Pigmentation is the trickiest of all skin treatments to treat – there are so many different reasons you may have pigmentation – so let us first learn some more about these brown spots.

The colour of someone’s skin is usually determined by what is called their ‘phototype’ and by how much sun exposure they get.

Understandably areas frequently exposed to the sun are darker than those that are covered.

Melanin is the natural pigment that controls skin colour, which the body secretes to protect skin from UV rays, this is why you tan!

Pigmentation problems are because of poor melanin functioning, which causes either hyperpigmentation (dark spots) or depigmentation (lighter spots) on the skin.

The latter is usually related to a condition such as vitiligo or albinism, which requires medical care.

Every skin has its own natural colour independent of sun exposure: this is its natural pigmentation.

The colour your skin is depends on skin cells called melanocytes, which are unique in that they produce pigments known as melanin.

This melanin found in the skin offers natural protection against the ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun.

 

There are two types of melanin:

  1. Eumelanin
    Better known as real melanin, it is black or dark brown and found in people with dark skin (it protects from UV rays).
  2. Phaeomelanin
    This is also known as red or redhead melanin. It is present in people with fair skin or red hair. It doesn’t protect against UV rays; on the contrary, its synthesis generates free radicals that attack the skinThese two types of melanin are present in each and every one of us in varying proportions.

The amount of each one is what determines a person’s natural skin colour and how well they tan when exposed to the sun.

 

How does pigmentation work?

Pigmentation is the result of a complex 4-stage process:

1/ Ultraviolet rays and “biological mediators” (substances found in the skin’s cells) stimulate the pigmentation process and therefore the melanin-producing function of cells called melanocytes.

2/ Melanin is produced by melanocytes.

3/ The melanin then produced is distributed through the two layers of the epidermis.

4/ It then migrates to the skin’s surface through the ongoing renewal of cells in the epidermis.

 

Spots linked to sun exposure and age

UV rays cross through the epidermis and stimulate the skin’s pigmentation cells (melanocytes). Some melanocytes are continuously disrupted and start to secrete large amounts of melanin all the time.

Spots appear when melanin production increases in an abnormal manner and when over-produced melanin isn’t uniformly distributed over the skin’s surface. This causes it to accumulate in certain spots and form unsightly marks.

Excessive sun exposure (too intense or too long) over time results in the over-production of melanin, leading to pigment spots or lentigos (small, round and flat spots that vary in size).

That is why people who work outdoors (people in the marine industry, construction workers, gardeners etc.) tend to develop these spots earlier than those who work indoors.

Also – the risk of hyperpigmentation increases with cell ageing and generally affects the areas that are most exposed to the sun over time (face, neck, hands, etc.) as we get older with our cells.

The sun and age are the main causes of pigment spots. This is called either solar lentigo or senile lentigo.

Lentigo affects 90% of white people over the age of 50 years. All skin types are affected.

 

Spots linked to hormonal changes and oral contraceptives

Hormonal changes during pregnancy or when taking oral contraceptives can also cause hyperpigmentation.

In brown-haired women (with matte skin), hormonal changes may lead to the appearance of a brown mask on the face called “melasma” or a “pregnancy mask”.

These are large brownish spots located on the upper face, sparing the edge of the scalp. They become more pronounced in the summer.

Their colour will vary and darkens in sunlight.

This common pigmentation appears suddenly but decreases or completely disappears after hormones have returned to normal – after the birth of a child or when they go off the contraceptive pill.

Residual pigmentation may however persist for another few months or another few years.

In certain cases, a “pregnancy mask” sometimes appears even when a person isn’t pregnant or taking oral contraception.

 

Spots linked to phototoxic substances and skin lesions

When exposed to the sun, certain plant species (plant essences), fragrances and medicines can cause brown spots to appear after a photosensitisation (phototoxicity) reaction – you usually see these brown spots on ‘perfume points’ – the areas we spray perfume.

Damaged or scarred skin – the after-effects of burns, sunburns, healing of inflammatory lesions, particularly acne lesions – will develop pigmentation marks more easily if exposed to UV rays.

 

What can I do?

Everyday

The best approach is systematically applying a BB or CC cream in the sunniest months together with behaving responsibly in relation to the sun.

  • Protect yourself from the sun to prevent pigmentation marks from appearing or getting worse. Avoid the sun when its rays are the most dangerous, that is, between 10 am and 3 pm.
  • Choose your photoprotection carefully. I recommend a BB or CC cream because it is a makeup and will protect you all day – sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 2 hours otherwise.
  • Also take dietary supplements before and during exposure to better prepare your skin for the sun, the best ones are by Heliocare who specialise in sun protective supplements

Never expose babies to the sun. Protect children using clothing and a special sun cream. 80% of skin problems result from people being exposed to the sun prior to age 18, which is why Australian’s suffer from sun-damage more so than our English counterparts who come to Australia and then burn themselves to a crisp but do not end up with as much damage in later age.

 

Vitamins for pigmented skin

The most important antioxidants are Vitamins A, B and C.

Vitamin B 3 – also known as Niacinamide, has a number of different benefits for the skin, and one of them is regulating pigment by blocking something called the PAR 2 receptors in your skin.

