Welcome to Fall! I hope your summer activities and travels gave you lots of time outdoors, with great adventures and time for rejuvenation! Chances are, all those adventures came with extra UV exposure, lots of heat and less regular skincare too. If that’s true, you’re probably noticing some extra pigmentation that you didn’t count on. And while spots and lines are great on puppies, leopards and horses, they’re not so cute on us. Great news though… if you live in the northern hemisphere, this is the perfect time to start on a corrective plan for lifting and lightening all those discolorations. But let’s talk about what they are, so you’ll have a better chance at correcting them successfully.
Pigmentation colors in human skin fall into two basic categories:
- Those containing hemoglobin– oxygenated or not –ranging from red to purple to blue. These are associated with broken or dilated blood vessels and can usually be corrected nicely with light-based devices like IPL and LASER. We’ll talk about those in another post.
- Those containing melanin– a very big group of pigments ranging from light brown to black that are produced by melanocytes deeper in the skin – and are a part of your skin’s protective mechanism.
Basically, melanin protects us from the sun and some of the harmful effects of radiation and the melanocytes in some people are a lot more active than others. If your heredity is from a part of the planet closer to the equator with more UV exposure and heat, chances are you are programmed to be more sensitive to the triggers for pigment production – heat, trauma and friction. But even if you’re Norwegian, that doesn’t mean you can’t develop hyper(too much)pigmentation. Hyperpigmentation falls into three basic types:
- UV-induced: As indicated, these are the spots that develop with high and/or prolonged
exposure to the sun. These spots or patches are usually more noticeable on the top of the forehead and nose, the tops of the cheeks, the left side of the face and left arm (driving), chest and shoulders. Corrective skincare, peels, IPL and LASER can be excellent tools for lifting pigmentation and brightening these spots.
- Post-traumatic: This is the kind of pigmentation that develops after a traumatic injury, burn, surgical incision or even an acne lesion. Have you ever burnt yourself on the oven or scraped your knee only to have the injury heal and leave a darkened area? That’s post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). It’s more common in darker skinned people, but can happen to anyone. This type is easy to lift, but the original wound or incision needs to be allowed to heal fully before attempting to address the pigment.
- Hormonally-induced: There’s a part of the pigment production cycle that’s quite sensitive to hormone balance. When hormones are high or fluctuating quite a bit, it can make you much
more sensitive to the triggers for melanin production. Examples would be pregnancy, lactation, while taking birth control or even HRT. This kind of pigmentation is often called melasma or “pregnancy mask” because of the patterns it can create on the face, usually with a distinct border at the edges of the face. This is by far the trickiest kind of pigmentation to clear and takes skill and patience to even out. Often clients with this type of pigmentation report having tried “everything” to correct it with limited success. A “less-is-more” gradual approach to correcting melasma, with the correct product and treatment regimen can be quite affective.
Stay with us this month, next week we’ll discuss ingredients in skincare and professional treatments designed to help you lift and brighten hyperpigmentation from the outside in.