If you’re a sun lover like I am then you’ll know that too much time in the great outdoors is bound to have adverse affects. We all know that sun safety is extremely important and prevention is better than cure, but what if your skin is already showing signs of aging? The first step is to have your skin checked at a skin cancer clinic. Provided that things are diagnosed as safe, the next step is to look into treatment from a cosmetics perspective. Recently I’ve developed dark spots on my face that are increasingly noticeable after time spent in the sun. Diagnosed as pigmentation, it’s an area of frustration each morning as I attempt to cover it with make up. To get a better understanding on the topic, I spoke to Dr Eoin McDonnell from Core Medical Clinic. We find out exactly what pigmentation is, how to treat it and more importantly, how to prevent it. On top of his expert advice, we also try a range of at-home serums and peels to see what products on the market actually work.
What is pigmentation?
Pigmentation in generally used to describe varying colours in the skin. Pigmentation can be brown, black, blue, purple, red and some other rarer colours. Generally, when we people talk about pigmentation and it being a cosmetic problem in the skin, it is the brown pigment we are talking about.
What causes pigmentation?
Pigmentation is caused by a combination of pigment cells in the skin (melanocytes) and the protein that these cells produce, called melanin. Dark skinned people produce more melanin than light skinned people. The melanin that is produced by dark skinned people is generally more protective against sun damage than the melanin of light skinned people. The skin produces more melanin in response to a number of factors. One is any kind of injury to the skin; this could be from sunburn in the form of ultraviolet radiation or from inflammation or infection, for example acne, eczema, other dermatitis conditions or any kind of scarring. Pigmentation in scarring varies from individual to individual, with some people having pale scars (hypopigmentation) while other people have scars that are darker than the surrounding skin (hyper pigmentation).
Other factors that can influence pigmentation are hormones and medication. Women often notice a change in pigmentation in certain areas of their body during pregnancy, such as on their faces (melasma) or a line on the their lower abdomen (linea nigra – latin for “black line”). Often after pregnancy this pigmentation can improve but a lot of women have ongoing issues with it. Melasma is a chronic condition and needs ongoing management. Medications such as hormonal contraceptives are a common cause of pigmentation.
How can pigmentation best be treated?
Treatment of pigmentation often requires a multi-modal approach i.e. several different treatments may be needed at once. It involves treatment and reduction of the pigmentation currently in the skin and also prevention of development of further pigmentation.
Number one treatment is prevention of further sun damage through use of daily SPF of at least factor 30. People often do not realise the impact the “incidental” sun exposure has e.g. if they nip to the shops or cut the grass without SPF on. All of this sun-exposure is additive and contributes a lot to UV skin damage. Using SPF with good cosmeceuticals will greatly improve skin quality and reduce pigmentation.
If your doctor thinks there may be an implicating medication, this should be looked at. Reducing and treating any pigmentation and sun damage on the skin can be done using light-based treatments such as IPL (intense pulsed light) and laser. I recommend the Cynosure Icon IPL system and Picosure Focus laser system for effective pigment reduction, with the added benefit of skin rejuvenation, tightening and improvement in fines lines, wrinkles and scars. Some people will also need maintenance light-based treatments to keep their pigmentation at bay e.g. 4-6 monthly IPL or laser treatments.
Use of cosmeceuticals to reduce the production of melanin is very important as part of your daily skin care regimen, along with SPF, especially in chronic conditions such as melasma. I recommend products from the Ultraceuticals brand that contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, retinols and active Botanicals.
It’s clear that the best way to treat pigmentation is by consulting a professional skincare therapist, however there are also some great at-home products that assist with reducing the appearance. Whilst most products don’t produce the same results as a professional, they do help to even out skin tone and fade lighter spots. After a lot of trial and testing, we’ve rounded up the best products on the market that help keep pigmentation at bay.
