Hyperpigmentation (darkened skin) can appear as age spots, freckles, melasma, birthmarks; in small patches or widespread areas on your face or body. Though some skincare products purport to minimise or prevent hyperpigmentation and melasma, following a professional regimen is the most effective way to support your complexion.
A dermatologist (skin, hair loss and nail specialist) is the best person to treat hyperpigmentation. It can be a long-term condition that can be managed with a multi-faceted approach. An incorrect diagnosis and treatment plan by an inexperienced cosmetic doctor or skin therapist can make the condition worse.
Hyperpigmentation is caused by increased production of melanin, which is a substance produced by your skin cells. Think of it as the paint or dye that is responsible for the colour (or pigment) of your skin, hair and eyes. Many factors can cause your skin cells to create more melanin than required. The most common causes are sun exposure, hormonal issues, ageing, skin injuries or inflammation. This results in the visible appearance of a darkened area of skin, typically on your face, mouth, legs, back, buttocks or neck.
While hyperpigmentation is typically harmless, it can impact your personal confidence and satisfaction with your complexion. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments to remove pigmentation, and restore your skin’s radiance, uniformity and texture.
As pigmentation disorders originate from your skin cells, it is critical for treatment to occur on a cellular level. Removing pigment from your skin’s surface is the first step: the next is to continually ‘train’ your skin cells to stop producing excess pigment, resulting in an even complexion.
A dermatologist is also highly-qualified in identifying skin cancers. If you are even slightly concerned about the growth of a mole or changes to a freckle, you should seek professional advice promptly.
Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that usually appears as brownish, blotchy patches on your face (particularly your forehead, upper lip and cheeks) and arms. It can be caused by sun exposure, genetic, pregnancy or hormonal factors, such as increased oestrogen levels. Melasma typically affects women more than men, and may occur without any known triggers. It is more common to occur in individuals with darker skin types (Asian, South Asian, Hispanic and African).
Effective melasma treatment begins with a combination of prescription creams, such as hydroquinone (a specialised skin-lightening agent) and evidence-based skincare that actively reduces your pigmentation and encourages uniformity. More importantly, a broad-based SPF50+ sunscreen (with UVA, UVB and visible light protection) is vital to reduce darkening caused by sun damage, as ultraviolet rays from the sun triggers your skin cells to produce more pigment.
Additionally, infrared light (which we feel as heat) is a known trigger for melasma, which is why we find that chefs often experience this condition. For more stubborn cases of melasma, oral medication can also be prescribed to stop your skin cells from producing excess pigment.
It is important to be cautious of laser therapies advertised to treat melasma. Incorrect usage by inexperienced practitioners can cause further skin issues and make melasma worse. At ODE, our melasma specialists will select the right laser intervention if it is suitable for your treatment journey.
An increase in pigmentation can also be caused by inflammation from acne, scarring or trauma to your skin (such as picking at pimples or scratches). This is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: it can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the injury, and may become darker from further sun damage.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation requires an accurate diagnosis to correctly treat your underlying condition (which may be acne, eczema or others). This must be completed first to aid the recovery process and slow the production of pigmentation.
Age spots, such as sun spots or liver spots, and freckles are types of pigmentation that are a result of long-term sun exposure and ageing. They commonly appear on the back of your hands and face, which are areas of the body that are most often exposed to the sun.
Depending on your skin’s personal needs, topical treatments can include hydroquinone and retinol (vitamin A), along with evidence-based serums and creams. These treatment options will support your skin’s restoration process and encourage a more uniform complexion.
When it comes to minimising age spots and freckles through skincare, we know there is a lot of information available and it can be hard knowing what to choose. During our consults, correct advice and products will be recommended to empower you to make an informed decision that complements your skin journey.
Light-based therapies such as lasers and broadband light may also be recommended to address hyperpigmentation. These should be performed by a dermatologist who is highly qualified to prevent unnecessary skin trauma, which can make the pigmentation issue worse.