Current Options for the Treatment of Skin Pigmentation
With the exception of those affected by the genetic condition known as albinism, everyone has skin that is tinted to some degree. The effect is the result of a layer of the dark brown pigment known as melanin that is produced by cells located just below its surface. Under normal circumstances, distribution is even and the cyclic production and subsequent breakdown of melanin serves to maintain an individual’s skin colour within a range that is the norm for those of his or her racial origin. On occasions, however, some areas of an otherwise even-toned skin may show either increased or decreased levels of pigmentation, resulting in dark or light patches. Where these are marked and highly visible, those affected can undergo one of the many treatments available today.
Throughout history, many cultures have associated light skin with beauty and status to the extent that people sought means to lighten their skin artificially, such as bathing in milk, consuming pearl dust and applying plant extracts, the basis of some skin-lightening creams still used. Today, modern technology offers a range of more sophisticated options. Which of these may be the most effective in any given case, will depend upon the nature, the location and the cause of the particular skin blemish, as well as its severity.
When examining the causes of irregular pigmentation, it must be said that treatment is most often needed as the result of sun damage and, not surprisingly, this is very prevalent in South Africa. Although seen as fashionable and desirable, excessive tanning will often result in darkened areas on the face and neck, and is known to hasten the appearance of so-called age spots. Those with a normally feint sprinkling of freckles will find that they become much darker and more prominent following UV exposure. Medications, chemicals and hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy and when taking oral contraceptives, are just a few of many known causes of the dark patches that are collectively known as melasma.
Apart from the creams and lotions which, with few exceptions, tend to be only minimally effective, there are now more effective treatments for areas of increased pigmentation. These include skin peeling, using a variety of chemicals; carboxytherapy in which carbon dioxide is introduced under the skin to stimulate blood flow and to promote normal metabolism in the dermal cells, microdermabrasion to provide gentle exfoliation and fractional laser resurfacing. The latter uses thousands of columns of laser energy to replace wrinkled, scarred and darkened areas of the skin by stimulating the production of the proteins needed for the growth of younger and healthier cells.
Several of the procedures referred to here, have multiple applications and may be used, not just as a pigmentation treatment, but also for addressing a number of other dermatological issues, as well as for reversing some of the more visible signs of aging. Determining which of these options may be the most suitable to address your particular need is a task that is best left to an expert.
At a Laserderm medical aesthetic centre, you will first attend a preliminary consultation with one of our dermatologists or aesthetic specialists. He or she will evaluate your condition and tailor your course of therapy to address your needs specifically.