The musings of a madwoman.
Just like the mad musings of Lady Macbeth, once they appear, those damned brown spots of blotchy hyperpigmentation can be quite the curse. With despair in your heart, you may think that what has been done after a lifetime in the sun cannot be undone, and what’s done is done.
But fear not, all is not lost.
The uneven discolouration of pigmented cells can be quite distressing. And it’s especially true if what was once a beautiful tan begins to dismantle itself into something far less than the pretty golden glow you once aspired to in your youth and proudly showed off every summer. And, your lovely tan begins to look a little tired. For many, this is not a happy occurrence at all!
On my soapbox once again. Is anyone listening?
In my earlier years in the beauty industry, I naively thought that if you (my client) had knowingly exposed your skin to the sun for the sake of a tan, then you would surely expect that this tan would come undone one day.
I also somewhat regrettably and very mistakenly thought we could talk about it openly without you (my client) bursting into floods of tears! How wrong was I?
Didn’t anyone warn my client 20 odd years ago about the dangers of too much sun on her skin? Didn’t she care? Or was it that voice in her head that scoffed? No! That happens to other people!
I know only too well the emotion attached to this problem. Of course you’re upset!!
If you’ve known me for a while, you know how I look upon unprotected sun exposure. You may as well be telling me you’ve decided to let your natural hair colour come through, or you don’t take your make up off at night!! Or, one day, wearing stilettos is going to hurt my back!! All illicit a reaction of disbelief.
We all have our little quirks, and apart from removing your makeup at night, my idiosyncratic beliefs are entirely misguided.
But I jest, as blotchy pigmentation is a serious matter, and not only does it spoil the appearance of your skin, it’s also an indication of the health of your skin.
Not all blotchy hyper-pigmentation is caused from too much sun. We can break it down to three main causes.
Long-term sun exposure.
Without adequate UV broad-spectrum sun protection, too much sun over a long period will activate sun damage and hyperpigmentation.
Depending on where you live, your genetics and how diligent you are with your sun protection will determine how much uneven pigmentation makes itself known later in life.
Hormonal induced hyperpigmentation.
Also known as melasma, it often occurs during pregnancy or as a reaction to the contraceptive pill. If you have this kind of hyperpigmentation, you know what a beast it is to treat! Melasma is activated by hormonal influences and stirred primarily by heat, whether its heat from the sun or a heated room.
So, although important, broad-spectrum sun protection alone will not stop this problem.
It can be recognised by a distinctive mask-like appearance, usually on the face. If you have melasma, you should avoid solutions that involve heat-related devices such as laser technology, which will exacerbate melasma, instead speak to your skincare professional about chemical peels such as the Deep Sea Peel from Cosmedix.
This often occurs when the skin has suffered a trauma, such as the aftermath of acne, where the scarred skin becomes pigmented when exposed to the sun or after treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion or laser when during the initial healing stages, the skin is far more susceptible and if not adequately protected from the sun will suffer post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation.
Few of us escape the perils of the sun.
Most of us will have some damage to our skin caused by the sun. For women, once your feminine hormones begin to take flight from around the age of 40, then it’s quite likely you’ll start to see the signs of blotchy pigmentation.
You could spend thousands.
Treatments like Fractional Laser Resurfacing, Chemical Peels, LED Light, and Low-Frequency Sonophoresis will significantly reduce blotchy hyperpigmentation caused by the sun. And if you have a few thousand dollars to spare, then an all-out war on your pigmentation will reduce it significantly. Perhaps not entirely reversed, but much better and a significant improvement, and you’ll feel much happier with how your skin looks.
Skincare ingredients to manage hyperpigmentation.
But if spending a few thousand dollars to undo your blotchy hyperpigmentation is not something you want to do? Well, some excellent skincare ingredients will lessen the appearance of your hyperpigmentation. It will take some time to clear the pigmentation, and your commitment will determine your results. Expect at least 12 weeks before you see any meaningful results.
So let’s unpack a few of these topical active ingredients to help combat your blotchy hyper-pigmentation.
Among all its many wonderful attributes, vitamin C will reduce inflammation and minimise the effect heat has on your skin when topically applied. Vitamin C is also a tyrosinase inhibitor.
Tyrosinase is the enzyme that stimulates pigment in the first place. When your melanin cells become dysfunctional, vitamin C becomes a vital ingredient to minimise the output of this enzyme and cause an uneven scattering of pigment through your skin.
Look for pure L-Ascorbic acid for the best results in either a serum or powder formulation. For a more detailed review of vitamin C, you may like to read this article.
Also known as Vitamin B3, it is fast becoming a mainstay in many well-formulated skin care preparations. Amongst its many positive qualities, vitamin B3 can protect the skin from infrared heat, which will reduce inflammation and decrease the transfer of pigment to the outer cells of your skin, where it becomes visible.
Or, to put it more simply, Niacinamide minimises the amount of pigment released into the surrounding skin, which can leave you with an uneven distribution of blotchy pigmentation.
You might also like this article: Niacinamide: Your Plan B
The bearberry is sometimes referred to as uva ursi extract or arbutin and is a natural skin lightening agent that will convert to hydroquinone once applied to the skin.
Like vitamin C, its action is to inhibit the enzyme tyrosinase from stimulating more pigment. As a preventative measure, bearberry extract is a valuable active ingredient. And in most cases, it is well accepted by most skin types.
Retinoids (vitamin A).
When treating hyperpigmentation, the best place to start is with retinoids. Commence with a daily dose of low strength vitamin A esters, such as retinyl palmitate, acetate or propionate. Once your skin begins to accept vitamin A, you can progress to higher retinoic acid concentrations or over the counter retinol.
If you have pigmentation, adding a medical prescription of retinoic acid will help diminish uneven pigmentation by increasing cell turnover. Still, once vitamin A enters your skin cell, it’ll contribute to repairing any damage in the cell’s DNA. However, retinoic acid does have side effects, so it’s essential to get professional advice before commencing.
It has a bleaching or whitening action on the skin. While an effective ingredient for treating brown spots and hyper-pigmentation in many countries, it is either banned or only available through a prescription from a medical doctor.
To be effective, it does need to be in concentrations of around 4 per cent which is relatively high and not always well-tolerated and can be quite drying to the skin.
Comparison research has been done on the effectiveness of hydroquinone versus niacinamide, and in both cases, the results over 12 weeks were excellent. So it may come down to personal choice, how easy you can obtain hydroquinone and whether it suits your skin overall.
As for me, I’d always choose Niacinamide as it has so many other benefits that contribute to the skin’s overall health.
Which skincare ingredient is suitable for you?
As I’ve mentioned today, active skincare ingredients, when used topically, are essential in the undoing of hyperpigmentation—slowly reversing your hyperpigmentation. You’ll find these ingredients in most high-quality cosmeceutical skincare brands. And, it’s not so much choosing one over another. All work well together, giving you a far superior result than just looking for one single active ingredient to help resolve hyperpigmentation.
If you want to incorporate chemical peels into your hyper-pigmentation regimen, you may like to read this series all about chemical peels.
So that’s blotchy hyper-pigmentation unpacked. Of course, if you’re serious about embarking on or reversing hyperpigmentation, then a broad-spectrum sunscreen is essential. You may also find these articles helpful.
And now you?
Do you have a problem with blotchy hyperpigmentation? How have you managed it? Or have you found a secret ingredient that you’ve found works well? Or maybe you’ve just got more questions? You can shoot me an email over here. I’d love to hear from you, or if you liked this article, why not share it with your friends on your social’s.
See you next time,