Any product with the name ‘peel’ in it can instantly have me imagining Samantha from Sex in the City when she appears at Carrie’s book launch after having a chemical peel. Red, burnt skin is not a good look and definitely something I want to avoid. Initially I was a little worried about applying this peel but I can assure you there is nothing to be afraid of. It’s actually a very gentle two-step kit that resurfaces the skin to reveal a more youthful looking appearance. The first step is the overnight peel that comes in a dropper bottle, a leave-on formula that micro-exfoliates and resurfaces skin gently throughout the night. The second step is the youth extending leave on night gel that is applied after the peel. Formulated with skin-strengthening natural echinacea, anti-aging peptides, anti-irritant oat extract and bisabolol to help cool, soothe and comfort skin with deep hydration effects. Both products are extremely soothing and work together to brighten and strengthen the skin, whilst minimizing the look of wrinkles and pores. You wake with skin feeling fresher and rejuvenated, with absolutely no recovery time needed. Whilst my pigmentation didn’t disappear completely, it certainly did assist to fade the appearance, whilst also giving me a dewy and glowing look.
PILOSOPHY MICRODELIVERY OVERNIGHT AND ANTI-AGING PEEL | RRP $119 | Buy online HERE or for stockist phone 1800 812 663.
A beautiful range of skin brightening creams, cleaners, lotions and emulsions, Lancôme Blanc Expert Collection works hard to even out skin tone and brighten the skin. Working in perfect synergy with any normal skincare routine, Lancôme’s collection is formulated with revolutionary tone-balancing technology to produce visibly lighter and radiant skin. Each product absorbs easily into the skin and results in an overall evened out skin tone.
Whilst there was definitely a slight reduction in pigmentation it wasn’t completely erased. The Brightening Emulsion and Brightening and Replumping Mousse both worked extremely well under make up, giving my skin a glowy and dewy look. The night cream has a beautiful, light fragrance that felt soothing to apply and gave skin a radiant look when I awoke each morning.
LANCÔME BLANC EXPERT BRIGTHENING & REPLUMPING MOUSSE | RRP $POA | Buy online HERE.
Antipodes skin brightening products are infused with all natural ingredients like bee venom, mamuka honey and kiwi fruit. The result is a luxurious range of products that smell almost good enough to eat. The Antipodes Apostle Skin-Brightening Serum is fragranced with green apple and cardamon and it seriously feels (and smells) heavenly on your skin. The water-based serum helps correct dull, blemished or uneven skintone whilst helping to restore moisture. The Antipodes Manuka Honey Skin Brightening Light Day Cream also smells divine, a skin lifting day cream that restores the skins natural glow. Both products work in perfect synergy with each other, offering a brightening finish to lackluster skin. Overall my skin tone felt more even and smooth, yet my dark spots (although visibly reduced) were not completely faded.
ANTIPODES MANUKA HONEY SKIN BRIGHTENING LIGHT DAY CREAM | RRP $65 | Priceline, David Jones, Myer, or buy online at www.antipodesnature.com
Another luxuriously smelling serum, Spaceutials Phyto-B3 Serum is formulated with kale, broccoli, fermented papaya and professional strength 5% niacinamide to produce a moisture-locking superfood skin serum that target pigmentation, uneven skin tone, hydration and inflammation. The key ingredient of niacinamide works wonders to boost the immunity of the skin, reduce pigmentation, regulate oil flow and minimise lines and wrinkles. Further boosted with milk thistle, goji berries and lime caviar, Spaceuticals Phyto-B3 Serum has a soothing and calming effect on the skin that visibly hydrates and smoothes out skin tone. Again, whilst my stubborn pigmentation was definitely reduced in appearance, it didn’t completely disappear (however I’m beginning to think only a professional skincare therapist will be able to help)!
Skinstitut Even Blend Serum is specifically formulated to target pigmentation while it works to address age spots, skin discolouration, acne, acne scars and uneven skin tone. The result is a more luminous and radiant complexion, with minor pigmentation visibly removed. A formulation of glycolic acid, daisy flower, wakamine and lotus extracts exfoliates and brightens skin tone. Overall, the improvement in pigmentation is definitely noticeable and over time continues to fade. Prolonged use of this serum suggests dramatic results so I look forward to continued use and improvement.
SKINSTITUT EVEN BLEND SERUM RRP $45 | Buy online at www.skinstitut.com
*Main Image via Natasha Oakley.