Meet your new Number 1 skin enemy Considered more aging than wrinkles & lines
Discolouration ~ Brown Patches ~ Age Spots ~ Freckles
Pigmentation and Hyperpigmentation are the same condition. Both terms relate to skin colouring. For the sake of reducing any confusion, from here on we will use only the term, “Pigmentation” where possible on this web page.
What is Pigmentation?
Pigmentation – brown patches, age spots, marks, splotches – all can be caused by excessive sun exposure, hormone imbalances, inflammation and injury to the skin. It most commonly appears on the face, neck and décolletage. It’s also notoriously difficult to treat.
Before you can treat your pigmentation, you need to know what type of pigmentation you have. Our Skin Specialist will identify the type for you during your skin consultation and analysis. Those with fair skin are more prone to sun-induced pigment and people with olive complexions can be more susceptible to post-inflammatory pigment. Women who are pregnant, who take the oral contraceptive pill, or who are on hormone replacement therapy or IVF are more likely to suffer from hormone induced pigmentation, also known as melasma or chloasma.
Pigmentation will often appear as we become older as our melanocytes (the cells that produce pigment) increase in size as we age. Younger skin can be at risk of pigment from sun damage – that cute spray of freckles across the nose and cheeks can become more dense, causing uneven tone and darkness to the face, and melasma caused by the pill is very common in younger women.
If your body makes too much melanin, your skin gets darker. The darker spots or patches are known as PIGMENTATION.
Pigmentation is a condition where patches of skin become darker in colour than normal, healthy skin.
- Special cells in the skin called “melanocytes” produce melanin.
- Skin colour comes from melanin and this colouring is referred to as Pigment.
- When melanocyte cells become damaged or unhealthy, it affects melanin production.
- Melanin disorders result in the formation of excessive, unwanted skin discolouration, which affect the colour of your skin and we refer to this as Pigmentation.
- Some pigmentation disorders affect just patches of skin, others affect your entire body.
- Pigmentation is a condition that affects all skin colours and both sexes.
- Pigmentation can be the result of melanocyte damage (over production of melanin) caused by UV exposure (sun damage – tanning), hormones, heat, trauma (injury) or medication.
- UV exposure (sun damage) is the most common cause of Pigmentation.
- Most pigmentation can be eliminated to provide unblemished skin.
IPL Laser Skin Photorejuvenation
Pigmentation in Australia is common owing to our exposure to damaging UV rays from the sun and can result in an aging appearance
What Causes Pigmentation?
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) for treatment
Skin Analysis and Consultation
Alternate & Supplementary Pigmentation Treatments
Whilst IPL Laser is our preferred treatment tool to remove pigmentation, there will be occasions when IPL Laser cannot be used. For example, IPL Laser is unsuitable if you are;-
- pregnant or have very dark skin (Fitzpatrick Type IV and above);
- you have an auto-immune disorder;
- you have taken oral Roaccutance (acne medication or similar) in the past six months;
- you have a history of active infections, severe eczema, and/or seizures;
- you have experienced sunburn recently, have had exposure to the sun in the area to be treated, (you may have to postpone your IPL Photorejuvenation treatment until the burn has subsided).
If any of these circumstances exist, there all alternate treatments to IPL Laser that can be used to reduce and remove pigmentation. These alternatives appear below and can be discussed with you after your initial skin consultation.
Pigmentation can sit unseen below the epidermis (top layer of the skin) but becomes visible when there is too much of the pigment (melanin) near and on the surface of the skin. It displays itself in different forms such as brown discoloured patches of skin, freckles, sun spots, liver spots, age spots, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or even melasma
Many skin changes are harmless. Some causes for discoloured skin patches are fairly minor conditions that need only simple treatment. Other causes may be more severe and require ongoing treatment
Care must be taken not to confuse pigmentation skin spots with those that are actually skin cancers
Skin cancer is very serious, but it can be treated successfully when it is detected early. It is important to speak with your doctor if you notice rapid or bothersome changes in your skin
Do I have Pigmentation?
