“Excessive Unwanted Skin Discolouration – Brown Patches – Marks”
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 one term, “Pigmentation” on this web page.
The term HYPOPIGMENTATION is NOT the same as Hyperpigmentation.
What is Pigmentation?
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.
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.
Common forms or terms used to refer to pigmentation include;-
- Solar Lentigines | Age Spots | Liver Spots
- Melasma | Chloasma | Mask of Pregnancy
- Freckles | Ephelides
- Passive Pigmentation
- Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
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 ageing 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 ageing.
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.
How do I know if 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 on this web page, 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.
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
Skin Analysis & Consultation
Still not sure if you have Pigmentation or if it can be treated?
Book a free no obligation consultation with our Skin Specialist to discuss.
Pigmentation treatments are available at Nascent Skin and Beauty Clinic. These treatments are non invasive and are performed by our Skin Specialist using;-
- IPL Photorejuvenation – using a TGA approved medical grade IPL system,
- DermaFrac Fractional Infusion Therapy,
- Advanced Cosmeceutical Chemical Skin Peels,
- LED Phototherapy (medical grade system),
- Medical Micro Skin Needling
- or a combination of several of these modalities depending upon the severity of the pigmentation and how it responds to treatment.
We can also offer you the very best advanced cosmetic products to manage your daily skin self care routine from our Clinic or delivered direct to your door from our Online Shop.
Lighten & Brighten Skin
Radiant Healthy Glow
Kojic Acid Serum + LED
Skin Care for Sun Damaged Skin
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.
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
For early onset or minimal pigment, I like to combine low level, gentle Chemical Skin Peels with LED 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, this 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 have to always 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.