We are getting to that time of year again, where the days are longer and we are starting to get outside and soak in some of that beautiful and much needed sunshine!
As Summer starts to ramp up, a lot of us may start to notice changes in our skin. Freckles can start to darken, and as our melanocyte activity increases we may even start to notice the signs of deeper pigmentation coming through.
So, what can you do about it?
Let's go back to basics and understand first and foremost, what pigmentation is and why we get it.
What is pigmentation?
Like many skin concerns and conditions, the term “Pigmentation” is an umbrella term used to describe irregular melanocyte activity within the skin, causing visible darkening in the skin. It is a natural, protective function of the skin which is produced to act as an umbrella, protecting the underlying structures in the skin from harmful UV and free radical damage.
Pigmentation can look very different on each of us and in most cases, the type of pigmentation we will get in life is predetermined for us at birth. Trauma to the skin, prolonged sun exposure, sun burn, hormonal events and some medications can also cause pigmentation to occur.
Common Misconceptions about pigmentation
That sunscreen will completely inhibit melanin production and prevent pigmentation. You will be saddened to know that most sunscreens typically only block between 93-98% of UV rays. This means even with a sunscreen, your skin is still being exposed to harmful rays that will stimulate melanin production.
Sun exposure is the only cause of pigmentation. Even if sunscreen could block 100% of harmful UV rays, pigmentation will still form! This is because heat alone can stimulate melanin production within the skin.
Pigmentation only occurs during the hot, summer months. While heat and intensity of UV rays is higher during summer, they are still present all year round. UV rays are present the second the sun rises regardless of the season AND can also easily penetrate through clouds.
What lifestyle habits can be implemented to prevent and reduce pigmentation?
The number #1 tip for preventing pigmentation is to increase your sun care habits! Well technically this isn’t just one tip, but encompasses a few that are all vital:
- Apply your sunscreen every single day! But more importantly and commonly unknown; you must re-apply every 2-3 hours because your morning sunscreen application only lasts between 2-4 hours (depending on how fast you typically burn). The faster you burn without sunscreen, or the more concerned you are with pigmentation, the more frequently you must re-apply. It is ideal to re-apply your cream sunscreen each time for high protection, but this may not be possible for those who are wearing makeup. Instead opt for a sunscreen spray that is suitable to apply over makeup.
- Wear hats every time you go outside and opt for walking or sitting in the shade to avoid direct sun exposure and increased heat that will stimulate melanin production.
There is also a very important lifestyle tip that must be followed for those who are experiencing Melasma - a symmetric, honeycomb-like pigmentation on the face. This form of pigmentation is a genetic, inflammatory skin condition that is initially bought on and triggered by hormonal fluctuations. It is also very sensitive to heat exposure! This means you must avoid or minimise activities that will increase heat and cause flushing in the skin: hot showers, spas, saunas, heat exposure while cooking, intensive exercise (especially in the sun).
What skincare is best for pigmentation prone skins?
When treating and preventing hyperpigmentation, the first non-negotiable at-home product is sunscreen! Without this, every single cent you spend on other products and treatments becomes a complete waste.
Sunscreen will block a huge portion of the harmful UV rays that cause cellular damage and stimulate melanin production, leading to hyperpigmentation or Solar Lentigine (sun spots or age spots) later in life.
Once you’re in the habit of daily sunscreen usage, you should focus on treatment serums containing Tyrosinase inhibitors.
Tyrosinase is an enzyme that is hugely responsible for melanin production in the Melanogenesis process. By inhibiting the efficacy of this enzyme, we can reduce the rate at which melanin or pigment is produced.
Tyrosinase inhibitors should also be paired with a Vitamin A (Retinol serum) and (if the skin tolerates) a resurfacing acid.
Vitamin A penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin to exfoliate from the basal cell (base layer of the epidermis of the skin) up - essentially pushing melanin deposits to the surface. Acids exfoliate from the top down, by removing keratinocytes on the surface of the skin containing melanin deposits.