Cellular organs called melanosomes are responsible for transferring pigment into skin cells, and they’re activated by PAR 2 (protinase-activated receptors). Vitamin B3 can help block the PAR 2 receptors and prevent unwanted pigment from transferring onto your skin cells.

Vitamin C -can also help inhibit pigmentation, but it works on a different pathway to Vitamin B3. Basically, Vitamin C inhibits tyrosinase, which is an enzyme that catalyses pigment production. It also helps to brighten your skin overall skin tone.

 

Treatments

Hormonal pigmentation

Having salon treatments for hormonal pigmentation when you are still pregnant, breastfeeding or still on the contraceptive pill may make you feel as if you are doing something – but you are actually wasting your money.

The best treatment is to keep your skin looking dewy and healthy and to wear a good cc cream to protect it from the sun – one which promotes ‘glow’ and ‘luminous’ skin – not matte skin as this will make your skin look flat and the pigmentation will show. Victoria Curtis CC cream and IT CC cream are two of my favourites.

Ideally start using an oil cleanser such at the Everything Skin Oil and moisturising balm style moisturiser such as the Everything Skin Cream.

You can apply Vitamin B and Vitamin C serums to help even out the skin, but because your skin will build up a resistance to them over time – alternate each one so the skin gets a break from one or the other of them.

Exfoliate regularly – if time poor use a manual exfoliator such as Pelactiv’s Facial Refiner Deep Cleansing Scrub in the shower 3 x weekly, if you have more time use an exfoliating treatment such as Sothy’s gommage.

For a deep peeling experience which will also hydrate the skin helping it look luminescent use Clear Skincare 10% Lactic Acid Mini Peel once weekly. Do one course of 5 treatments over the 5 week period and then use a gentler exfoliant for a few weeks whilst you use a Vitamin B or C treatment.

If you feel that you need to use the Lactic Acid again – give the other products a break. This way your skin will not plateau and you will not end up wasting large amounts of product.

Once you are off the pill, or post baby – give yourself 6 months and then start on the treatment below – a lot of it is the same – but with some added treatment options.

 

Age (senile) pigmentation, acne scarring pigmentation and sun-damage pigmentation treatments

With the loss of luminosity and uneven skin tone which mature skins suffer from –pigmentation starts to look less like freckles but more like dark unattractive spots.

Post acne scars also suffer from the same loss of collagen and elastin, the skins also look dull and lifeless.

As does sun-damaged skin.

The first step for all skins is to get the skin’s luminosity back by using the correct skincare and using a good CC cream to protect from the sun, and to give the skin a luminous look.

Look for the words ‘glow’ and ‘luminous’ when choosing a good CC cream – avoid anything which will make the skin matte as it will show off the skin’s flaws. My favourites as I said before are Curtis Collection and IT CC creams.

Salon Light therapy treatments, peels and laser treatments are definitely good money spent – but without the correct homecare – a complete waste of money.

If you go with a beauty therapist or a laser clinic – follow their advice as their treatments will not work without you doing exactly as you are told.

If your budget is tight – or you like to do things your way – then follow these following steps;

Start by using an oil cleanser such at the Everything Skin Oil and moisturising balm style moisturiser such as the Everything Skin Cream.

Oil cleansers will not make your skin break out – but they do help lift of dead skin cells as well as hydrate the skin – once the skin looks hydrated – it instantaneously looks better and more even toned.

You can apply Vitamin B and Vitamin C serums to help even out the skin tone but because you will build up resistance to them over time – alternate each one so the skin gets a break from them.

Exfoliate regularly – if time poor use a manual exfoliator such as Pelactiv’s Facial Refiner Deep Cleansing Scrub in the shower 3 x weekly, if you have more time use an exfoliating treatment such as Sothy’s gommage.

For a deep peeling experience which will also hydrate the skin helping it look luminescent use Clear Skincare 10% Lactic Acid Mini Peel once weekly. Do one course of 5 treatments over the 5 week period and then use a gentler exfoliant for a few weeks whilst you use a Vitamin B or C treatment.

If you want to give your skin a massive boost post 5 weeks of lactic peels – use Clear Skincare’s 100% Pure Vitamin Mini Peel  – this is a very intensive peel – never use it first – ALWAYS USE IT AFTER a series of Lactic peels.

Use it weekly – and do not use any Vitamin B or C serums in this time – it’s just too much doubling up – and can cause irritation.

When you are not doing the Vitamin C peels and if you want a one product does all instead of alternating between a B3 serum and a C serum – you can use a pigment inhibiting cream or serum. One which has a great reputation is Rejuvaus Super Whitening and Brightening Pigment Serum. Or an old faithful John Plunket’s Superfade.

I recommend getting a light therapy facial mask – alternate between the red light to stimulate collagen and elastin production and green light to help fade pigmentation. Use nightly for two weeks (it can be used when you are doing the peels) after this if you can see seriously good results drop down to 3 x weekly – if still not satisfied – keep doing them nightly – they will only do your skin good.

Ideally start all treatments throughout winter as your pigmentation will fade naturally throughout this time anyway and you will increase your results. By summer time it will last if you keep protecting your skin.

Just remember – first and foremost – keep your skin hydrated, luminous and healthy – all of the other treatments will make your skin whiter – but nothing makes it look better than hydration.

 

 

If you would like more personalised information on what treatment would suit you best – book a Glowing Skin Treatment with me via Zoom

 

 

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