If you love to bask in the sun leisurely on a beach listening to a podcast or catch a midday wave and feel the salt on your skin and sun in your hair — the sun has been good to you! And, as much as we use the sun for stress relief, a good dose of vitamin D, and improved sleep — as we age and have more exposure to it, the less it loves us back.
Sunshine sometimes gets a bad reputation for as a cause of skin cancer, sunburn, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation, but when it’s enjoyed in moderation, most of the damage can be avoided. In this article, we’ll be exploring hyperpigmentation and how it is not only a result from the sun, but its other origins.
Hypigmentation can come from our love of the sun, hormonal fluctuations, or injury to the skin — often seen as residual acne marks. Hyperpigmentation can be harder to treat because, when UV rays are involved, it means trying to reverse sometimes 10 to 20 years of damage. When you begin to treat hyperpigmentation, patience is the best approach!
There are various topical treatments you can use to treat hyperpigmentation, such as hydroquinone, vitamin C, and kojic acid. If you’re looking for a relatively quick and permanent solution to hyperpigmentation, an IPL (intense pulsed light) facial is a good option.
A treatment for hyperpigmentation in the medical spa space is called an intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) treatment. An IPL treatment is wonderful for removing hyperpigmentation caused by both internal and external influences, and aims to restore a balanced, glowing complexion.
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is commonly seen as we age and is a normal, generally harmless, skin issue. The first type of hyperpigmentation is caused by UV rays. This type of hyperpigmentation is also referred to as age or “liver” spots, can occur in every ethnicity, and develops when the skin tissue — usually in patches — becomes darker than the surrounding skin. The darkening is a result of an abundance of melanin, or the dark pigment produced by our bodies. These patches occur in places that are exposed to UV rays, most typically seen on the hands and face.
To fully understand hyperpigmentation, we must first understand the whole picture of melanin. Melanin is produced by melanocytes in the epidermis. As your body ages, its regulation of melanocytes are less controlled, and the distribution is less balanced. Melanocytes become concentrated in certain areas, and when they’re stimulated by UV rays, wherever the cell concentration is higher, the greater amount of hyperpigmentation will occur.
Another form of hyperpigmentation is called melasma. The hyperpigmentation in melasma resembles age spots, but are a result of hormonal fluctuations — the rise and fall in estrogen and progesterone levels. Pregnant women and women on birth control pills can generate an overproduction of melanin, causing hyperpigmentation. This is commonly referred to as “the mask of pregnancy,” and it appears on the cheeks, forehead, bridge of the nose, upper lip, and chin. This form of hyperpigmentation affects a majority of women, with only 10 percent of those affected being men.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is related to skin injury, and appears when a skin trauma or injury heals, leaving discoloration behind. When the epidermis is damaged, the inflammation stimulates the melanocytes to increase melanin production to the damaged tissue, resulting in hyperpigmentation. A majority of this type of hyperpigmentation is from acne that has healed, but leaves behind a dark mark or spot.
How can I treat hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is, unfortunately, a skin issue that doesn’t go away on its own. People can treat hyperpigmentation with skin lightening creams, but you’ll find the most success in an IPL treatment. Creams can fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation, but to truly treat it and balance your skin tone, an IPL treatment is your best option.
What is an IPL treatment?
IPL — also known as photorejuvenation or photofacial — is performed in a physician’s office or in a medical spa space. The hyperpigmentation is treated with powerful flashes of light in short, polychromatic blasts. The energy created by the light penetrates the dermal layers below the skin’s surface and begins to address the melanin that’s causing the spots. The heat penetrates and attacks the pigment particles, breaking and destroying their bonds. The particles then rise to the surface and form as scabs, only to slough off, or is carried in the lymph and eliminated naturally by the body.
An IPL treatment is a wonderful option for eliminating hyperpigmentation spots and involves no downtime. The only post-procedure issue you may experience is redness. Because there is no major resurfacing happening, like a laser, the different light wavelengths are gentle.
If you have minor hyperpigmentation, results may be seen after one session. With more advanced hyperpigmentation, five sessions is the recommended succession.
What to look for in a clinic with IPL
IPL is a very safe and effective treatment; however, you still need to vet the clinic that will be performing the procedure. Though it is extremely rare, people have been burned by an IPL treatment because of an inexperienced operator. So, ask questions and do a little research on the facility before getting an IPL treatment.
Any good clinic will spend time with you in the initial intake, discussing the procedure and answering any questions or concerns before the treatment. When your on their website or come into the clinic, ensure that the esthetician or physician has a specific license and certification to perform an IPL treatment. When it comes to comes equipment, such as lasers and IPL, the field is unregulated, and most areas don’t require a license to operate. Find someone you trust and knows what they’re doing. You can always go to the clinic or medspa and get a regular facial first to test out their abilities and proceed from there.
An IPL treatment will reverse the damage from hyperpigmentation, but it will always resurface without further prevention. If your hyperpigmentation is a result from UV rays, the best prevention using is sunscreen with an SPF that is at least 30, and covering up. Consider wearing visors or wide-brimmed hats to protect your face. If you’re prone to hyperpigmentation in specific areas, either cover up or apply a high SPF sunscreen when you’re exposed to the sun. Clothing companies are even making lightweight clothing with SPF in them for added coverage and protection.
Melasma is a bit trickier because it involves hormonal fluctuations that are difficult to balance. If you’re seeing hyperpigmentation and you’re on birth control pills, consider an alternative method. Melasma in pregnancy is one of the only forms of hyperpigmentation that may go away on its own. It usually will take time, but you could start to see fading after birth.
In post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the best way to prevent it is to keep inflammation down. This can be achieved through diet and topicals, like essential oils and carrier oils, that address inflammation. If you suffer from acne, take precaution to not excessively pick your acne. Try soothing it with aloe or a jade roller.
Nuderma Health And Medical Spa
Whether you have hyperpigmentation from the sun, pregnancy, or skin injury, at Nuderma, we can use an IPL treatment to address all forms of hyperpigmentation.
Schedule with us today!