Hope for Hyperpigmentation?
By: Lisa Tep / Sesen Spa
The topic of skin discoloration is one of the most common concerns we see in our facial treatment rooms. The cascading cause and effects and the intricate timeline for how pigmentation actually occurs in our skin is such a complex and interesting topic. While there have been so many advances in the cosmetic industry for treating pigmentation concerns, it is still one of the most difficult skin conditions to treat. Yes, there is hope, but it takes patience and consistency.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Pigmentation refers to the general discoloring of the skin. Hyperpigmentation refers specifically to discoloration that is dark. Hypopigmentation occurs when there is a loss of color in the skin. Our bodies produce pigment through a complex process called melanogenesis, where specialized cells called melanocytes produce melanin pigment. Melanin, in turn, is sent to various areas of our bodies. These deposits of pigment are eventually what we see on the surface of the skin as discoloration.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
In general, there are three categories of hyperpigmentation: UV-induced (sun damage), trauma-induced (post inflammatory) and hormonal (melasma). Sun damage is the most common form of hyperpigmentation and affects everyone. It occurs as a result of prolonged and repeated sun exposure and presents in the form of sun spots, age spots or lentigines.
Post inflammatory pigmentation occurs when there is an injury to the skin. For example, when a pimple develops, the blemish can remain well after the acne has healed because the skin will hyper pigment at the site. After the acne is gone, many clients are treating the pigmentation in an effort to even out the skin tone.
Many women develop dark patches on their face and body during pregnancy, a condition known as melasma. This usually clears up after childbirth (and when hormone levels begin to stabilize). Some women can experience skin discoloration when starting birth control as well.
Why Does Melanogenesis Occur?
While we may not like the look of discoloration on our skin and are impatient for results during treatment, it’s important to understand why our bodies react this way. When you
have to leave the house for work or to run errands and it’s raining outside, what do you? Most of us, grab an umbrella to keep us dry from the rain. Well, melanogenesis is the equivalent of using an umbrella. Triggering melanogenesis is our body’s way of opening the umbrella in order to protect our dermis and underlying tissues from harmful UV radiation. The melanin that is produced is black, allowing it to absorb a majority of UV-B rays and blocking it from affecting lower areas.
While the results (skin discoloration) are undesirable, the process is critical in protecting our bodies.
How to Treat Hyperpigmentation?
First and foremost, the single most effective way to treat hyperpigmentation is via prevention. If you are not utilizing safe sun practices and using sun protection daily, then there is absolutely no point in treating skin discoloration. This is like working out with a personal trainer and then going to McDonalds afterwards – it is pointless.
“I wear SPF when I know I’m going to be outdoors for a long period of time” or “I hate wearing SPF because it feels sticky and clogs my pores” or “I’m inside all day, so I don’t see the need for SPF”. These sentiments are common, but are counterproductive when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation. Sun protection product formulations have come a LONG way. There are so many options on the market, finding one that works for you is simply a matter of experimenting until you find one that you love. And then you should use it every day, no matter what your plans are for that day (inside or out). It is habit forming and non-negotiable.
After prevention, treating hyperpigmentation should be a multi-prong approach – Exfoliation
The pigmentation has been deposited into the epidermis and is now visible on the surface of the skin. Safe and regular exfoliation is going to assist in removing dead skin cells and increasing cellular turnover, thereby, encouraging that pigmentation to move up and out. Vitamin C
This single ingredient is viewed by so many beauty brands as a “hero ingredient” and it’s easy to understand why. It is a potent antioxidant that is capable of delivering instant and visible results on many fronts, but its ability to brighten and even out skin tone is why it plays such a critical role in treating hyperpigmentation. Vitamin A
Also known as retinol, vitamin A is a powerhouse skincare ingredient for so many reasons. In the case of treating hyperpigmentation, it works to inhibit tyrosinase (an enzyme that plays a critical role in the production of melanin).
Quarterly professional facial treatments should involve an intensive peel that is specifically formulated to treat pigmentation concerns. In between professional treatments, clients can supplement with a monthly (or weekly, depending on skin type) at-home peels and a brightening mask.
Consistency is key when treating hyperpigmentation. While prevention is paramount, crafting a treatment plan that addresses pigmentation concerns across multiple platforms is how clients begin to see steady progress.