Why do some people have smooth, even skin while the rest battle blotchy dark melasma? Skin pigmentation concerns can make it feel like your face is betraying you. Like there’s no turning back no matter how much money you throw at “miracle” brightening serums that do nothing.
Hope is not lost! There’s a new warrior for your beauty arsenal that can help fade away problem dark spots and pimple discolouration. Imagine how it would feel to have people complimenting your even glow and makeup that applies more smoothly and looks more natural.
We’ll get to that shortly, but first, we’re diving into what skin pigmentation concerns are and why they commonly occur in the first place.
What’s Skin Pigmentation?
Here’s the simple science. Your skin contains cells called melanocytes that produce a protein called melanin. Then there are other cells called keratinocytes that carry melanin to the skin’s surface.
Melanin is also known as pigment, and it’s what determines the colour of your skin. If you have darker skin, it’s because your skin produces more melanin or pigment. People with lighter skin produce less.
Pigment is also what gives your hair and eyes colour.
There’s no problem with having skin pigmentation. It’s actually a good thing, providing your skin with a natural level of protection against the sun.
But generally, in the aesthetic world, when people talk about skin pigmentation concerns, they’re talking about hyper- or hypo-pigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is where melanin production has gone into overdrive, resulting in the clumping of pigment that looks like an uneven dark patch on the skin.
Hypopigmentation is when there is no pigment in parts of the skin, resulting in white or pink patches.
Skin Pigmentation Disorders, Symptoms & Causes
What you don’t know about your skin can mean spending much more time trying to find answers.
There are several different types of skin pigmentation concerns that lead to a blotchy appearance on the skin. Depending on the severity, each of these can impact your self-esteem.
Excess Skin Pigmentation Disorders
Age spots (also known as sunspots)
Age or sunspots? The name doesn’t really matter but does provide a clue as to where these spots come from. These brown patches are caused by sun exposure (hence the name sunspots) over a period of time (hence the name age spots). They’re most common in people over the age of 40.
You’re most likely to notice this on your face, neck, décoletté, hands, forearms, and shoulders, as these areas are most often exposed to the sun. Look at your stomach. Unless you tan regularly (not a good idea) likely that skin is much more evenly toned.
Harmful UV rays increase the amount of melanin your body produces, which results in these spots.
Melasma (also known as chloasma)
Melasma can be stubborn and leave you feeling like you can’t leave the house without foundation.
Melasma is also a darkened patch of skin pigmentation on your face. If you have melasma, it’ll look like a mirror image on each side of your face. These flat dark patches are solid and have a clearly defined border.
Common places for melasma to occur are on the cheeks, around the eyes, or on the upper lip.
The cause isn’t completely known, but it’s linked to genetics and hormones, being one of those frustrating things that often comes with pregnancy.
Just like almost all hyperpigmentation concerns, sun exposure makes it worse.
This common skin concern comes and goes with sun exposure. Small brown spots around the size of a match head (less than 3mm in diameter) may speckle your face in summer and completely disappear again in winter. It’s unlikely you’ll just get 1 freckle; they tend to arrive in clusters and start at a young age.
Like sunspots, they show up on the parts of your body exposed to the sun and will usually darken with continued sun exposure. Genetics and lighter skin tones are other factors that contribute to whether you develop freckles.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
You’re probably starting to understand that sun exposure plays a pretty significant role in hyperpigmentation concerns. But melanin production can also ramp up when a skin injury or trauma heals.
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) is often associated with acne, but it can also be the result of different inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or after an aesthetic skin procedure like dermabrasion, laser or chemical peels (there’s one peel that doesn’t carry this risk, and we’ll share this in a minute).
It looks like uneven dark patches over the skin that can be pink, brown, red or black.
Skin that contains more pigment (with darker skin tones) is at a higher risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. While sun exposure isn’t the root cause, it can make it worse.
There are other reasons for darker patches of skin that are NOT hyperpigmentation. Scarring, birthmarks, solar or actinic keratoses, and skin cancer can look like hyperpigmentation but are not. If you are concerned or unsure about anything on your skin, be sure to consult your physician.
