Pigmentation is one of the most common yet complex skin conditions skincare professionals encounter and it is an increasing focus for clients. So far in 2021, searches for hyperpigmentation have soared by 140% as individuals seek out advice on tackling concerns such as age spots, dark patches and discolouration. Research suggests hyperpigmentation and melasma are frequently associated with negative psychological effects, including anxiety or depression.
Delivering tangible results for clients dealing with these issues takes time. It also requires the expertise and treatment advice of knowledgeable skincare professionals, as damage can be hidden in the skin for years before pigmentation appears on the surface. Easing pigmentation requires a careful combination of treatments, active ingredients in oral and topical products and lifestyle changes.
WHAT IS PIGMENTATION & HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?
All skin contains some level of the pigment melanin. The variety in our natural production of this molecule is what determines individual skin tone. Melanin is produced to protect skin cells from damage, for example when exposed to UV light. It is also produced in response to other stimuli both external and internal, some of which can lead to excess melanin production.
Pigmentation becomes visible as marks or spots when melanin deposits build up in the upper layers of the skin cells.
WHAT CAUSES PIGMENTATION?
Genetics play an important role but excessive sun exposure, hormones and stress appear to be the main triggers for the development of excess melanin.
Blue light can also lead to pigmentation. With electronic screens and LED lights we are almost always exposed to this even in the shade. It is thought that blue light induced pigmentation is longer lasting than UV induced pigmentation.
Alongside external stimuli, hormones play a crucial role, particularly for women. Oestrogen can stimulate the over production of melanin when skin is exposed to sunlight. This contributes to a specific type of hyperpigmentation called melasma. Also known a the ‘mask of pregnancy’ brought on by hormonal shifts during pregnancy.
Studies suggest free radicals generated by the response to stressors such as pollution or lack of sleep can damage cell DNA and cause melanin production. Melanin protects cells, but extended sun exposure and cumulative damage can trigger abnormal melanocyte activity, leading to excess melanin production and in some cases, cancer.
TYPES OF PIGMENTATION…
Melasma: caused by hormonal changes and exacerbated by UV damage. More common in women, particularly during pregnancy, menopause or those taking the contraceptive pill. Those with darker skin tones are more likely to experience this (Fitzpatrick III/V). Usually symmetrical on the cheeks, nose, forehead, top lip, chin or jaw.
Post-Inflammatory(PIH): often appears in the wake of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne or dermatitis. It leaves a darker patch of skin where flare ups have healed. More common in darker skin tones ( Fitzpatrick IV-VI) This can also occur if the skin is severely damaged by an external aggressor such as chemical burns, overly aggressive facial peels or lasers.
Solar Lentigines: more commonly known as age spots, liver spots, sun spots or senile freckles. Basically patches of darker skin caused by sun damage. These mostly appear in people aged 40 and over. Can appear anywhere on the body particularly on the face, arms and hands that are continually exposed to UV. Spots can appear scaly in appearance and can become inflamed.
Freckles: these appear at any age, they are not a sign of severe sun damage. Although indicate that the individual is susceptible to UV damage making sun protection crucial.
Hypo-pigmentation: visibly the opposite of hyperpigmentation. This creates white or pale marks on the skin due to an absence of melanin. Several genetic conditions including vitiligo and albinism cause hypo-pigmentation. It is also caused by skin damage for example sun damage, inflammatory skin disorders or burns. This is more common than you would imagine and manifests as small, un-pigmented flecks. Common on the arms or legs, where sun protection may have been less vigorous.
Improving pigmentation is challenging for both therapists and clients. It is often caused over years of damage and reversing this will not happen overnight. However, significant improvements can be made with smart treatments, client commitment and crucially, time. A holistic approach is vital. There is no one magic ingredient that can do it all.
There are numerous triggers for pigmentation so the more you target the more effective the result. Oral and topical treatments containing ingredients with differing functions should be combined. Especially oral nutritional supplements show impressive results on pigmentation.
SUN CARE COMES FIRST:
Protection against sun exposure should be the main focus when treating pigmentation. A few minutes of unprotected direct or indirect UV or blue light can immediately undo any beneficial effects from skincare and treatments. Avoiding excessive sun exposure is key. Sun protection with antioxidants and physical sunscreens is imperative. Plus the use of vitamin A from as young an age as possible is advised.
INGREDIENTS TO INCORPORATE:
Vitamin A: ensuring skin is rich in vitamin A is the most effective way to minimise the chances of pigmentation. Using topical and oral vitamin A combined ensures optimum levels within the body. This reduces deficiency which is where pigmentation starts.
Vitamin C: as a powerful antioxidant it helps to counteract the stress that triggers melanin synthesis. Meaning pigmentation is limited. Using topical and oral vitamin C combined shows to be extremely effective in combating pigmentation.
Lactic Acid: as well as encouraging cell turnover it directly inhibits the activity involved in melanin production. Therefor this minimises existing while preventing new pigmentation. Gentle lactic acid peels can be beneficial within a pigmentation treatment programme. However caution and care is necessary when it comes to acids. Some assume the stronger the acid the faster the benefits, this is not the case. Harsh acids are not beneficial for skin and can cause serious damage. Overstimulating or damaging skin cells causing post-inflammatory pigmentation or even hypo-pigmentation.
French Maritime Pine Bark Extract: an emerging antioxidant used in topical products and supplements. Inhibits and suppresses the activity involved during the process of pigmentation. Studies found that when taken orally alongside sun protection melasma was improved in 94.4% of participants. This is also proven to improve age related pigmentation.
Other ingredients to incorporate include: astaxanthin, geranium robertum extract and clairju (plum), niacinamide (vitamin b3) and sepiwhite-MSHTM.
Here at KVLSKN we recommend:
Advanced Nutrition Programme:
Skin Complete, Skin Vit C, Skin Ultimate, Skin Vitality, Skin Youth Biome
Moisturisers and serums from the Skin or Youth EssentiA range, Focus Care Radiance+ range, Even More Sun Care+ range
In Clinic Treatments:
If you are lucky enough to live local to KVLSKN clinic we have specific treatments to target pigmentation. Visit the link to book.
In salon micro-needling has a regenerative effect on the skin which dramatically improves pigmentation. Home micro-needling helps enhance the penetration of active ingredients. It delivers them to where the skin needs them the most. Which enables them to start working against the pigmentation process.