What Is Pigmentation and How Do I Treat It?
Sunny days are ahead, well, we hope! However, skin pigmentation issues are also going to become more obvious. Let's talk about it today!
Hyperpigmentation is a result of the over production of melanin (pigment) within the skin and can be caused by many factors, including hormonal changes, solar/pollution damage, medication and the after-effects of acne and skin inflammation. It is a complex skin issue and also one of the most challenging conditions to treat, so you need to be patient.
Sunspots vary in colour from light to dark brown and have a clearly defined edge. These pesky spots really creep up on you and pop up in our 40s and 50s. They are mainly caused by UVA and UVB rays, but also blue/HEV light now that we are more aware of its impact on skin pigmentation problems. Sunspots and freckles are often confused, but there are differences. Freckles usually occur in fairer skinned individuals and are genetically programmed. Freckles are often lighter in colour, smaller in size, and usually appear earlier in life, but both sunspots and freckles need sun exposure to appear.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
'Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation' is a bit of a mouthful so let’s call it PIH for short! These pigmented spots are red or brown areas that appear on the skin after excessive trauma, heat or infection. Burns, cuts, grazes, laser treatments, deep chemical peels and acne blemishes are common triggers for PIH. PIH occurs when the skin has been wounded or inflamed, causing the normally protective melanocytes to overreact by creating excess pigment which results in a discoloured red, purple or brown mark. These marks are often described as ‘scars’, but this is technically incorrect as there is no collagen damage or tissue loss under the skin.
If you have naturally darker skin tones you are more prone to PIH, so you need to be extra cautious when receiving chemical peels, IPL or laser treatments. To reduce this risk, we recommend you introduce active cosmeceuticals containing tyrosinase inhibitors, such as AZRA Botanical Simplicity Intensive Serum into your skincare routine. Tyrosinase inhibitors slow down the skin enzyme (tyrosinase) that helps you make melanin.
Melasma is the trickiest to treat of all types of hyperpigmentation. It appears on the face as larger brown patches with a non-distinct, fuzzy border. It affects women in 90% of cases and can be caused by hormonal changes, pregnancy, certain drugs and thyroid hormone imbalance. It is often symmetrical on the cheeks, chin and forehead when compared to common sun damage. Although melasma can’t be completely cured, it can be controlled with attention to lifestyle and active skincare. The condition is worsened with UV and blue light exposure, overheating of the blood, excessive exercise, some medications, hormonal fluctuations and stress.
Melasma can be controlled with regular skin treatments. You can take charge of melasma by modifying your lifestyle and avoiding excessive heat, such as hot yoga and saunas. Of course, using UVA/B and HEV blue light daily solar protection is essential. Try using a mineral makeup with over 3% iron oxide as this will block out harmful blue light.
How to treat pigmentation?
In terms of skincare, solar protection is the key. Protecting your skin from harsh UVA/B and HEV blue light that causes sunspots and triggers melasma is essential. To keep your symptoms at bay, it is recommended to introduce a consistent skincare routine that incorporates active cosmeceuticals to target hyperpigmentation at the source.