UNDERSTANDING PIGMENTATION IN THE SKIN
CAUSES OF HYPER-PIGMENTATION
There are many triggers or causes of hyper-pigmentation. The trick is to find the culprit and treat the skin accordingly.
When you visit a professional she or he will ask you many questions in the consultation to try and find the cause of the hyper-pigmentation you are experiencing. UV rays are a common trigger of this skin condition especially in SA. When we go out in the sun a hormone is released called the Melanin Stimulating Hormone (MSH). This hormone then triggers the production of melanin (pigment) to protect the skin against the UV rays. This melanin is injected from the Melanocyte into the Keratinocytes where they take position above the nucleus of each cell, we call this ‘cap formation’ and you see this as a tan.
In many women we also know that an imbalance in hormones can trigger the production of melanin. This hyper-pigmentation is very difficult to treat and we are mostly only able to better the skin colour, but seldom we can get rid of it completely. Even if we manage to remove all the hyper-pigmentation, often the pigment can reoccur when the lady goes through menopause as there is a change in the hormones once again.
Post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation is one of the most common causes currently. Whenever there is inflammation in the skin, the Melanocyte is also stimulated to produce pigment. We see this type of hyper-pigmentation post acne breakouts, eczema, psoriasis and even post some aesthetic treatments done on the incorrect Fitzpatrick photo-type. This type of pigment is stubborn to remove, but once removed it normally stays away.
In some individuals heat can reactivate the hyper-pigmentation. In some cases the hyper-pigmentation was removed completely, but the individual went into the sun once without any sun protection and within 24 hours all the pigmentation has returned. Hyper-pigmentation is normally a life long battle for most people and for this reason daily skincare containing botanicals treating hyper-pigmentation is vital. Daily sun protection application is of upmost importance and physical sun protection (Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide) is the best option as some chemical sun screens can cause heat in the skin, making the hyper-pigmentation worse. A blend of physical and chemical sun screens can be prescribed for individuals with dark skin (Fitzpatrick Photo-types 4 to 6).
BEST TREATMENT FOR HYPER-PIGMENTATION
Micro-Needling or skin needling increases cell to cell communication which aids in the removal of hyper-pigmentation and it also enhances better cell functioning. By making the small channels in the skin the serum treating the hyper-pigmentation can reach the Melanocyte with ease.
With the stimulation of beautiful new cells, the damaged cells will be moved up and out of the skin.
Normally 4-8 treatments are recommended at 4 weekly intervals.
Superficial and Medium depth chemical peels
Superficial and Medium depth chemical peels have been used for years to treat hyper-pigmentation with great success. Most of the chemical peels contain a blend of active ingredients that interferes with the melanin production at several steps. The combination of antioxidants, alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids and TCA (Trichloroacetic acid) has proven to deliver great results.
Choose products containing vitamin A (Retinol), vitamin C, Kojic acid, Arbutin, vitamin B3 (Niacinamide), Phytic acid, Licorice and Mandelic acid. It is recommended to invest in a serum containing some or all of these ingredients to ensure you saturate the Melanocyte with actives bringing about balance in the skin. A serum is better than a moisturiser as this type of product is designed to penetrate the deeper skin layers where the Melanin and Melanocytes are found. For the best results apply this serum every day, twice a day.
Your broad-spectrum (UVA & UVB protection) sun protection must also be applied daily.