Spots, Blotches, Uneven Pigmentation – Part One

WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION?

Hyperpigmentation is a condition where patches form on the skin that are darker in color than the normal surrounding area. This darkening occurs when an excess of melanin (brown pigment) deposits itself in and around skin cells to protect your skin from damage (usually from the sun).  Normally melanin production results in a tan. But when something goes awry melanin is deposited unevenly which results in the annoying presence of unevenly pigmented spots.  It takes consistency and a lot of patience to undo the effects of hyperpigmentation.  Even with all that effort, one day out in the sun can potentially undo all your hard work.  As a master esthetician, who has done much research on hyperpigmentation, I can offer you valuable information about your pigmentation problems.  This will help you make informed decisions regarding hyperpigmentation.  It is noted that in some cases one should consult a dermatologist for a medical evaluation.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION

SUN SPOTS

Sun Spots, also called age spots or “liver” spots, are a common form of hyperpigmentation. They occur from past sun damage and are referred to by doctors as solar lentigines. These small, darkened patches are usually found on the hands and face or other areas frequently exposed to the sun.  Liver spots may show up suddenly after menopause, even though you’ve adopted a sun protective lifestyle.  This is because estrogen helps suppress inflammation which is a key component that leads to age spots.  As estrogen wains, sun damage that may have occurred years ago comes out and migrates to the surface of the skin.  Heat is also a trigger for this, so even with responsible use of sunscreen I tell clients that, “Heat plus hormone changes equals pigmentation”.  Try to keep cool.  Cool face cloths, icing or a cool spray of a calming toner can be a great help (try Rainwater).

MELASMA

Melisma is similar in appearance to age spots, but are larger areas of blotchy pigmentation.  It appears most often because of sudden hormonal changes. Pregnancy, for example, can trigger overproduction of melanin causing melasma or the “mask of pregnancy”.  This typically forms across the cheeks and forehead and above the upper lip.  Women who take birth control pills may also develop melasma because their bodies undergo similar hormonal changes. Often melasma will go away when pregnancy hormones subside.  More resistant melasma is common with darker skin types.  Because these skin types naturally produce more melanin, they are more stubborn to fade, easily triggered and harder to manage. There is also relationship between the ease of treatment and in what layer of skin the melanin pigment was deposited. Melanin in the upper skin layers is more easily treatable: with sunscreen, exfoliating AHAs, Retinoids and Tyrosinase inhibitors.  Melanin deposited in the lower layers (in the dermis) is by far more difficult to treat. You may need laser treatments so you should consider medical intervention.  Do your research: Lasers can be very effective, but you must make sure you choose the right dermatologist who understands how to pick the right laser for your type of pigmentation.  Each type of pigmentation benefits from a specific wavelength of laser.  IPL is not for everyone.  Too aggressive treatments may provoke increased melanin production.  Effective care requires patience.  Plus, you don’t want treatments that provoke inflammation (which is a trigger).  Aggressive micro-needling that go down into the dermis may drop melanin pigment into this lower layer, making it much harder to treat.  Note: You may be able to recognize if your melanin that has been deposited in the dermis because it gives skin a grayish cast.

POST INFLAMMATORY HYPERPIGMENTATION

Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation are darkened spots that result from trauma and inflammation. For example, acne blemishes may leave dark spots on your skin after blemishes have cleared. Other causes of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) are dark spots after injuries, cuts, surgery, eczema, and rashes.  Pigmentation seems to have a memory.  The longer that spot is on your skin the more likely it is to remain there.  So, when you have a blemish stain treat it right away and you’ll get a better result.  Consider Clear Skin Solution which contains lactic, salicylic, and glycolic acids.  These exfoliating AHAs help remove layers of discolored cells, leaving a brighter complexion.  One lesser known acid that not only exfoliates but brightens skin by deactivating melanocytes and reducing inflammation is Azelaic Acid. Azelaic Acid is a great brightening ingredient because it doesn’t attack all pigmented cells but only the cells that are abnormally pigmented. The result is a more even color over all.  It also reduces the risk of a rebound effect that is common with hydroquinone treatments.  Azelaic Acid is good for rosacea prone skins too, because it’s so good at calming inflammation. Plus, its antimicrobial, minimizing redness and breakouts.  You can use Azelaic Acid in the morning as well as at night. Unlike Retinoids and Hydroquinone, Azelaic Acid is totally safe to use on pregnant and lactating women.  You’ll find 10 % Azelaic Acid in Elizabeth Renee’s First Light Therapy which contains a stabilized version of skin brightening Vitamin C.  Included in this formula is Palmaria Palmata, a red alga, rich in polyphenols, to protect and calm the skin and protect skin against glycation.  Glycation is a form of aging of the skin that leads to lines and wrinkles and a stiff, inflexible texture. Glycation can be visible as early as age 35 and is often responsible for a dull yellowish cast to the skin.

FRECKLES

Freckles are small brown spots that can appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face and arms, areas exposed to sunlight.  Freckles are an inherited characteristic mostly, but not limited to Keltic skin types. They are a response to sun exposure and tend to lessen in intensity with age.  In most cases freckles are harmless.  They are distinctive characteristics that I personally find charming.  If your freckles bother you, you could start using an brightening AHA blend like Getting Even a couple of nights a week.  It won’t get rid of your freckles, but it will soften the color. Again, sunscreen and protective clothing are a must.

So there you have it. Now you know a little bit more about pigmentation problems. It’s a lot to digest, but pigmentation problems are complicated to understand and treat. If you’re brave and committed, read on to advance your knowledge. Read: “THE MANY CAUSES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION“. Or, if you just want to know how to manage it read, ” WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT HYPERPIGMENTATION – AT HOME“.

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