Australians have a deep connection and love of the outdoors, the beach, and swimming at every opportunity. Many people who spend extended periods in the sun eventually develop hyperpigmentation on their face, neck, shoulders, décolletage and hands, giving them an uneven skin tone. Hyperpigmentation is caused by sun exposure, specifically by both UVA and UVB radiation. Unlike UVB, UVA radiation penetrates deep into the skin degrading the collagen and triggering inflammation and the ageing process.
Through inflammatory stress and other oxidative processes, skin cells called Melanocytes manufacture the pigment called Melanin. Melanin is responsible for protecting the DNA of skin cells and vital deeper structures of the skin. A skin tan is the human body’s defence against UVA and UVB radiation, and following repetitive sun exposure unwanted dark patches are likely to appear. These sun spots may take 10-20 years to develop, so if you notice pigmentation showing now it could have been stimulated when you were a child.
In addition to excessive sun exposure, hyperpigmentation can also be caused by hormone imbalances, inflammation, and injury to the skin. Before you begin a treatment plan, you need to know the cause of your excess pigmentation production. Fair skin types are more prone to sun-induced pigmentation whereas people with olive complexions are more susceptible to post-inflammatory pigmentation. Pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, women on oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, or women undertaking IVF treatment are more likely to suffer from hormone induced pigmentation. This is offered referred to as ‘pregnancy mask’ but is correctly described as melasma or chloasma.
Hyperpigmentation will often appear as we become older due to our melanocytes increasing in size and cumulative damage. Younger skin can be at risk of pigment from sun damage—that cute spray of freckles across the nose and cheeks can spread and become more dense, causing uneven tone and colour to the face. Younger women taking the pill and having sun exposure increase their risk of melasma dramatically, this is a common condition seen in skin clinics.
For sun-induced pigment, fractional laser treatment can work brilliantly. For hormonal pigment, there’s no cure as such, however it can be managed with a good skincare regime, short-pulse lasers, and in-clinic skin treatments such as depigmentation peels.
Unless you want to end up right back where you started, it’s pointless booking in for any clinical treatments if you continue to skip the sunblock when outdoors. Diligent sun protection is vital in managing all types of hyperpigmentation. Prevention is where it all starts! Some women even choose to stop taking the oral contraceptives to reduce the blotchy appearance of their melasma, however this is a personal and individual decision. Correct evaluation and diagnosis of pigmentation is important prior to commencing any treatment.
COMPLEX8 moisturising serum and spray are your post laser or depigmentation peel skincare heroes!