The 4 Step Hyperpigmentation Treatment Plan
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Skin coloration irregularities are relatively common. Pigmentation disorders like hyperpigmentation can make the skin appear lighter or darker, or blotchy in places and can occur affect people of all races.
Skin pigmentation is determined by melanin, a substance produced by melanocyte cells in the skin. Melanin absorbs UV light, thus protecting the body from its harmful effects. However, it is quite common for melanin to be excessively produced by the body leading to Skin pigmentation irregularities. These fall into one of three categories:
- Actinic lentigines, also known as sun spots
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Actinic lentigines (AKA age spots or sun spots) are brown spots that develop as a result of the cumulative effects of sun damage inflicted on our skin, throughout the years. The spots are pale brown or gray in color and have a clearly defined edge. They typically develop on the areas of the skin most frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face and back of the hands. The number of sunspots become more visible as we age.
Actinic lentigines are particularly common in places like Austin, where the weather is hot and sunny and the residents like to spend lots of time outdoors.
Actinic lentigines on the upper back (Photo Credit: http://www.aocd.org)
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the result of inflammation in the skin caused by acne, burn, rash or traumatic injury.
It appears as irregular shaped patches of brown skin. They are caused when an injury, illness, or infection triggers an inflammatory response within the skin. This causes the melanocyte cells to increase their rate of melanin production, and the melanin leaks out and upwards towards the surface of the skin.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation before and after (Photo Credit: HealthFox.com)
Melasma shows up as larger patches on the cheeks, forehead, upper lip and jaw line. It is caused when the female hormones estrogen and progesterone stimulate the melanocyte cells to produce excessive amounts of melanin when exposed to sunlight. Due to this involvement of the female hormones, melasma is much more common in women, particularly pregnant women, and those taking birth control pills. The occurrence of melasma will increase the more the skin is exposed to sunlight.
It is typically the most difficult to treat because the pigment can be deep in the skin and the discoloration tends to recur easily with the slightest sun exposure.
Meslama on the forehead (Photo Credit: WebMD)
Hyperpigmentation Treatment Options
There are a range of cosmeceuticals and other hyperpigmentation treatment options available to combat any of the above pigmentation issues. The following is a basic road map for effectively treating hyperpigmentation:
Step 1: Sun Protection
The first course of action for any form of hyperpigmentation is to use sun protection to prevent it worsening. UV rays, from sunlight, are the primary cause of hyperpigmentation. You can protect your skin with a high sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen, SPF clothing, wide brimmed SPF hats and sunglasses.
Our offices carry a variety of excellent broad spectrum sunscreens such as EltaMD, Skin Medica, IS Clinical and Revision Intellishade.
We can help you select one that best suits your skin type and lifestyle.
Step 2: Skin Lightening Skin Care
The next step is using a skin care regimen that utilizes skin lightening ingredients such as Lytera by Skin Medica, EvenTone by Skinbetter, Skinceuticals Advanced Pigment Corrector or IS Clinical’s White Lightening. This should be an individualized regimen tailored to your skin’s specific needs. You can schedule an appointment with one of our licensed medical aestheticians who will design a skin care regimen that will address not only the pigmentation issues, but any other concerns you may have or want to prevent.
Step 3: Skin Lightening Mask
For moderate to severe hyperpigmentation or melasma that is unresponsive to the treatments outlined above, there’s the option of using Cosmelan Mask by Mesoestetic. Cosmelan works by peeling surface pigment away to lighten any hyperpigmentation. It also blocks the enzyme involved in the melanin formation process to prevent any further pigmentation in the skin. This non-invasive skin lightening treatment rejuvenates the skin and brightens the complexion. It’s safe to use on all skin types and is highly effective on all types of hyperpigmentation, including melasma, sun spots, or hyperpigmentation caused by acne scarring.
Step 4: Light and Laser Treatments
During the treatment laser energy is delivered to the target area in a series of short pulses. This energy is more efficiently absorbed by the dark cells containing the most pigment, and the energy causes the pigment to break down. The treatment may need to be completed over a course of sessions, depending on the extent of hyperpigmentation.
In addition to lightening brown spots, these laser treatments can also reduce redness while improving skin texture, fine lines and wrinkles.
None of these treatments can completely prevent pigmentation problems from returning. You can minimize the possibility of pigmentation problems by limiting your skin’s exposure to the Sun’s UV rays.