Skin Pigmentation Loss
Same cause as PIH, different outcome. Post-inflammatory Hypopigmentation can happen when a skin injury or trauma heals. When the skin doesn’t replace pigment at the site of an ulcer, blister, eczema, burn etc., a pale patch of skin will remain. However, unless melanocytes are completely destroyed, the area will eventually improve, and colour will be restored.
Patches of skin that are absent of colour can also happen even when there hasn’t been any damage or inflammation. This may be due to a skin condition called vitiligo. Unlike post-inflammatory hypopigmentation, these pale patches are most often permanent and will even expand over time.
Other parts of the body that may be affected are inside of the mouth and the hair—when hair loses pigment, it becomes white.
Vitiligo is caused by the loss of melanocytes (remember, they’re the pigment-producing cells) or if they simply stop producing melanin.
Albinism is an inherited skin disorder and a rare one at that. The characteristic white skin and hair and light blue eyes that can look red in some lights are a result of reduced melanin pigment. It’s a genetic disorder for which there’s no cure.
The Damaging Role of the Sun
By now, it’s clear that if you want an even skin tone, you need to mitigate and minimise the damage caused by UV rays.
Melanin is designed to provide us with a natural SPF to block some UV rays. And other factors (such as hormones) can impact the production of melanin/pigment. However, if you want to reduce or prevent hyperpigmentation risks (and stay sun safe!), limiting exposure to UV radiation should be your top priority.
Long story short: everyone, regardless of skin colour, needs to be wearing sunscreen.
UVA vs UVB Rays
There are 2 main types of radiation you’re exposing your skin to every time you step into the sunshine. Dr Andrew Christie explains the difference:
“Tanning is a sign of UVA radiation. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin leading to permanent destruction, breakdown, and mutation of the melanocyte. This long-term pigment change is problematic and is linked to pre-skin cancer and skin cancer itself.
“When you go out into the sunlight for an hour or two and notice your skin is a little bit darker, but the next day it’s back to the way it was before, that’s a sign of UVB. It results in a short tan or temporary pigment changes. Burning is a sign of UVB.
“But this isn’t a get-out-of-jail free card,” he warns. “Any type of tan, burning, or pigment response to UV exposure should be considered bad.”
6 Steps to Clear, Even Skin
If you long for an even complexion, we have good news.
Dermatologists Rendon and Gaviria identified a system to intervene in the melanin synthetic pathways. There are 6 steps the body goes through to create pigmentation. If you interfere with each of these 6 steps, you can control the production and reduce the appearance of pigmentation.
But before we get to HOW you can interrupt these 6 steps, a quick reminder from Dr Andrew Christie:
“Everyone universally agrees that if you want to treat hyperpigmentation, you must have daily application and reapplication of a daily SPF product, at least SPF 30. And this will intervene in the ultraviolet A and B rays (and minuscule UVC) pathways. If you’re not willing to wear sunscreen, none of your other efforts will work.”
Pigmentation Left by Acne
What is the best way to fade PIH caused by acne?
Nip it in the bud early. Controlling the primary skin concern (acne) helps reduce the likelihood of hyperpigmentation occurring. Dermapen Treatments™ for acne plus a routine of Dp Dermaceuticals™ that targets acne can help keep your acne under control, so you don’t get to the point of PIH.
If you’re looking to target a combination of acne and pigmentation, your first step should be to consult your Authorised Treatment Provider. They will make sure your skin pigmentation treatment is customised for the best results. Dermapen Treatments can target 2 skin concerns simultaneously.
Skin Pigmentation Treatments
Traditional skin pigmentation treatments are problematic.
Some common procedures that are recommended for pigmentation skin concerns include:
- Laser resurfacing
- Chemical peels
But unfortunately, because of the way these procedures work, they may cause damage to the epidermis. This puts you at risk of further hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, and in some cases, scarring.
They also often require some time to recover from.
Dermapen Microneedling Pigmentation
Here’s one way to get a smooth, even complexion without the risks and downtime (as promised at the start of this article).
Using needles to balance hyperpigmentation is somewhat controversial. However, Dermapen Treatments™ can offer incredible results without any of the associated risks of traditional skin pigmentation treatments.
