Before undergoing any skin pigmentation treatment it is important that you understand the nature of your skin pigmentation disorder and what is causing your skin discolouration or dark patches on your skin to occur. Skin pigmentation disorders affect the color of your skin. Your skin gets its color from a pigment called melanin, designed to protect your skin from photo damage, which is produced by the melanocyte cells located in your skin’s epidermis. When these cells become damaged or unhealthy, melanin production is impacted resulting in pigmentation disorders that can affect just patches of skin or your entire body. If your body produces too little melanin, your skin gets lighter (hypopigmentation). Vitiligo, infections, blisters and burns can cause lighter skin. If your body produces too much melanin, your skin gets darker (hyperpigmentation) especially the forehead, cheeks, upper lip, nose, and chin. Pregnancy, Addison's disease, and sun exposure can all make your skin darker. The darkening of your skin can manifest itself as:
- Sun Spots - flat, non-connected brown spots on your face, decollete, arms and back of hands caused by years of over stimulation of melanin from sun exposure. The damage occurs over time and while it may be less visible in your earlier years can become more visible in your later years as the cumulative effect of the sun damage eventually shows. (Medically referred to as solar lentigo; pl: solar lentigines)
- Age Spots - are not caused by over stimultion of melanin from sun exposure, but are yellowish/brown oxidized lipids on your skin caused by an imbalance in your cellular disposal mechanisms. This build up on your skin is called lipofuscin and is generally more visible in your later years. Interestingly it is the quantification measure used for determing the age of certain crustaceans (in the absence of bones to use for measuring age) hence the name age spots. (Medically referred to as senile lentigo; pl: senile lentigines)
- Freckles - are clusters of flat, circular spots on the face caused by an overproduction of melanin granules causing the outer skin to become darker generally due to sun exposure. Individuals with freckles have a lower concentration of photo-protective melanin and are more susceptible to sun burn. Freckles is a genetic predisposition and will become lighter in the winter, whereas hyper-pigmentation will not. (Medically referred to as ephelides)
- Melasma - thought to be caused by genetic predisposition, medications, pregnancy, thyroid abnormalities, stress or sun exposure, each of which can abnormally increase melanin production. The hyperpigmentation from the resulting increased melanin production manifests itself as dark skin patches on the upper cheek, nose, upper lip, and forehead. Sun exposure is a prime trigger for recurences and this is why people with melasma get it over and over again. Skin types ranging from olive to brown are more susceptble to melasma.
- PIH - post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is not caused by the usual suspects (sun, age or genetics) but is caused by inflammation resulting from a trauma to which the skin was exposed to and which caused excessive irritation to the skin. PIH can result from a wide variety of causes including acne, eczema, burn injuries, scars, skin products and dermatologic treatments. PIH most commonly occur in individuals with darker skin tones.
- Keratosis - the growth of keratin on the skin caused by the skin's keratinocytes producing more and more keratin. This is to create a barrier on the skin as protection against ongoing environmental damage to the skin caused by UV radiation, viruses, water loss, etc. The more commonly encountered keratoses are actinic (solar) keratosis, keratosis pilaris and seborrheic keratosis. All Keratoses should be carefully examinied by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner to ensure they are not pre-cancerous before commencing any cosmetic treatment. Flat pigmented artinic keratosis and keratosis pilaris respond well to cosmetic dermatology treatments. In addition, the appearance of keratosis pilaris can be helped by laser hair removal treatments. Keratoses more commonly occur in Fitzpatrick Skin Types 1 to 2.
Anxiety, reduced self-esteem and depression are some of the known psychological issues that sufferers of hyper pigmentation disorders are required to cope with and no one should have to deal with such issues when many treatment options are available to eliminate or bring under control your skin pigmentation disorders.
While there are a number of available treatment options for your skin pigmentation disorders, it is important that you find treatments and procedures that are suitable for your skin type and skin condition. Talk to your medical skin care advisor to get an overview of all treatment options.
IPL, fractional lasers, radio frequency energy, chemical peels and pharmaceutical grade skin care products are some recommended treatment options for alleviating skin pigmentation disorders and providing you with clearer, healthier skin; and a happier disposition too.