One of the most frequent cosmetic complaints is hyper pigmentation.
Hyper pigmentation is the over production of the natural pigment in your skin. Some of us have hyper pigmentation from an early age that may have a genetic component. For others, it is a result of hormone shifts, the use of birth control pills as in the case of melasma or a “pregnancy mask” during and after pregnancy.
For most of us, though, splotchy skin and brown markings on the face, chest, arms and hands are a direct result of sun exposure. Whether termed brown spots, melasma, age spots, “liver spots”, sun spots, blotchy skin or any other name, hyper pigmentation is a melanin response to a trigger. That trigger is usually the sun. A major component in preventing and controlling uneven pigmentation is the use of effective sunscreens.
There are a variety of treatments for brown spots and hyper pigmentation. The cause of your hyper pigmentation will determine the most effective method to help blend and control the problem. The medical staff at Dermatology Group of Southern California will carefully determine which treatment is suitable and most effective for your particular skin color, skin type and skin problem.
The most effective solutions to existing brown spots and unevenly-colored skin will be one of – or a combination of:
- Cosmelan – An intensive topical treatment program that inhibits melanin production and lightens your skin with non-hydroquinone ingredients
- MIXTO Laser – A fast-healing laser treatment that has FDA approval for Melasma and Chloasma and Sun-induced hyperpigmentation
- Photofacial IPL – Intense light exposure to reduce red and brown skin discolorations
- Chemical Peels – Over-all skin regeneration by chemically causing a peeling of your damaged skin Hydroquinone based lightening prescription creams
Understanding Hyper Pigmentation
The Role of Melanin
To have an understanding of what hyper-pigmentation is, it’s important to understand the role of melanin. Skin gets its color, whether light or dark, from melanin. Melanin is the pigment that your body produces which determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. The more melanin, the more color and the more “color-potential” you have in your skin.
Why Are Some People more Susceptible to Hyper pigmentation?
To a great degree, your ancestry determines your susceptibility to having brown spots or brown patches on your skin. Most people with Scandinavian backgrounds have little incidence of pigmentation problems. If, however, you are of Latin America, Middle Eastern or Asian descent, you will have far more melanin cells and the resulting likelihood of hyper pigmentation is far greater.
Major Causes of Hyper Pigmentation and Brown Spots
- Hyper-pigmentation from Sun Exposure. One of the primary functions of melanin production in your skin is to protect you from UV rays from the sun. A “tan” is the prime example of your body’s melanin response to the sun.
When the skin is repeatedly exposed to the sun, you experience sun damage in a variety of ways and one of those is brown spots and hyper-pigmentation. Once the cycle of pigment over-production has started, it is difficult to stop it and usually medical intervention is required.
- Hyper-pigmentation (Melasma or Chloasma) from Hormones. The second most frequent cause of hyper-pigmentation is hormone shift. Birth control pills, pregnancy or the various stages of menopause create changes in hormone levels that can trigger melanin cells to go into over-drive. This can happen even if you are not a sun worshipper. However, if you have hormone-related pigmentation problems, you still need to be careful since sun exposure will always make it worse.
- Hyper-pigmentation from injury (termed Post-Inflammatory Hyper pigmentation or PIH) The third most common cause of pigmentation is a direct result of some type of injury to the skin.
Common pigmentation-causing injuries include:
- Insect bites or itchy rashes
- Abrasions or cuts
- Acne or acne cysts
- Over-exposure to heat
- Hair waxing
- Improperly performed laser treatments
How does Injury Cause Hyper Pigmentation?
Your body’s response to injury is inflammation. Often you don’t even see the inflammation as much of it occurs beneath the epidermis. This inflammation triggers melanin production and the result is a brown patch, lines or stripes.
This is one of the reasons you should always have medical treatments such as hair laser removal, fotofacial, or any type of laser or light treatment performed in a dermatology office under the watchful supervision of a board certified dermatologist. Untrained or poorly trained technicians have in many instances caused irreparable damage to their clients’ skin.
What is the Major Control Factor in Preventing and Minimizing Brown Spots?
Sun exposure is the #1 cause of facial and body brown spots, age spots, freckles, moles and pre-cancerous actinic keratosis. The only way to proactively prevent the majority of environmentally-caused hyperpigmentation is to protect your skin from the sun.
Hormones, injury and pigmentation from allergic reactions or skin disease such as acne are mostly beyond your control. But you are in control of how well your skin is protected from the sun. Sunscreen, sunblock, hats and sun-protective clothing are your first line guard against not only unsightly brown patches but also sun damage that could lead to skin cancer.
- Photofacial – A light based treatment that breaks up melanin and allows the skin to more quickly get rid of surface pigmentation
- Cosmelan – A two-part in office and home based topical treatment program that inhibits melanin production and lightens your skin with non-hydroquinone ingredients
- MIXTO Laser- A fast-healing laser treatment that has FDA approval for Melasma and Chloasma and Sun-induced hyper pigmentation
- Microdermabrasion- Exfoliation of discolored epidermal skin cells using abrasive particles
- Chemical Peels – Over-all skin regeneration by chemically causing a peeling of your damaged skin