Our Ultimate Guide to Treating Pigmentation
A universal skin concern affecting nearly everyone regardless of age, gender or skin type, Pigmentation is the unfortunate downside to our beautiful Australian beach lifestyle. Here we explore all things pigmentation, including what it is, what causes it, and our best treatment and product recommendations to treat it.
Blame it on our clinic location in the heart of sunny Bondi Beach, but one of the most common conditions we treat clients for is hyperpigmentation. Whether it is caused by acne, hormones or sun damage, UV exposure can make pigmentation much worse and even harder to treat. So if you are guilty of getting a little too much sun over the summer months, and have noticed pigmentation or uneven skin tone, then this is the post for you! The cooler winter months have a lower UV index and generally less sun exposure, making it the perfect time to treat pigmentation effectively and get your skin glowing again.
WHAT IS PIGMENTATION?
To put it simply, pigmentation (or what is known medically as hyperpigmentation) refers to patches or spots on the skin which appear darker than the surrounding areas. These pesky patches of discolouration occur when there is an overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for giving skin its colour. When melanin is produced in excess, it accumulates in the layers of the skin causing it to darken.
WHAT CAUSES MY PIGMENTATION?
While pigmentation has many causes, the number one factor is the sun, making it a common problem in Australia throughout the summer months. Our skin produces melanin in an attempt to protect itself and its DNA from damage. This is why we tan after basking in the sun, and also why repeated, long-term UV exposure results in pigmentation disorders including sun spots and skin cancers like melanoma. However, it’s not just the sun that sends our skin into a melanin producing frenzy, other causes of hyperpigmentation include hormonal fluctuations, inflammation and trauma or injury to the skin. Pigmentation also becomes worse as we get older as melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin) increase in size, their ability to function diminishes and our cell turnover decreases.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PIGMENTATION?
Usually seen in fairer skin types, photo ageing appears in the 30’s and 40’s age groups as a direct result of years of daily exposure to the sun. This damage to the skin causes darkened patches, spots and uneven skin tone often referred to as sunspots. This type of pigmentation is most often seen on sun-exposed areas such as the face, chest, shoulders and arms.
Commonly seen during pregnancy, Melasma presents as large patches of pigmentation generally appearing on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip and chin. This type of pigmentation is caused by fluctuations in hormone levels, and may be triggered by pregnancy, the contraceptive pill and other hormonal therapies. Melasma can be aggravated by UV exposure, inflammation and heat and is notoriously difficult to treat, involving deeper layers of the skin which are at high risk of rebound pigmentation if treated incorrectly.
If you’ve ever had acne or a breakout, chances are you’ve experienced post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Just picture that brown spot often left behind after a pimple has well and truly disappeared. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation develops from any form of injury to the skin, including burns and trauma, and can also occur after aggressive skin treatments such as chemical peels and laser. These small spots of hyperpigmentation eventually fade on their own, but can be a nuisance for acne sufferers as they give the appearance of acne even when it is controlled. Unlike sunspots and other forms of photo ageing, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is more commonly seen in darker skin types.
WHAT ARE THE BEST TREATMENTS FOR PIGMENTATION?
One of our most popular treatments for pigmentation at The Clinic is SkinPen. A form of collagen induction therapy, this treatment utilises tiny needles (similar to acupuncture) to deliver thousands of precise, microscopic injuries to the upper layers of the skin. This then stimulates the skin’s own healing response, resulting in cell renewal and rejuvenation to reduce pigmentation, even up skin tone, promote collagen production and improve skin texture. Suitable for most skin types, including fair and darker complexions, fine, sensitive or resistant skin, SkinPen is effective at treating all forms of hyperpigmentation, particularly Melasma, as there is a low risk of rebound pigmentation, virtually guaranteeing amazing results with very little downtime.
Peels are a fantastic treatment for milder forms of pigmentation or for those wanting to maintain their results from more intensive treatments. One of our favourites at The Clinic is the PCA Peel. This treatment combines Lactic and Salicylic Acid to brighten the skin by exfoliating the upper layers of dead skin cells and encouraging the removal of older pigmented skin cells. It also contains Kojic Acid, a powerful antioxidant known for it’s skin brightening effects.
IPL REJUVENATION (INTENSE PULSE LIGHT)
Ideal for fairer skin types, IPL is a great treatment option for superficial pigmentation such as sun damage. IPL uses light energy to target and break down melanin in the skin, reversing pigmentation and effectively treating both brown and red discolouration, including broken capillaries. As IPL treatment uses energy to heat the skin, it is not recommended for the treatment of Melasma.
Fraxel is our most intensive treatment for pigmentation, ideal for those wanting fast and dramatic results who can have some downtime to recover. A fractional laser is used to treat pigmentation to the face and chest, including age spots, sun spots, pigmentation and freckles. Small fractions of the skin are treated, promising dramatic improvement and the removal of pigment, whilst ensuring faster healing times. Due to heat associated with Fraxel treatments, it is not a recommended treatment option for Melasma.
WHAT PRODUCTS WILL TREAT MY PIGMENTATION?
If you are serious about treating and preventing pigmentation, using an effective daily SPF is a must! The sun contributes to all forms of pigmentation, and regular exposure to harmful UV rays can make pigmentation much harder to shift. Skin treatments can also heighten sun sensitivity, increasing your risk of further pigmentation.
ASPECT SUN ENVIROSTAT ON THE GO SPF50 $30
Best for: All skin types. Pregnancy & breastfeeding safe.
Aspect Sun’s Envirostat On The Go is an Australian made chemical sunscreen formulated specifically to deal with the harsh Australian sun. It boasts an SPF50+ rating with broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays, is water resistant for four hours and features a non-greasy formulation perfect for everyday use.
ASPECT DOCTOR COMPLETE PIGMENT PLUS SERUM $159.50
Best for: All skin types with pigmentation, melasma, photodamage or hyperpigmentation. Pregnancy & breastfeeding safe.
This advanced formulation from Aspect Dr contains Transexamic Acid, a powerful inhibitor to reduce and regulate melanin production. An array of other skin brightening and pigment reducing ingredients such as Vitamin C and Lactic Acid ensure this powerhouse serum is extremely effective in treating pigmentation, including age spots, freckles and Melasma which is notoriously difficult to treat. A safe option for those experiencing Melasma during pregnancy, Aspect Doctor Complete Pigment Plus Serum also contains no Retinol, so it can be used both morning and night for faster results.
SKINBETTER SCIENCE ALPHARET OVERNIGHT CREAM $142.50
Best for: All skin types with pigmentation. Not safe for pregnancy or breastfeeding.
The SkinBetter Science Alpharet Overnight Cream is a powerful product combining Retinol and AHA’s to rejuvenate the skin and dramatically improve pigmentation, with little to no irritation. A form of Vitamin A, Retinol improves discolouration and the appearance of dark spots by speeding up cell turnover and regulating pigment production. A blend of AHA’s including Lactic and Glycolic Acid ensure delivery into the deeper layers of the skin, assisting to exfoliate the skin by encouraging natural shedding and the removal of older skin cells with excess pigment.
Whilst it is an extremely common skin concern, Pigmentation can be difficult to treat and manage, which is why we recommend consulting a skincare professional to get the most out of your pigmentation treatment plan. Whether you visit us in our newly reopened Bondi Junction clinic, or book a free Facetime video consultation, our Registered Nurses will be happy to provide a personalised skincare plan with recommendations to treat your specific pigmentation concerns.