The most common complaint in our office this time of year has to do with skin discoloration, sun spots or hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is the over production of melanin (the brown color) in the skin cells. Melanin acts as a layer of protection for the dermis and can be triggered by sun exposure, trauma to the skin including acne lesions, cuts or scrapes, inflammation and also by hormone activity. Taking that into consideration, it is easy to see why discoloration, melasma, sun spots or hyperpigmentation of the skin affects so many.
Hyperpigmentation is the excessive production of melanin, which is stimulated chemically by the effects of the sun’s rays, by hormones, or by medication, resulting in darker skin (i.e., a tan). Melanin is produced in the body as a way of protecting the lower layers of the dermis, which contain collagen and elastin (the fibers that keep our skin plump and firm) as well as blood vessels and nerves. Have you ever noticed a darkening of the skin that lasts even after a blemish is gone? This is a form of pigmentation called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, is caused because of inflammation/damage caused by an “attack” to the skin. So yes, every time you tan, you are causing damage to the skin. Over time this repeated damage shows up as areas of darker skin cells, either clumped or dispersed, on the face and body. The condition of hyperpigmentation has the ability to compound, further darkening areas that were previously hyperpigmented. As our body matures, skin’s ability for regeneration and repair decreases, this is why skin discoloration is sometimes referred to as “age spots” or “liver spots.”
Melasma or Cholasma, often referred to as the “pregnancy mask” is a result of internal, melanocyte-stimulating hormones. Melasma can also be triggered in some individuals by birth control pills or thyroid or anti-depressant medication. This is why some women who have never had a baby can also see patches of melasma, typically around the mouth/upper lip area. Melasma is generally transient and resolves when hormone balance is stabilized-after pregnancy or when medication is stopped.
1. Consult with a skin specialist- Medical Aesthetician, Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon. There are many different treatment methods available today to address sun spots and discoloration. Options include specialized peels, laser therapy, and DermaRoller therapy. Home treatment will include ingredients that inhibit melanin, spot treatments to lighten areas of pigmentation and most importantly SUNSCREEN.
2. Be honest and up-front about your lifestyle including sun exposure. Disclose all prescription and non-prescription drugs you are taking as these things can have a role in creating pigmentation
3. Commit to the program and wear sunscreen! In order to address and repair all contributing factors of skin discoloration or uneven pigment, you need to be patient and consistent. Consider that sun spots or discoloration of the skin is damage that has shown up after years of exposure and results will not happen over night. Your therapist will suggest a combination of in office treatments as well as products to use at home. Doing both exactly as suggested will give you optimal results in the fastest manner.