20 Apr Brown Spots or Hyper Pigmentation?
Under the Australian sun, our skin suffers!
Extra pigmentation is something we see happening from our youngest years. The cute little freckles across the nose of kids in kindy? Sundamage!
In some people they will spread widely across unexposed skin. For other people they develop blotchier brown spots through their teens and then deeper pigmentation ( lentigo) as they get older. This is your poor old skin trying to protect you the only way it knows how. ( Skin cancer can be the end result of all that damage, but that’s a topic for another day). Hyper pigmentation results in blotchy skin that doesn’t reflect light the way it should. Healthy, glowing skin is clear and reflective.
How do we make brown spots or extra pigmentation?
Lets take a quick look at the process of Melanin ( pigment) production in the skin. Melanocytes are cells that sit in the bottom layer of the epidermis of the skin. The epidermis is the top protective part of your skin. Melanocytes look a bit like an octopus – with a round body and long bendy arms that extend in all directions. Making the pigment is complicated but occurs in the melanocyte in Melanosomes. These are little packets of pigment that are passed down the extended arms of the cell, to be transferred to the skin cells that can migrate to the surface (keratinocytes) carrying the packets of colour with them. Interestingly there is no racial difference in the number of melanocytes. But the number and size of the melanosomes are different – darker skin, bigger melanosomes.
So here’s the thing – any pigmentation or colour change on your skin is a reaction to sun damage. Its your body doing its best to put little umbrellas up in your skin to protect you. ( Yes – that also means that carefully acquired tan where you never got burnt is still sun damage).
What else can cause hyper pigmentation?
Well – I guess there are brown marks formed in skin for other reasons. But – sunlight will make any pigmentation worse, even if it didn’t cause it at first. For example, PIH, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation can occur in response to physical damage to skin – like inflammation, some light or laser skin treatments or scarring (eg.acne). Still, these marks will darken in the sun. Melasma, which is a whole topic by itself – can be triggered by hormonal changes, but again, darkens and often spreads in sunlight. Some medications can cause skin to be photosensitive – that is an overreaction to the sun.
What can I do to fix brown spots and pigmentation?
You can guess that prevention is always better than cure. Using a broad spectrum high SPF sunscreen, wearing a brimmed hat, long sleeves (there are plenty of clima-care type fabrics out there now), and playing outside when the sun is lower in the sky is vital. I often here people say – ” Oh I can’t help it, I do so many outdoor activities.” Well – you still can make a difference. You find a sunscreen you like to wear ( ask your skin care professional if you need some ideas) and REAPPLY it regularly and generously. You put up with being a bit sweaty with a long sleeve higher neck top on, you wear the hat when you can, or use an umbrella (which you always keep in the boot of the car so you don’t get caught out!), and try and stay out of the midday sun. So no kidding yourself !
Then there are the active topicals you can use at home to combat UV damage – niacinamide, anti oxidants, vitamin A and DNA repair enzymes. All busy working to reverse any damage, every day!
But we can achieve fabulous improvements to skin with light and laser treatments these days. You will need a professional assessment of your skin type and pigmentation issues, (melasma for example, needs special medical management), BUT clearer, healthier, glowing skin can be yours! Make an appointment for a Skin Consultation today!