A recent study carried out Denmark concluded that most people believe an uneven skin tone is the most aging of all skin issues, above skin sagging and even wrinkles. Unfortunately, hyperpigmentation is one of those conditions that can materialise out of nowhere, whether it is sun damage, melasma or dark spots left over from acne scars. Understanding this skin condition, its triggers and aggravators, is ultimately the key to preventing pigmentation and choosing an effective course of treatment.
WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Pigmentation, no matter its cause, occurs when melanin – the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their natural colour – is overproduced in certain cells. This causes localised dark spots or patches on the skin. These discoloured areas can be light brown to black in colour and will vary in terms of size and shape. Darkness above the lip, age spots on the hands and post-acne marks are all examples of hyperpigmentation. While it can affect anyone at any given time in their lives, it is most commonly seen in medium to dark skin tones. This is because melanin is much more present in darker skin, and therefore much more susceptible to irregularity. There are many different forms of hyperpigmentation, but for the most part they can be divided into three categories:
When oestrogen is elevated above a normal level, it can lead to a condition known as melasma, which causes large areas of skin to become darker, or hyperpigmented. It is common for women notice dark patches of skin developing during their pregnancy or after starting the contraceptive pill. The good news for melasma sufferers is that the condition can often resolve itself once oestrogen levels have been rectified – after birth or after coming off hormonal contraceptives for instance. The bad news? It can take anywhere from a couple of months to a few years to fade entirely.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is what occurs after a pimple has finished healing. It is essentially the skin’s natural response to an injury that causes the skin to become inflamed. As the inflammation subsides and the lesion begins to heal, the skin can often produce too much melanin causing the skin to darken. PIH will improve over time, even if it’s left untreated, but this can take anywhere from three months to three years depending on the severity of the pigmentation.
This typically refers to age spots, this kind of hyperpigmentation is caused by sun damage. Despite the name, age has nothing to do with the condition. Anyone can be affected at any point in their lives. Interestingly, age spots do not necessarily appear at the same time that the skin is afflicted. Oftentimes you will find that sun damage accumulated in the 20s can start to surface in the 30s or 40s, which is why it’s imperative to use sunscreen every day from an early age.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT IT?
All hyperpigmentation is worsened by sun exposure, so suncare is an absolute essential. Wearing a daily broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above is the best way to keep uneven pigmentation at bay. Protective clothing such as sun hats and sunglasses should also be worn to enhance protection, and you should aim to seek out shade wherever possible. For those who are prone to blemishes, it’s important not to pick at the skin.
HOW CAN YOU TREAT IT?
In Clinic treatment includes Medik8 whitePeel which can be used to target dull, hyperpigmented skin. Using advanced exfoliating acids, it melts away away dead, discoloured skin while delivering depigmenting agents deep within the skin to tackle hyperpigmentation at a cellular level. Medik8 WhitePeel is gentle enought to be done during your lunch hour and will not cause any down time.
For more stubborn and severe hyperpigmentation and advanced melasma we recommend Mesoestetic Cosmelan or Dermamelan Peels. These are idea for darker skin and are considered the gold standard in de-pigmentation worldwide, but be aware that they have a long down time and strict homecare regime.
In previous years, hydroquinone was widely used to treat hyperpigmentation. But recently there has been some controversy surrounding its safety. For this reason, Medik8 researchers developed patented Oxy-R technology, a high-performance brightening formula clinically proven to deliver radiant, even-toned skin. Chemically similar to well-known resveratrol with an extra “oxy” group, oxyresveratrol (Oxy-R) ensures an even skin tone by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for excess melanin production (tyrosinase). A remarkable development in the field of brightening skincare, this high-performance ingredient has been shown to be up to 32x more effective than kojic acid, another widely use hyperpigmentation ingredient. Head over to our brightening collection.
AHAs such as mandelic acid are great at reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. When applied topically, they gently dissolve the bonds that hold dead skin cells to the surface of the skin, revealing the new, radiant cells underneath. Because pigmentation affects multiple layers of skin, you will need to be consistent in order to see the results, but it’s a great way to speed up the recovery process, especially when used in conjunction with oxyresveratrol.