As discussed in Part 1 of the series (read here) some hyperpigmentation is called melasma and looks like brown patches/splotches. Melasma is much more difficult to treat than brown spots (lentigines), in particular if the melasma has become darker due to hormones. Birth Control, pregnancy, and menopause are examples where hormones can cause the melasma to darken even if you haven’t had sun exposure. I know from experience the frustration that comes with trying to get rid of hormone-related Melasma, because based on my experience and what I’ve read you can’t completely get rid of these unwanted tenants (my nickname for my melasma).
The best prevention:
- Sunscreen – Wendy Andrews at University Dermatology in Charlotte, NC recommends using a Broad Spectrum of SPF 30 or higher with at least 6% zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- Using a hat and/or umbrella at the beach or pool,
- Sunglasses, and
- Limit sun exposure. “Exposure” doesn’t just happen when you are in the sun. The damaging rays from the sun penetrates through clouds (even when it’s raining) and reflect off just about everything. So you’re “exposed” to the sun’s rays when you’re in a vehicle or airplane, sitting near a window, even sitting in the shade
There are many options for reducing hyperpigmentation. It’s important to keep in mind that most treatment options take time, there are no immediate results (although some are faster than others). The treatments may or may not be permanent.
1. A Dermatologist and or esthetician can determine if you have hyperpigmentation on the surface of the skin (the kind you see when you look in the mirror) or if it’s underneath the top layer. They will use a special light to look at your skin to determine whether your hyperpigmentation is on the surface, below the top layer of skin or both, and whether you have melasma or lentigines.
2. If your hyperpigmentation is on the surface – good news! The right skincare regimen and ingredients will help prevent more damage from forming and reduce what you already have.
The gold star ingredient for reducing the color of existing dark spots and preventing new spots from forming? Hydroquinone. This is the fastest acting ingredient and can be found in concentrations of 2% in over-the-counter products and 4% by prescription. This works great by itself but is even more effective when used with Glycolic Acid or Retinol as they help with ingredient penetration. Hydroquinone does have some controversy so it’s usually recommended to only be used for three months at a time. Currently I’m using **Obagi Nu-Derm products with 4% Hydroquinone. Obagi is probably the most popular brand for prescription Hydroquinone products. I’ve used it in the past with success of reducing the color of my hyperpigmentation.
Skin lighteners even the skin tone by reducing the melanin (color) already in your skin and can prevent some brown spots from forming.
Other Ingredients to look for: Hydroquinone, Niaminicide, Mandelic Acid, Kojic Acid, Azelaic acid*, Arbutin, Licorice Root Extract, Soy, Bearberry extract, Mulberry-leaf extract, Vitamin C.
3. If your damage is also below the first layer of skin then in addition to products you will likely need treatments such as microdermabrasion, laser treatment, or chemical peels.*
*Resources: Skin Inc. Website http://www.skininc.com/skinscience/physiology/149270785.html and Wendy Andrews, Licensed Aesthetician at University Dermatology, Charlotte, NC.
** Products received for use and review. I will post in the next month or two on my experience. Reviews are always my honest opinion and not influenced by the person or company who gave me the product.
What is your experience with hyperpigmentation? Please comment below or ask any questions! Is there anything you’d like more information about?