Lightening, Removing and Preventing Hyperpigmentation
Probably one of the more distressing skin problems facing Southern Californians is skin discoloration. Most frequently a result of sun exposure or hormones, these brown splotches and darkened areas can be an ongoing problem for someone of any age. What can be done to restore the skin to it’s natural color and prevent this hyper-pigmentation from coming back?
- Typical Causes
- Treatment Solutions
- Prevention and Control
Skin Care Beverly Hills
First, it is essential that you understand why you have brown spots and patches in the first place. Skin gets it’s color, whether light or dark, from melanin. Melanin is a pigment that your body produces. It determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. An over-production of melanin shows up as brown patches and spots. There are typically three reasons your skin becomes overly-pigmented.
I. 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 assaulted by repeated exposure to the sun, you experience sun damage in a variety of ways and one of those is brownspots and hyper-pigmentation resulting from an over-production of melanin. This is the body’s way of saying “too much”! Once the cycle of pigment over-production has started, it is difficult to stop it and usually medical intervention is required.
II. Hyper-pigmentation (Melasma or Chloasma) from Hormones
The second most frequent cause of hyper-pigmentation is hormone changes. This may be a result of birth control pills, pregnancy or the various stages of menopause. Hormone shifts trigger the melanin cells to go into over-drive. This can happen even if you are not a sun worshipper. If you have hormone related pigmentation problems, you still need to be careful of sun exposure since it will make it worse.
III. Hyper-pigmentation from injury (termed Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation or PIH)
The third most common cause of pigmentation is a direct result of some type of injury to the skin. Typical 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
Your body’s response to injury is inflammation. Often you don’t even see it as much of it can occur underneath the epidermis. This inflammation triggers melanin production and the result is a brown patch or stripes. (This is one of the reasons you should always be very careful that you have medical treatments such as hair laser removal done in a dermatology office where you will have a medical professional operating medical equipment.)
Solutions to Brownspots and Hyper-pigmentation
“Thank you Dr. Zaks. My legs looked like a zebra from a bad laser session at a spa. I’m finally starting to look normal thanks to your patience and persistence. I promise I’ll never trust my skin to anyone other than you ever again.” Yvonne W.
*Not all hyper-pigmentation can be completely removed. In some cases the best result is a “blending” of the affected areas so they are not as noticeable.
Dr. Zaks frequently has patients who come to him to “fix” their skin after visiting a poorly-trained laser “technician” who either used the wrong laser for their skin type or treated their skin at levels that were too aggressive. The reversal of such pigmentation problems requires a long series of treatment and rigorous adherence to a a strict sun protection program.
Sometimes you won’t be able to avoid pigmentation problems. Hormonal shifts are out of your control and an accidental injury is as well. But the most important preventive measures are:
- Sun Protection (or at least the proper use of an adequate sun-screen or sun block if you insist on “tanning”)
- Acne Control if you are prone to breakouts with Blue Light , Photodynamic Therapy or RX programs.
- Proper Selection of Medical Providers for treatments that involve lasers, lights, chemical peels or exfoliation.
Being careful with your skin
Salons or unsupervised “med spas” are not where you should go for medical level treatments of your skin. Whereas a Dermatologist has many years of highly specialized training in skin function and treatment, many spa technicians have only a few hours training in a crash course.
Poorly performed treatments can cause not only hyper-pigmentation but also scarring and even permanent disfigurement. “Buyer beware” is not a cliché, it’s a fundamental in taking proper care of your skin and yourself.