If you have any areas on your skin that are darker in colour than the rest of your body then it’s likely that you have pigmentation. These areas can range from the very small to the very large, so everything from freckles to sun spots is classed as pigmentation.
As stated previously, pigmentation is caused by an over production of melanin – the pigment that gives our skin, hair and eyes its natural colour – in patches of the skin. This over production is triggered by a variety of factors, but the main ones can be linked back to sun exposure, genetic factors, age, hormonal influences, and skin injuries or inflammation.
Pigmentation is a common skin ailment, where some areas or patches of skin turn darker in colour. Almost everyone has a few brown pigment spots on their face from sun exposure (particularly here in Australia with our harsh sun and high UV) and whilst brown pigment spots are not usually harmful to the skin’s health, they detract from an even, luminous complexion and can be cosmetically displeasing. It is a condition that affects all skin colours and both sexes.
If you’re serious about clearing up your pigmentation, I recommend the following;–
- For sun-induced pigment I favour IPL Photorejuvenation
- For hormonal pigment there’s no cure as such, however it can be managed with a good skin care regime and in-clinic treatments such as Pico laser (Pico is not available at Nascent Skin Clinic) or depigmentation chemical skin peels such as our Aspect Pigment Punch Peel, Cosmedix Timeless Retinol Peel or the Cosmedix Elite Timeless RX Peel
- For early onset or minimal pigment, I like to combine low level, gentle Chemical Skin Peels with LED Light Phototherapy to gradually break down the pigment, brighten the complexion and unify skin tone
Unless you want to end up right back where you started…
…treatments are wasted if you continue to SKIP the SPF sunscreen
Diligent sun protection is vital in managing all types of pigmentation,
as sun damage is where it inevitably starts!
* Regular application of cosmetic lighteners and sometimes even moderate lifestyle changes will also assist
Pigmentation investigation can baffle even the most experienced clinical aesthetician. Despite performing a thorough analysis, sometimes the most seemingly innocent factor can be responsible for pigmentation. For example, scented body lotions or fragrances sprayed on or applied in areas that come in contact with ultraviolet light may penetrate stubborn or suspicious pigmentary discolourations to the jaw, neck, décolleté, arm or leg.
I can’t begin to count the number of times a client exhibiting pigmentation morbidity had the mis-impression that you can magically make it disappear with a treatment or two, or one product? Whilst today’s IPL Phototherapy and LED Phototherapy treatments are extremely effective at treating pigmentation, we must remember pigmentation is an injury of the skin and requires the ongoing due diligence and continued compliance of both the aesthetician and client for the rest of their lives.
These disorders do not fade or go away over night and must be managed daily. Clinical treatments, continuance of skin lighteners and daily protection of SPF must become a lifestyle routine to manage these challenging pigmentation conditions.
Types of Pigmentation
Pigmentation disorders are among the most common complaints of clients seeking skin care. Pigmentation is a condition that requires the expertise and understanding of an Aesthetician (Skin Specialist). It affects many Caucasians, African-Americans, Indigenous, Hispanics and Asians.
Solar Lentigines | Age Spots | Liver Spots
Solar Lentigines, sometimes called age spots or liver spots, are a form of pigmentation. They usually occur as a result of damage to the skin from the sun’s rays. The small, dark spots are generally found on the hands and face, but any area exposed to the sun can be affected.
Exposure to the sun’s rays and a daily onslaught of environmental elements, such as air pollution and the toxins in our food, all wreak havoc on our skin. These aggressors damage cell walls and connective tissues, resulting in the visible signs of aging we all see in our skin. Skin can look dull and lack lustre, pigmentation and age spots start to appear and wrinkles become more prevalent.
