When it comes to skin goals one word crops up time and time again: youthful. However, despite popular opinion, the first signs of premature ageing are not the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but in fact dark spots and uneven skin discolouration.
Evolutionary biologists Dr Bernhard Fink and Karl Grammer researched what constitutes skin perfection, and found that discolouration can visually add up to twelve years to our perceived age – yikes! But not all dark spots, whether they show up immediately or years later, are created equal and, in turn, they should not be treated equally.
From post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation to melasma, read ahead to get a full breakdown of the different types of pigmentation, and how you can effectively treat them.
What is hyperpigmentation?
“Hyperpigmentation (or pigmentation, as it’s commonly referred to) occurs when melanocytes are hyperactive or there is a high concentration of melanocytes, which can be caused by exposure to UV rays, hormonal changes, skin issues such as picking at the skin or acne, medication, inflammation and heredity,” explains cosmetic physician Dr Van Park.
“The evidence of pigmentation can be lighter or darker than normal skin colour, patchy, uneven or discoloured-looking skin,” continues Jenny Millar, Babor Brand Manger.
Three of the most common types of hyperpigmentation:
UV-induced: also know as sunspots, age spots or liver spots. According to Park “UV-induced discolouration is light to brown in colour and usually appears on the face, chest and hands. They tend to be small and dark. Freckles, which are also caused by the sun, can be a varying in brown, red or black pigments and appear on the face, chest and arms.”
Melasma: most commonly occurs during pregnancy or a surge in hormones. “It is light to medium brown in colour and is inconsistent in size. It commonly appears on cheeks, sides of face, upper nose, above the lip and forehead,” says Park.
Post-Inflammatory: “or PIH occurs on the face and is light to dark brown in colour. It’s caused by inflammatory acne, pimples, burns, cuts or abrasions,” says Park.
“Pigmentation can be remedied in a number of ways, depending on the type experienced and the underlying cause. Discuss options with your doctor or skincare specialist, like laser therapy, chemical peels and topical creams,” suggests Millar.
Similarly, Samantha Menzies, Advanced Dermal Therapist at Face Plus Medispa, Bondi Beach, recommends IPL, skin needling with the DermaPen 3 or active facials, such as the Ultra Radiance MD Radiance Plus.
According to Park, it is important to consider that Fraxel and IPL can be great treatments for those with skin type II [fair], but for those with skin type III or above , it may not work as well. “The problem is that this type of pigment is generally too light to treat, but dark enough for us to see with the naked eye. Hence, most of my patients come in saying that it makes their face look ‘dirty’.”
In this case, Park proposes Cosmelan, a chemical peel, or gentle IPL and LED treatments. “I turn to Victoria [skincare specialist at Park’s practice], who is the master of IPL and LED treatments. She’s proven that these treatments are great for maintence and preventing pigment for people with skin type III.”
At-home brightening products:
When salon treatments aren’t an option or you simply want to maintain your treatments results, there are always at-home brightening products that will help even out skin tone and counteract melanin production.
Shop → SK-II GenOptics Aura Essence
Millar also suggests eating plenty of foods high in Vitamin C, an essential vitamin for skin health, and using an exfoliator regularly to help rid the skin of a build up of dry cells that are stained with pigmentation.
Of course, the ultimate pigmentation prevention arrives by way of sunscreen, according to all three skincare specialists. Click here to see a few of our favourite sunscreens.
If you are concerned about any darks spots on your skin, please consult a medial professional.