What is pigmentation?
It is of one’s skin is the result of millions of years of evolution, which explains the wide range of skin tones we see in everyday life. People with origins close to the equator, where the sun is the most intense, had to develop protection against dangerous UV rays. The result? An increase in the production of melanin, a natural skin and hair colourant that absorbs UV radiation and protects the body from damage. In fact, the epidermis of a dark-skinned person absorbs up to 25% more UV radiation than that of a light-skinned counterpart.
How do I prevent unbalanced pigmentation?
Pigmentation disorders are caused by a myriad of factors, which include sun damage, hormonal imbalance, and skin trauma or disease. Of all these causes, sun damage is both the most common, and the most easily prevented! Simply applying a sunscreen with a minimum SPF15 every day, and avoiding peak sun times around midday, will do a lot to prevent the sun damage that can make your skin’s pigment act up. Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster SPF30 provides optimum daily sun protection.
Hormonal imbalance mostly affecting women, can occur during any time that the body’s natural hormone balance is disturbed. These triggers can include hormonal changes, such as those that happen during the menstrual cycle, menopause, prolonged stress, pregnancy or even when taking birth control pills. Unlike pigmentation related to trauma or sun damage, hormonally-induced hyperpigmentation generally disappears when balance is restored to the body, and it can be treated during the interim period with topical skin brighteners.
The pigmentation related to skin trauma (cuts, wounds, scrapes and the like) is difficult to prevent in the case of accidental damage to the skin. Picking at acne lesions is also, of course, a big no-no, and will only exacerbate the problem associated with the wound healing.
What are my treatment options?
When it comes to hyperpigmentation (when pigment-producing cells are damaged and produce too much color), there are two possible treatment approaches -- botanical and chemical. Chemical lighteners, predominantly those containing Hydroquinone, are the only approach officially recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration as effective skin lighteners. However, Hydroquinone has been linked with many negative side effects and can cause severe skin allergies and worsening of the pigmentation condition. (This is why Hydroquinone is now actually banned in much of Asia and Africa.)
Botanical skin brighteners are a much safer approach for brightening the skin, and are as effective when used consistently in a professional brightening regimen. Brightening agents to look for include Licorice, Bear berry, Rice, Kiwi and Mulberry, coupled with Lactic Acid and Vitamin C. Your skin care therapist will be able to prescribe the regimen best for you, but it will most likely begin with a professional series of Skin Brightening treatments. These highly-active treatments include a professional-only ex foliation to smooth away the unevenly pigmented skin cells, followed by the application of a powerful botanical serum.
Of course, your at-home regimen is also vitally important. After cleansing in the morning, use Dermalogica Day Bright SPF15, which contains optical illuminators, and will help protect your skin from further sun damage while actually helping to combat melanin production on the cellular level. At night after cleansing, use Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant®, a Rice-based powder that smoothes and brightens the skin. Then apply Night Bright, which penetrates deep into the skin and delivers a potent dose of eleven botanical brighteners to regulate melanin production.
How much you can reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation depends largely on what is causing the problem in the first place, as well as how deeply into the skin the pigmentation extends.
Generally speaking, most people see results within 8-10 weeks of beginning a treatment program. Keep in mind, however, that all sun exposure must be avoided during this time – even one unprotected day in the sun can completely reverse all positive treatment results.