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Dr Stefanie Williams: Pigmentation 101
I find that one of the most common concerns that women have is irregular pigmentation. But what is irregular pigmentation and how many different types are there?"/>
Dr Stefanie Williams, Medical Director of Eudelo London, is back with her second column and this month she’s giving us the lowdown on pigmentation. From freckles to sun damage, read on to discover the ins and outs…
Dr Stefanie Williams: Pigmentation 101
I find that one of the most common concerns that women have is irregular pigmentation. But what is irregular pigmentation and how many different types are there?
Abnormally strong skin pigmentation, also known as hyper-pigmentation (as opposed to hypo-pigmentation, which is too little pigment) occurs through over-production of melanin - the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their colour. The main cause of mottled hyperpigmentation is sun damage, because the melanin in our skin absorbs the sun’s rays in an attempt to protect cells from over-exposure. The more sun you subject your skin to, the more melanin it produces. Which I’m sure you know means that it turns darker, A.K.A you get a tan.
Types of pigmentation:
Age spots (sun spots or liver spots, medically called solar lentigines)
Caused by genetic predisposition and sun exposure – hence their popular name ‘sun spots’. They often appear on the backs of hands and on faces, but never on areas that don’t see the sun, like bottoms. More common in older people, they’re also known as ‘age spots’. Their ‘liver spot’ moniker comes from their red to dark brown colouring (not liver problems which were once thought to cause them.) Although these spots do not have the ability to turn cancerous, they can be a sign of sun damage.
Freckles (medically called ephelides)
These are harmless pigmentations that are inherited rather than a sign of sun damage. However, freckly people can be more susceptible to other forms of sun-induced pigmentation such as UV damage-related sun spots. Freckles are more common in children and those with red hair and pale skin. They tend to be more symmetrically round compared to lentigines, and fluctuate throughout the seasons, becoming more visible in summer and fading in winter.
Melasma (AKA chloasma)
These are larger dark patches of pigmentation that may appear as mask-like patches on the cheeks, temples, above the upper lip and/or forehead. They’re also known as ‘pregnancy mask’, as they often occur with hormonal changes when someone gets pregnant. Women taking the contraceptive pill can also be more susceptible to melasma. It’s more common in people who tan easily or have Mediterranean-type olive complexions.
Treatment of pigmentation:
Prescription creams – these are much more effective than over-the-counter solutions, and some even help with breakouts, with anti-ageing benefits
Laser & IPL treatments - a highly effective option to clear certain types of pigmentation on face, chest and hands in Caucasian skin, but not really recommended for those with darker skin types
White Needling - a treatment that infuses anti-pigment ingredients into deeper layers of the skin that improves texture, pore size and acne scaring
Dermatology Grade Anti-Pigment Facials - gentle, pigment lightening in-clinic treatments with no down-time
Chemical Peels - offered in different strengths to lighten pigmentation. At my clinic, Eudelo, our strongest treatment is the MelaOut peel, which can have truly amazing effects and is suitable even for dark skin types
Freezing & ACP - in clinic treatments that can be used to eliminate certain types of localised age spots and flat pigmented warts (the latter can look very similar to age spots)
Oral supplements (such as Glutathione) – these can support the treatment of irregular pigmentation
A good, tailored home skincare regime – this must include exfoliation and sun protection with SPF50
If you missed Dr Williams' last column, read it here...