Ever wondered where all those little blemishes, dark patches, age spots, or sun spots come from on your skin? What causes them and how can we prevent or improve them? Well we’ve got you covered with this month’s blog all about Pigmentation!
What is pigmentation?
O.K. so Pigmentation is related to the production of melanin in the skin which protects the cells and their DNA by absorbing the skin’s ultraviolet rays (UVR’s). Pigment cells found in the skin, known as melanocytes are stimulated by the sun’s UVA rays creating what is known as Melanin. The process of pigment production is called Melanogenesis. The length of time the skin is exposed to these UVA rays correlates with the severity of the pigmentation (these patches can often be called ‘sun spots’ or ‘age spots’). Pigment activity can also be triggered by hormonal issues such as pregnancy and the contraceptive pill (see Melasma) and by various medications such as chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, antimalarials and anti-seizure drugs.
As briefly outlined above, the main cause for Pigmentation damage in the skin is overexposure to the sun’s UVA rays. As the sun stimulates melanin activity and creates dark patches, it is extremely important that we protect ourselves daily to prevent our skin from becoming pigmented. Treatment for this skin concern can be a tricky and long process– remember prevention is always better than cure! We will go into more detail about how to protect and treat your skin later in this blog….
There are many different forms of Pigmentation, but the main ones fall into the following categories:
Hyperpigmentation is caused when the skin produces too much melanin resulting in localised dark patches of skin. This is usually due to overexposure of the suns rays and is your skins natural defence mechanism to prevent damage in the deeper layers of the skin.
Post inflammatory Hyperpigmentation is where brown or red patches remain on a skin that has been subjected to trauma, inflammation or both. A prime example of this are the marks that are left after moderate-severe acne.
Hypopigmentation occurs when overexposure to the sun’s UV rays results in destroyed melanocytes, leaving irreversible white areas on the skin. A prime example of this could be seen in Michael Jackson, who was diagnosed with the auto immune disease Vitiligo, a form of hypopigmentation where the skin loses all its melanin, removing its natural protection system against sun exposure (meaning he had to be shaded from sunlight at all times).
Another form of hypopigmentation is Albinism – a rare and genetic disease in which the pigment melanin cannot be formed. Individuals with Albinism have pale skin, hair, and irises (the coloured part of the eye).
Melasma (also known as Chloasma) is a form of hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal factors. It is particularly common among women during or after pregnancy or who have taken the contraceptive pill. It is thought to occur when the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone stimulate the overproduction of melanin when skin is exposed to the sun. This condition can cause a ‘butterfly’ effect on the face usually affecting the cheeks and upper lip in a symmetrical pattern.
The Fitzpatrick Skin Type Scale
This scale developed in 1975 by Dr Thomas Fitzpatrick is commonly used among skincare professionals to measure the skin’s tolerance to sunlight – specifically the skin’s tendency to tan or burn – which is necessary to determine suitable or unsuitable products or treatments for that particular client’s skin type. In further detail this skin type scale helps to determine the client’s risk of hyperpigmentation, scarring, skin cancer and burning. Irrespective of skin colour, we all have the same amount of melanocyte cells however skin types towards the higher end of the Fitzpatrick scale have a larger amount of melanogenic activity and therefore a larger range of melanin produced in these cells. This means that they possess a higher level of protection against UVA rays making it more difficult to burn, however they also tend to be more at risk for hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and scarring.
So how do we treat Pigmentation? Read below to see the treatments and solutions we currently offer in clinic:
Applying concentrated acids to the skin such as Glycolic and Lactic has a brightening effect as these acids absorb right down to the basal layer of the epidermis, stimulating healthy activity in sluggish melanocyte cells, thereby correcting pigment.
When the pH of the skin is lowered, this encourages the desquamation of the skin’s layers creating a shedding effect. Layers of dead keratinised (and often damaged, pigmented skin) will shed off to reveal treated, healthier and brighter skin underneath.
Chemical Peels we offer which are targeted towards Pigmentation treatment:
Glow Peel – Alumier – £95
The Sweet Chill – Dermaquest – £65
Vitamin A Boost – Alumier – £70
TCA/Salicylic – Dermaquest – £79
Primary/Power Pumpkin – £49
Go to the Chemical Peel page for further descriptions of the peels or book in for a skin consultation if you’re not sure which treatment is for you using our online booking form. We also have a Chemical Peel Blog if you’re not sure what a Chemical Peel involves.
Dark spots of melanin can be very stubborn and become more pronounced over time instead of fading away as our skin becomes lazy and stops producing new cells as we age. Using a Dermapen Microneedling device on the skin avoids using any acids or chemicals and stimulates the skin’s healing response, encouraging the production of precious growth factors – this is called the collagen induction therapy because the small injuries made to the skin cause surface bleeding, compelling the body to start its healing process. The old layer of skin starts becoming dry and in a week or so peels off. Over a period of 10 to 14 days, new collagen is formed to cover up the injuries. This new layer of skin is free from any kind of spots or marks creating an appearance that is significantly improved. You would usually require between 3-6 treatments 4 weeks apart but this varies depending on the severity of the damage.
Using the Lynton Lumina platform, IPL (intense pulsed light) can deliver fast and effective results. Light is released in short pulses that are readily absorbed by the high concentration of melanin found within pigmented lesions. The rapid absorption of light heats the melanin and causes the destruction of the melanin-rich cells. The number of treatments will depend on the type and size of the pigmented lesion but typically 1-3 sessions are required at 4-6 week intervals. Consultation and patch test is always required and it is worth noting that dark skinned individuals and mottled or raised pigmentation cannot always be treated. Results can often be maintained with a good skin care routine and physical SPF.
Why not book in for a consultation and patch test now using our IPL online booking form.
There are many different products and homecare systems that are available to brighten the skin, improve the appearance of pigmentation and inhibit the production of melanin in the skin.
Dermaquest offer a SkinBrite range of products containing brightening ingredients such as Kojic acid, Arbutin, Emblica, Chromabright and SynoveaHR. SynoveaHR is four times more effective than Hydroquinone as a skin brightener, helping to protect DNA from UV damage and inhibiting melanogenesis.
Another hero ingredient when it comes to improving and preventing pigmentation is Vitamin C – specifically L ascorbic acid. Not only does Vitamin C act as an antioxidant but combined with Vitamin E it protects the skin against photo-damage and neutralises free radicals. Furthermore, when applied to the skin prior to a broad-spectrum sunscreen, it actually increases the effectiveness of protection you receive. With this is mind AlumierMD have produced the very scientifically advanced EverActive C&E – a potent antioxidant and peptide serum that reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and protects cells from free radical damage caused by the sun and pollution. Come into the clinic now to purchase yours!
As we mentioned earlier – Prevention is better than Cure! And with that in mind the BEST thing you can do to protect your skin against further sun damage and pigmentation issues (and also slow down the ageing process!) is to wear a Physical or Broad Spectrum Sunscreen with SPF40 or higher EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
If you’re not sure about which sunscreen you should be using, want to know the differences between a physical or chemical sunscreen, or want to know more about what it will do for your skin we’ve got you covered in our ‘Sunscreen In Winter’ blog.
If you have any questions about Pigmentation or concerns about your skin, book in with one of our skin specialists for a free consultation using our online booking form.