Got brown spots? Then let’s make treating hyperpigmentation your ‘motive operandi’ this year.
Hyperpigmentation is a harmless, but incredibly stubborn skin condition wherein patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin, leading to uneven tone. It’s responsible for many women’s dependency on makeup and it can age you up before your time.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when there’s an abnormally high concentration of melanocytes over-producing melanin in your skin. These melanocytes become Red-Bull-and-Skittles hyper from within when speeded up by the sun’s rays. The result? Stray brown spots that are really hard to get rid of.
To break it down even further, there are three kinds of hyperpigmentation:
Solar lentigines are more commonly known as ‘liver spots’ or ‘age spots,’ and they become more prevalent with age. They are actually caused by repeated sun exposure and usually appear on the face (especially the cheek that faces toward the sun as you drive around town), as well as the backs of the hands. Many women are wisely opting to have them lasered away to improve their appearance, not to mention their engagement ring photos.
Then there’s tricky melasma, or ‘pregnancy mask’, common among those with dark skin and caused by a swing in hormone levels. It’s why expectant mothers, and women on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, typically have brown or tan patches on their faces. Men can also develop this condition.
The third type is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), brought on by some sort of trauma to the skin. This includes any dark spot that remains long after inflammation has healed. It can happen following the improper use of an at-home laser device (which is why we recommend you always seek out a professional physician). The good news is that PIH responds well to consistent treatment. It begins to fade as the skin regenerates itself – a slow process that requires patience and due diligence.
All types of hyperpigmentation can be treated, but you will need to be consistent and you may want to take before and after pictures to measure your slow but steady progress. Here are a few handy hints:
1. As part of your hyperpigmentation treatment, keep dark spots from getting worse by reducing time spent in the sun and protecting your skin with SPF armor. Sun exposure causes 80 percent of visible aging – it’s responsible for drastic and sudden changes in skin pigmentation, as well as structural changes that go visibly undetected for years. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 50 rain or shine, and avoid the sun between the high hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
2. Facial plastic surgeons like Dr. Haena Kim will tell you in-office treatments remain the swiftest and most effective course of action for targeting hyperpigmentation and sun damage, particularly chemical peels. These caustic solutions cause significant change in the skin by sloughing off the top layers and encouraging it to heal anew. Stronger peels can aggressively shed the surface layers of the skin for radiant, even-toned results. Dr. Kim uses the VI Peel for stubborn brown spots and loves Neova Renaissance Peel for skin that simply needs to look more revitalized.
3. If you go down the topical route, don’t ‘spot treat’ hyperpigmentation. Instead, apply cream to your entire face and neck (we love Marini Luminate Face Lotion). Fall and winter are the best time to undergo skin-lightening treatments, as some of them can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. But you will want to keep up your treatment in the summer when the sun is at its highest. It’s a viscious circle, which is why we also recommend investing in a hat with UPF protection.
4. Discoloration exists in dead surface cells of the skin, so help reveal new skin by sloughing off the old buildup with regular exfoliation or a gentle glycolic peel. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic and lactic acid, remove the buildup of dead surface cells that are already stained with pigment. But remember, if you have dry, sensitive or mature skin, it’s best to exfoliate no more than twice per week.
Written by: Stephanie Simons