My favourite products for treating pigmentation include:
- Mesoestetic Mesoprotech Melan 130+ Pigment Control: this tinted, broad spectrum sunscreen is highly recommended for those concerned with pigmentation and undergoing treatment to reduce it. This not only protects from UV rays but also contains Tyrosinase inhibitors to further prevent new pigment from forming.
- Aspect Tinted Physical: this is a physical, broad spectrum, tinted sunscreen that reflects harmful UV rays and contains antioxidants to fight free radical damage.
- Mesoestetic Cosmelan 2: this is the mother of ALL pigmentation treatment serums! Containing a blend of Tyrosinase inhibitors, Vitamin A, acids, Vitamin C, it prevents and reduces pigmentation like no other. *This product is strong and must be recommended by a skin therapist to ensure it is suitable for your skin.
- Cosmedix Simply Brilliant: containing a blend of Lactic acid, Salicylic acid, Niacinamide, Vitamin C and active botanicals, this serum suppresses tyrosinase activity and brightens the appearance of pigmentation. *Due to the inclusion of acids, this should not be used on dry or sensitive skins.
- Aspect Pigment Punch +: this serum contains a multitude of Tyrosinase inhibitors and brightening extracts to prevent and reduce the appearance of pigmentation. This product does not contain acids or retinols and can therefore be used on even the most sensitive skins.
- Cosmedix Elite X-Cell +: this serum contains both Tyrosinase inhibitors AND microencapsulated Retinol (gentle form of Vitamin A) to brighten the skin and prevent further pigmentation.
- Cosmedix retinol ladder: Serum 16, Serum 24, Define, Refine, Refine + and Refine RX. These all contain Vitamin A. *Whichever one you use is dependent on your skin type and condition and should be determined by a skin therapist.
What in-clinic Treatments will help to reduce pigmentation?
There are many treatments on the market to help with pigmentation that all work in very different ways.
The newest and most exciting addition to Silk Space Clinic is our Cutera Excel V+ Laser! This treatment uses light energy to denature melanin build up within the cells, effectively reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation in just 1-2 sessions! This treatment is incredible for the reduction of freckles, sun spots and age spots over larger areas OR individual lesions with minimal downtime. This treatment is not suitable for melasma.
One of our favourite treatment to help improve the appearance of pigmentation is a course of peels! Peels typically contain a blend of acids, Vitamin A or Retinol and pigment inhibitors that will penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin to:
- Increase cellular turnover from the basal cell (base layer of the epidermis of the skin) to push melanin deposits to the surface
- Exfoliate the epidermis of the skin to remove melanin deposits
- Normalise the pigment activity of melanocytes
- Prevent and inhibit melanin production
The gold standard of all peel treatments for pigmentation is the Mesoestetic Cosmelan and Dermalan peel programmes. These peel programmes follow a comprehensive six month protocol that includes a deep level peel and specialised at-home products that continuously lift and prevent pigmentation. Not only is it safe for treating all skin colours, but effectively improves Melasma, Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, Freckles and Sun spots.
For those wanting to treat fine lines and wrinkles, pores and scarring as well as pigmentation, Microneedling is another great treatment option. The SkinPen Microneedling device in particular, is approved and effective at treating sun-induced pigmentation and Melasma. It can penetrate into the deepest layers of the skin to break up stubborn melanin deposits, increase cell turnover to push melanin-containing keratinocytes to the surface and restore normal pigment activity in the melanocytes.
*It is important to note that treatment for pigmentation will always be on-going because the process of melanogenesis is a natural function of the skin that can never be completely suppressed.
If pigmentation is a concern of yours, the steps to follow are:
1. Protect the skin with good sun-care habits
2. Prevent & Slow down melanocyte production by using a tyrosinaise inhibitor at home
3. Treat with appropriate in-clinic treatments for your skin & pigment type.
If you need help with working towards your skin goals, don't hesitate to reach out to us or book in for a skin consultation! X