury has healed due to the trauma the skin has endured. Acne scars also come under this category.
HYPOPIGMENTATION Conversely, this is a reduction in the production of pigments, characterised by white or pink patches:
- Vitiligo: patches of white skin that appear on the face and body caused by an autoimmune reduction of melanin production. It can be hereditary or spontaneous.
- Post-inflammatory marks: any injury to the skin which has left a pale mark behind.
- Tinea versicolor: an outbreak of pale marks of the skin, usually treatable with creams.
- Achromia: more commonly known as Albinism. This occurs when there is no pigmentation. It’s very rare. It affects skin, hair and eyes (colour and vision).
It’s worth noting that hormonal changes can also impact pigmentation. Other than pregnancy, women on the contraceptive pill or with thyroid conditions can exhibit patches.
What does pigmentation look like?
Tips for dealing with pigmentation
- We highly recommend wearing a broad-spectrum SPF every day to prevent further damage occurring.
- Wear a hat in high UV seasons.
- Don’t expose your skin during the hottest part of the day.
- Use a good skincare regime at home including prevention and correction products.
- Use advanced treatments for areas that are already showing the telltale signs of harm – they work through the damaged layers and can provide visible results.
- Leave any spots, scabs and lesions alone to prevent scratching and damage to the skin’s surface. By disturbing the skin cells, you are causing them to react and leave a mark.
- Gently exfoliate to rid the body of dull skin cells. Moisturising afterwards can help the skin become more resistant to scratches etc.
- Contact Destination skin to find out how you can prevent and correct the pigmentation you have
Q: Will my pigment go completely with treatment?
A: As there are many different types of pigmentation we would need to determine why the pigmenatation is there to be able to devise a personalised treatment plan. We aim to reduce pigmentation to a minimum and often the pigmentation does go completely however sometimes if the pigmentation is very deep we will achieve a significant reduction to the appearance. Often a level of maintence is also needed.
Q: Can I get pigmentation from being on a sunbed?
A: Using sunbeds is a key factor into why you may have pigmentation. Pigmentation can naturally occur from the sun’s UV rays however using sunbeds increases pigmentation dramatically as a sunbed is a high dose of UV light which stimulates your melanocytes to over produce pigmentation unevenly within the skin therefore leaving you with darker patches within your skin.
Q: Are the products proven to work as I have tried so many out there already?
A: The main difference with the products we have at destination skin compared to other places is that they are of a cosmeceutical grade with scientific evidence that evaluate their effectiveness. The products go through many stages of testing before they are launched to ensure they have high concentrations of active ingredients to work with the skin concern. As we offer an in-depth consultation with skilled professionals we also ensure the products that are recommended are right for your concerns too.
Q: What is the best treatment for me?
A: A consultation with one of our practitioners will determine what would be the best treatment for yourself. Every skin is different and we will make an assessment using a skin scanner alongside your concerns.
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Treatments - How can we help with pigmentation?
Treatment varies depending on the type of pigmentation problem and the individual’s skin. For hyperpigmentation, there are several options. The first would be to speak to a qualified skincare expert for advice on the specific issue.
Skin peels are an effective option. Many forms of hyperpigmentation exist on the upper layers of the epidermis, hence a skin peel – which removes blemishes and dull cells from the surface – can prove successful. It also improves the visible texture and smoothness of the skin, so is an ideal all-round, low-maintenance treatment.
Laser and light rejuvenation is generally acknowledged as a more permanent and visible solution. Destination Skin uses Intense Pulsed Light treatment, which targets, breaks-up and lightens deep sun damage and hormonal melasma to create a more even skin tone.
Although a single session can show notable improvements, a course of three or four treatments is usually recommended. If a topical treatment is preferred, the Obagi Nu-Derm System professional skincare range (prescription only) is an 18-week programme which resurfaces and regenerates the skin. It can visibly reduce the appearance of dark spots. Hypopigmentation can be more difficult to treat. While a skin peel or laser treatment can help reduce post-inflammatory cases, and there is medication for tinea, vitiligo has no cure. Some people opt for total depigmentation, which can be extreme.
Others may find that light treatment helps, stimulating the cells to produce melanin. More often than not, camouflage creams and good foundations can be used to disguise the white patches, especially on the face. Again, talk to an expert to determine the right course of action for you.
What our team say
After 9 months we had reduced her pigmentation by 60%. We had not completely eradicated her pigmentation, but her skin looked healthy and strong and she left us with further products to help her skin improve even further. She was a very happy client.