The way our skin responds to UVA and UVB damage is partly due to our genetic make up but is also greatly influenced by the way we have treated our skin over the years. Excessive sunbathing or sunbed use can have a dramatic effect on the way we age. Luckily, with the recent advances in aesthetic medicine, most types of sun damage are treatable, helping to greatly improve the visible signs of aging.
We have a number of different treatments for sun-damaged skin. Each case of pigmentation is treated individually, so your different treatment options would be discussed during your consultation to ensure you get the best results.
Melasma | Chloasma | Mask of Pregnancy
Melasma and Chloasma are common forms of pigmentation that can be caused by either sun damage or hormonal changes.
These conditions can be recognised as large, brown patches, most commonly on the cheeks, upper lip, the bridge of the nose and the forehead. The patches tend to darken over the summer months or during periods of high sun exposure.
Melasma can be triggered by higher levels of Oestrogen at certain times during the menstrual cycle, or as a result of sun exposure. It can also be associated with a change in contraceptive pill, IUD or hormone patch. Melasma most commonly affects women, with only 10% of cases being male.
Chloasma, often referred to as the ‘mask of pregnancy’ is usually related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and can develop on the face and other areas of the body.
Freckles | Ephelides
Freckles are very common and are usually a hereditary skin blemish. Though freckles are often thought of as attractive, some people do seek out treatment to reduce their appearance.
Ephelides (Freckles) are tanned macules found on the skin that can be classed as a form of hyperpigmentation. They are usually found in multiple numbers rather than stand alone blemishes. They often become more apparent in the summer months and are less noticeable throughout winter. Although freckles are predominantly benign, they may be seen in association with systemic disease.
Ephelides are more commonly found in fair-skinned races with red or blonde hair and less commonly in individuals of other races.
Despite caring for your skin and being diligent with your daily application of sunscreen, pigmentation still appears.
Passive pigmentation occurs when an internal imbalance encourages the melanin-stimulating hormone. These imbalances can be caused by a number of things, but generally only occur in women. It tends to happen when women go through hormonal changes in their life such as puberty, pregnancy, taking the contraceptive pill, and menopause.
It is not unusual for this type of pigmentation to disappear on its own once pregnancy is over or you stop taking the contraceptive pill.
Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
PIH is usually a result of the skin going through some type of trauma. When our skin feels under attack, our melanocyte cell sends melanin to the skin’s surface to protect itself.
PIH can be caused by:
- Misuse of skin care
- Burns, cuts or grazes
- Clinical treatments such as laser or IPL
All skin types can suffer from post inflammatory pigmentation but darker skin tones are more prone to this condition.
If your body makes too little melanin, your skin gets lighter (referred to as HYPOPIGMENTATION – not to be confused with the term Hyperpigmentation).
Three (3) common types of HYPOPIGMENTATION and pigment loss are trauma, vitiligo and albinism.
1. Trauma – If you’ve had a skin infection, blister, burn, or other trauma to your skin, you might have a loss of pigmentation in the affected area. The good news with this type of pigment loss is that it’s frequently of a temporary nature, but it may take some time to re-pigment. This type of hypopigmentation is suited to IPL treatment.
2. Vitiligo – causes smooth, white patches on the skin. In some people, these patches can appear all over the body. It is an auto immune disorder in which the pigment-producing cells are damaged. There is no cure for vitiligo, and IPL and laser treatments cannot assist – no matter what anybody else might tell you.
3. Albinism – is an inherited disorder caused by the absence of melanin. This results in a complete lack of pigmentation in skin, hair or eyes. People with albinism have an abnormal gene that restricts the body from producing melanin. There is no cure for albinism. People with albinism should use a sunscreen at all times because they are much susceptible to sun damage and skin cancer. Albinism can occur in any race but is most common among Caucasians. IPL and laser cannot treat Albinism.
Skin Analysis & Consultation
Still not sure if you have Pigmentation or if it can be treated?
Book a Skin Consultation with our Skin Specialist to discuss.
