Being outdoors and in the sun is a quintessential part of Australian culture. While SPFs have become a daily ritual for many of us, skin still often shows signs of sun damage, no matter how careful we are. To help you manage age spots, melasma and general hyperpigmentation, we talked with Dr Ginni Mansberg to gain some expert insights.
What is hyperpigmentation and melasma?
Hyperpigmentation is a broad term used to describe concentrated areas of skin that become discoloured due to excess melanin production. Often harmless and limited to the face, neck, hands and chest, most common forms of hyperpigmentation include solar lentigines, also known as sun, age or liver spots; and melasma, or ‘the mask of pregnancy’. Although people of any age, sex and race can develop this condition, it is more prevalent in women of lighter skin tone and is usually attributed to a host of environmental and hormonal factors, including unprotected sun exposure, medications, and increased oestrogen levels.
Melasma is a condition where the skin gets patterns (usually symmetrical) of pigmentation in response to a trigger like sun exposure, pregnancy and hormone treatments.
How do we get hyperpigmentation?
- Age and repeated sun exposure. This can happen after many years of exposure to the sun’s UV rays, even if incidental.
- Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation happens after there has been some trauma to the skin. The most common cause is acne, but injuries to the skin also often result in hyperpigmentation.
- Melasma, most commonly found in women, is often associated with higher levels of oestrogen and therefore is something that is often seen during pregnancy (or women taking HRT or certain types of contraceptives). It is more common in people with olive and darker skin and is heavily genetic with 1/3rd reporting having a family member with Melasma.
What are some of the treatment options available in Australia?
Generally, hyperpigmentation can reflect an accumulation of melanin in the Epidermis (outer layer of the skin), which usually responds quite well to treatment. If the accumulation of melanin is in the Dermis (inner layer of the skin), treatment can take much longer, even if the pigmentation is only light. There are both clinical and everyday treatments that can help fight hyperpigmentation.
Clinic treatments include: Laser, Microderm abrasion and Chemical peels (which can be performed every few months).
Skincare regimes include: Prescription regimes (which will usually be limited to 3 months at a time) and non-prescription, which can be used daily. Usually a combination of both will achieve the best results.
Are there any specific ingredients to look out for?
The golden ingredient is Hydroquinone (a prescription ingredient from a group call Tyrosinase Inhibitors), which can generally only be used for 3 months. Other ingredients with good evidence for pigmentation are Vitamin A, C and B3. While not commonly used, 4-n-Butylresorcinol is also a safe and effective Tyrosinase inhibitor.
Enlighten by Evidence Skincare (ESK) uses a relatively new tyrosinase-inhibitor, 4-n-Butylresorcinol (4nB), to lighten skin and reduce future melanin deposits. Formulated with sensitive skin types in mind, Enlighten combines 4nB with antioxidant multitasker and niacinamide (vitamin B3) to help regulate normal skin cell function, improve the skin’s moisture barrier, and reduce the transfer of melanin to keratinocytes where pigment is deposited. It is suitable for daily use and can be paired with other active ingredients, such as vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids, for enhanced depigmentation and overall skin rejuvenation.
What preventative options are there?
Prevention is the best approach to reducing the risk of sun damage. Use a Broad-spectrum sunscreen (a physical sunscreen is usually recommended eg. Zinc-Oxide), protective clothing and avoid sun where possible!
Want to get treatment serums to work harder and more effectively to treat pigmentation at home? Derma rollers can be used with serums and actives targeting pigmentation. Belinda Merlino, the Education Director at Lonvitalite explains how.
Derma Rollers are effective for assisting in the appearance of superficial pigmentation concerns. As our Lonvitalite Derma Rollers have needles of 0.3mm depth, they target the layers of skin where superficial pigmentation concerns lie. Rolling the barrel over the areas of concern, the needles create tiny pathways for your corrective skin care to penetrate, making pigmentation serums or correctors far more effective in comparison to applying them alone.