Treating Pigmentation: Everything You Need to Know
Your skin is naturally pigmented, giving it its unique colour, but this pigment – called melanin – can sometimes be produced in too large of a quantity by your body, leading to irregular discolourations. While excess pigmentation – or hyperpigmentation – is only a superficial condition, it’s one that many people choose to treat due to the effect that it has on their self-esteem.
Types of Pigmentation
When it comes to irregular pigmentation or hyperpigmentation, it can present itself as one of the three common. These are actinic lentigines (sun spots), post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and melasma.
Actinic lentigines are the most common type of hyperpigmentation, presenting as brown freckle-like spots. Most of us will develop sunspots as we get older, especially those that spend a lot of time in the sun as they are caused by repeated exposure to UV and UB rays. Like freckles, they have clearly defined edges and vary in size, and are most likely to develop on areas most commonly exposed to the sun such as the back of the hands, the face, and arms.
Another type of pigmentation is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) which is triggered by the body’s inflammatory response to an injury. Unlike sun spots, PIH develops as irregular patches of brown skin, caused by increased melanin production as part of the body’s healing process. PIH most commonly occurs following damage to the skin, such as acne, a burn, or a traumatic injury to the skin. It is more common in darker skin types such as Asian and black African skin.
The third most common type of irregular pigmentation, melasma, tends to occur far more commonly among women than it does among men. Caused by hormones (more specifically estrogen and progesterone), melasma occurs on the face as light brown patches on either the forehead, cheeks, jawline or upper lip. Because this type of pigmentation is caused by hormones, pregnancy is the most common trigger for the appearance of melasma, although birth control pills have also been cited as a contributing factor. Out of all the different types of pigmentation, melasma is seen as the most difficult to treat because even the briefest exposure to the sun can cause it to manifest again.
The Best Treatments for Pigmentation on the Face
Pigmentation can occur on any area of the body but the face is the most common area that people look to treat as any pigmentation is far more difficult to hide here than on areas such as the arms or back.
Photorejuvenation treatments like laser resurfacing and IPL (intense pulsed light photo-rejuvenation) are considered the most effective methods for treating areas of external pigmentation on the face and body such as age-spots and sun-spots. While there are different types of lasers suitable for treating pigmentation, the Nd: YAG laser is the only one which has been specifically designed for the purpose of dealing with deeper pigmentation (along with sun-damage, freckles. tattoos and semi-permanent make up).
For pigmentation issues where the melanin production is restricted to the epidermis (the upper layers of the skin), derma white treatment can be used on the face to help break down the irregular pigment. Derma white treatment is particularly effective for treating superficial and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Especially in cases where it results from acne. Derma white treatment is effective because it treats the pigmentation along with rejuvenating and smoothing any present of scar tissue.
Advanced dermabrasion will work best on discoloured scars as they both target the top layer of the skin. Advanced dermabrasion penetrate deeper into the dermis but does require few treatments.
The Best Pigmentation Treatments for Different Skin Tones
Like with any dermatology treatments, your skin tone will play a part in how effective a specific treatment will be for you. This is especially true if you have darker skin as this requires a higher level of care to successfully treat without causing further pigmentation issues.
Generally speaking, light to medium skin tones can use any type of treatment to improve pigmentation, although olive skin tones will likely gain the best results from advanced dermabrasion combined with peels.
For darker skin tones, including those Asian or black African skin, the use of high-performance yet gentle treatments is recommended as to not trigger any post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This where the derma white treatment comes in. This does require some patience as a course of treatments are required to deliver results, but it also ensures that any risks or side effects are minimalised.