The Dermapen 4™ instigates a microtrauma that results in a resolved and controlled healing response. This leads to an increase of up to 3–5 times the production of regulatory growth factors that can improve the appearance of pigmentation. It also helps the cells behave as they should, normalising cellular function and signalling between keratinocytes and melanocytes.
And (this is the exciting bit) there’s no risk of inflammatory hyperpigmentation when Protocols—that all Authorised Treatment Providers are trained on—are followed. This is because there’s no heat and needles enter and exit cleanly.
As they enter the skin, they create micro-channels through which the potent actives in MG-BL serum and ÜBER PRO peel can reach the correct levels to interrupt the production of melanin.
Ideal Skincare Routine for Pigmentation
Microneedling with a Dermapen 4™ interrupts the very first step in the production of melanin that we talked about before. But a true Dermapen Treatment involves more than what happens in a clinic. The ongoing balancing of pigmentation requires your commitment to post-operative protocols.
The good news is when the products and results feel so good, it helps make it easier to stick with!
“Your commitment is paramount to the success of your Dermapen Treatment. No commitment, no result,” explains Andrew.
“You cannot just undergo a Dermapen Procedure or use 1 product and expect miracles and longevity. There are 6 intervention points that should be tackled using a prescribed combination of Dp Dermaceuticals products and Dermapen Treatments.”
Luckily the team at DermapenWorld™ isn’t only committed to the best results but also to make it easy. So, although the science is complex, your routine doesn’t have to be.
Dp Dermaceuticals routine for hyperpigmentation
This is the non-negotiable routine you need to commit to in order to interrupt the 6 stages of pigment synthesis, along with clinical Dermapen microneedling procedures. For more information on each product, including the active ingredients, simply click on the product name.
Cleanse: TRI-PHASE CLEANSER™
Serum: ANTIOXIDANT COCKTAIL™
Corrective: BRITE LITE™ (morning)
Corrective: RETINAL ACTIVE™ (evening)
Moisturise: CLR LOTION™ (oily) or SKIN VENEER™ (dry)
SPF: COVER RECOVER™
Weekly: BRITE LITE 3D SCULPTURED FACE MASK™
Dp Dermaceuticals routine for hypopigmentation and vitiligo
For hypopigmentation, there are a few changes to the routine. You can check the active ingredients and get more details about each of the products by clicking on the product name.
Cleanse: TRI-PHASE CLEANSER™
Serum: HYLA ACTIVE™
Corrective: RETINAL ACTIVE™
Moisturise: CLR LOTION™ (oily) or SKIN VENEER™ (normal-dry)
SPF: COVER RECOVER™
Weekly: HYLA ACTIVE 3D SCULPTURED FACE MASK™
Boost Your Results
Pigmentation concerns really need all hands on deck to get those super even results you’re dreaming of. The clinical procedures and at-home routine are the essentials for predictable and reliable results, but if you want to take it to the next level, there are a couple of additional steps to add to the mix.
We mentioned a little earlier that there’s one chemical peel that you can use on hyperpigmentation with no risk of additional PIH. ÜBER PRO is particularly beneficial for melasma. And even better, it can be applied immediately following your microneedling procedure.
Dermapen HOME™ microneedling procedures are designed to increase the infusion and efficacy of Dp Dermaceuticals. It will also help support and maintain results. Use weekly to infuse Dp Dermaceuticals HYLA ACTIVE; BRITE LITE; RETINAL ACTIVE; ANTIOXIDANT COCKTAIL or CLR LOTION.
Dp Dermaceuticals L.E.D.
Once you’ve finished your at-home microneedling procedure, it’s time to put on your Dp Dermaceuticals L.E.D. This non-invasive regenerative facemask has been shown to improve the appearance of pigmentation. (BIRCH 2020)1
Get Excited About Fading Skin Pigmentation
There’s a lot to take in, we know. But the more you understand what could be causing your skin pigmentation woes, the more equipped you are to find a solution that actually works.
Your Authorised Treatment Provider can help guide you every step of the way to even skin tone and colour. Your first step is as simple as booking an initial consult. Find your nearest provider.
If you are a professional and wish to learn how to become a DermapenWorld Authorised Treatment Provider, click here.