Pigmentation - Care & Advice
Following these Pre-treatment instructions closely will optimise your treatment results with the IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)
- Use a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 daily. Skin that is suffering sunburn cannot be treated until the sunburn has subsided.
- Avoid any irritants to your face, such as any products containing hydroquinone, bleaching creams, Retin-A, retinol, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic/salicylic acids, astringents or chemical peels for at least two (2) weeks.
- If you have a history of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) with IPL, laser treatments or other trauma, please inform our Skin Specialist, so we may prescribe a lightening agent prior to the procedure to reduce this reaction.
- Do not use self-tanning agents for at least two (2) weeks prior to treatment. If you have used these products, thoroughly cleanse the area with abrasive / exfoliating scrub to remove all product two (2) weeks prior to any treatment and do not apply any further products.
- Shave the area to be treated one (1) day prior to your appointment if necessary – ie back, chest, arms etc (do not shave if you are having an IPL Permanent Hair Reduction treatment)
- Please do not wear any makeup, perfume, or lotions in the treatment area on the day of your treatment. This includes antiperspirants and deodorants
- Before each treatment, please inform us if you are taking any new antibiotics or medications since your consultation, as they may make your skin sensitive to light treatments, and therefore, we may not be able to treat you for one (1) or two (2) weeks after completion of the antibiotic. This applies to both Skin and Hair IPL treatments.
Following these Post-treatment instructions closely will optimise your treatment results with the IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)
- Immediately after the Intense Pulsed Light treatment, there may be redness and bumps at the treatment site, which will last from two (2) hours up to a few days. It is normal for the treated area to feel like a sunburn for a few hours. You may use a cold compress, aloe vera gel, or 1% hydrocortisone if needed. If treating the face, please continue using sun protectant with SPF 30+ daily for the entire treatment period.
- Do not pick, as scabbing could lead to scarring.
- Make-up may be used after the treatment if there is no extended redness, blistering, or scabbing. Make sure that you have moisturiser on under your makeup; use moisturiser or an aloe vera gel frequently on the treated area.
- Avoid sun exposure for four (4) to six (6) weeks after the treatment to reduce the chance of dark and light spots. Use sun protectant SPF 30 or greater with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide at all times throughout the course of treatment. Even waterproof sun block is good for only 80 minutes, so re-apply hourly.
- Do not use any other forms of hair removal methods (tweezing, waxing, depilatories) or products on the treated area during the course of the laser treatment, as it will prevent you from achieving your best results. You may shave the area if needed.
- Until initial skin irritation subsides, avoid hot water and anything irritating to the skin. Advil or Ibuprofins can be helpful.
- Avoid any irritants to your face, such as any products containing Retin-A (tretinoin), retinol, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic / salicylic acids, astringents or chemical peels for at least two(2) days.
- Do not wear tight, constricting clothing in the treated area as irritation can occur and skin cannot cool properly.
- Do not exercise, receive any body treatments, take hot showers, or use saunas or hot tubs until skin is back to normal (2-3 days).
- Hypopigmentation (lightening) or hyperpigmentation may occur with any IPL treatments, and usually resolves within four (4) to six (6) weeks.
Pregnancy or Lactating
- IPL is NOT recommended during pregnancy.
- Please advise our Skin Specialist if you are pregnant, attempting to conceive or lactating / breast feeding.
*DISCLAIMER: Results may vary from person to person. Whilst we have seen amazing results from IPL for a range of skin concerns, please know that results from IPL vary and we cannot make guarantees. We recommend speaking to our Skin Specialist for an in-depth consultation. They will discuss in detail how IPL works, whether it will be right for your skin type and the expected results in line with your skin and beauty goals.
Some of our favourite Pigment fighting skin care
Vitamin C is one of the most effective ingredients for treating pigmentation, along with other signs of aging. Vitamin C brightens the skin and is good for exfoliation. Look for brightening serums that feature ingredients such as Vitamin C, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), bearberry or liquorice extracts, and azelaic acid.