Pigmentation: is the darkening of an area of skin caused by increased melanin often due to injury or hormone imbalance. Depending on the cause, pigmentation can either lie superficially in the top layers of the skin (epidermis), or much deeper, at the epidermal- dermal junction (the junction between the top and middle layers of your skin) or anywhere in between.
Sun spots (solar lentigines) tend to lie nearer the surface of your skin and are caused by previous sun damage, most likely from time spent in the sun as a child. It has been estimated that 90% of long term sun damage occurs before the age of 7! With the passing years, this sun damage rises to the surface as presents as sun spots which certainly age us.
Hormonal pigmentation lies much deeper and is caused by a darkening of your melanin-producing cells called melanocytes, under the influence of hormones. Oestrogen is the main culprit, and for this reason we usually find hormonal pigmentation in women, although men are not completely immune. Hormonal pigmentation tends to worsen with the contraceptive pill and pregnancy and is exacerbated by sun and heat exposure. This pigmentation is typically what causes the “mask of pregnancy”, or Melasma.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a darkening of areas of the skin where inflammation has occurred. Typically this occurs in darker skins and may occur after a pimple, trauma to the skin, a reaction to a skin product, or a deep chemical peel , or due to repetitive friction on an area (such as elbows).
Treatment of hyperpigmentation involves a multi- level approach and differs according to the level where the pigmentation lies. For best results, a patient needs to do a combination of home and in-salon treatments, and should expect results over the course of a few weeks to months, rather than an instant fix.
“Combine home products with treatments such as chemical peels, infusion facials with brightening serums, and Fraxel laser, and there are very few patients we will not be able to improve.” Says Dr Chapman, Laserderm Sandton.