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What is Hyperpigmentation and what causes it?
A common skin problem that many women (and some men) experience is hyperpigmentation. This uneven pigmentation of the skin appears as dark spots or patches and is seen on the face, neck, hands and other parts of the body frequently exposed to the sun. Hyperpigmented skin has an uneven colour and looks older.
The skin contains a brown pigment called melanin. Melanin is made in special cells called melanocytes and each melanocyte donates melanin to a group of surrounding skin cells. When this happens evenly across the body we get our natural skin colour or an even tan. When it happens unevenly we get irregular blotches of melanin – hyperpigmentation.
Different types of hyperpigmentation have different causes and treatments.
Freckles and Age Spots
These are concentrated small spots of hyperpigmentation caused by too much sun exposure. They vary in colour from light to dark brown or black. The difference between freckles and age spots is that freckles are what young people’s skin does when it gets too much sun. Sunspots and Age spots are what older people’s skin does when it gets too much sun.
It is important to get new and changing freckles, sunspots and age spots checked. A spot that grows over time or has less defined edges may be malignant. Almost all of them are benign but one could be a deadly melanoma. It’s a good idea to get it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible and avoid exposing it to sunlight. The sooner a melanoma is removed the better. Fair skinned individuals, those who had multiple bad peeling sunburns when they were younger, and outdoor workers are most at risk.
Melasma is a hormone related condition that’s often triggered by birth control usage or pregnancy. It looks like irregular splotchy patches of pigment and is usually seen on the nose, cheeks, above the lip and forehead. Melasma is usually symmetrical on both sides of the face.
This condition occurs as a response to skin injuries like burns, acne or friction. It can appear anywhere on the body where injury occurs. They start off pink and red and then turn brown.
People with dark skin are more likely to experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma than those with lighter skin. Those with lighter skin are more prone to freckles, sunspots and melanoma.
You can get further information at Dermnet. https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/brown-spots-and-freckles
About the New Zealand sun.
If you have been outside while visiting Europe, North America or Asia you will have noticed that your skin can tolerate a longer time in the sun without burning than back home in NZ.
The New Zealand sun is harsh. While we do have many more cloudy days compared to Queensland, we have the same incidence of melanoma. . If you pay attention you will notice that a New Zealander looks five years older than someone from Northern Europe or North America who is the same age.
Why? The ozone layer is thinnest over New Zealand. Not only is this layer dangerously depleted, we also have very clean air, being surrounded by large oceans. On the continents, there is a lot of dust floating in the sky which deflects and diffuses the harmful UV rays. So it’s important for us to do what we can to protect ourselves from the skin-damaging effects of the sun.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent hyperpigmentation as well as reduce it after it has appeared. We offer several treatments that can help fade the appearance of these dark patches and spots and give you smoother, clearer skin. Depending on the condition of your skin and needs, we recommend one of the following options.
Let’s explore some of the services we offer for treatment.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
IPL is an effective way to treat hyperpigmentation that’s exacerbated by sun exposure. The process involves targeting discolouration by pulsing light-based energy onto the skin. It works by finding any pigmentation and lifting it out.
This type of treatment has a short recovery period, and the pigmented areas will turn darker and peel off in a couple of days.
Topical skincare treatments can be very effective at treating various types of pigmentation. Creams containing 2-4% Hydroquinone reduce hyperpigmentation and prevent further discolouration but need to be carefully considered because of the risk of side effects.
Another option is topical high strength Vitamins B and C. These target hyperpigmentation and other signs of aging. Regular usage will help lighten brown spots and inhibit melanin production resulting in a brighter, more even skin tone.
Lytera 2.0 is an advanced solution to help reduce and prevent skin pigmentation problems. It has been proven to address even the most stubborn discolouration in a shorter period of time than other over-the-counter treatments. It can also be used as a preventative measure to keep hyperpigmentation from appearing in the first place.
For more advanced cases of hyperpigmentation, prescription medications might be considered.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
TOO MUCH SUN. You can’t get hyperpigmentation without overexposure to harmful UV rays.
The hormonal changes associated with conditions like pregnancy and perimenopause can also bring on dark patches or melasma. Damaging skin conditions like acne can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Certain medications can also trigger pigmentation, so be sure to talk to your doctor about anything you’re taking before starting a treatment program.
Is Hyperpigmentation Treatment Necessary?
While many other skin problems tend to heal naturally over time, hyperpigmentation will not fade on its own. The cells responsible for the pigmentation will remain overactive unless they are restored to normal. Simply fading the discolouration without normalising these cells will not give you long-term results. So it’s essential to get to the root of the problem and follow the right treatment regimen.
How Can I Take Care of my Skin After Pigmentation Removal?
After undergoing any pigmentation removal treatment, it is vital to use a high-quality sunscreen every single day. Apply a good amount of the product whether it’s sunny or cloudy outside. Before stepping out in the sun, wear the right clothing and put on a hat. UV rays can be highly damaging to the skin and promote the recurrence of any dark spots or marks.
We also recommend daily moderate exercise to stimulate circulation and speed up lymphatic drainage. Additionally, get our advice before using stronger skin treatments like bleaches, scrubs and peels.
A thorough consultation is critical to identify the reasons behind your hyperpigmentation and develop an appropriate treatment plan that is safe and effective. We can also guide you with ways to protect your skin from further skin damage and pigmentation. Please contact us to book a consultation and get started on the path to a more even complexion.