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Minimizing Skin Discoloration

Minimizing Skin Discoloration

Even Out Your Skin Tone with Good Care:

Over time, many people develop brown spots on their skin, especially if they've had a trauma to their skin or spent much time in the sun. The term for these spots is hyperpigmentation, which describes an excess of pigment in the skin. Often an early sign of aging, they may first appear on the face, backs of hands or on the arms. These spots can be faded, but patience is required because repeated treatments are usually necessary. Diligent use of a broad spectrum sunscreen and protection from the sun is required to keep hyperpigmentation from returning.

Hyperpigmentation arises when melanin in the epidermis becomes irritated, so to speak, and increases production, darkening the outer skin and becoming visible at the skin's surface. Regularly scheduled professional treatments, combined with a proper home care regimen, can calm the production of melanin and lighten the skin.

Hyperpigmentation takes different forms. These include:

Freckles/lentigines: These are the result of an inherited tendency; exposure to the sun will darken their color.

Solar lentigines: Commonly known as age spots or liver spots, these darkened spots on the skin are benign sun-induced lesions that occur in sun-exposed areas, e.g., face, arms and hands.

Melasma: Melasma is a response to hormone changes, such as those caused by birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause, resulting in facial spots.

Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH): This is the direct result of an injury to the skin. The body's response to injury is inflammation. Some think this inflammation reprograms melanocytes to be hyperactive and to produce more melanin. It affects men and women equally. Some common pigmentation- causing injuries include: abrasions, cuts, and wounds; acne lesions and cysts, excoriations (picking pimples); aggressive chemical exfoliation (peels); aggressive extraction; ingrown hairs; insect bites; scratching; sunburn; and waxing.

There is another type of hyperpigmentation that is more diffused and appears as an overall darkening of the skin, rather than in patches and spots. This condition should be cared for by a dermatologist, as it may reflect a disease or systemic problem, like Addison's disease or scleroderma.)

Causes: Hyperpigmentation can be caused by certain prescription drugs, e.g., antibiotics, antidepressants, barbiturates (depressants), and chemotherapy drugs. Some over-the-counter laxatives with phenolphthalein and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, can cause hyperpigmentation. Be sure to record your use of these drugs on the intake form (or on an updated health history) when you arrive and verbally mention them to your esthetician before beginning a treatment.

Occasionally, people mistake darkness under the eyes for hyperpigmentation, but this condition is a reflection of the blood vessels through the surface of the skin. These circles have a variety of causes and can sometimes be treated with peptides.

While hyperpigmentation generally affects all races, some forms of it appear more often with certain skin colors and tones. For example, melasma and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation are more prevalent in darker skin. Solar lentigines are more prevalent in lighter skin (ninety percent of white adults older than 60 have age spots); they also are more common in women than men.

Prevention: It's very important to follow the instructions of your skin care professional in preparing for any skin treatments. Your skin care professional will take steps to avoid inducing pigmentation when he or she performs physical and chemical exfoliations or laser treatments. For example, you may be advised to undergo preliminary treatments or to use specific skin care products, or both, for several weeks before physical or chemical exfoliations. This preparation will reduce the odds of PIH and give you better treatment results when you do receive peels or microdermabrasion.

To prevent sun-induced hyperpigmentation and other skin damage, sunscreen is the most important product to use. Diligent use of sunscreen can prevent further sun damage, but it cannot repair damage already done. Experts strongly recommend using generous amounts of SPF 30 sunscreen at all times, reapplying it every two hours. Sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide provide the most complete coverage. Even more importantly, sunscreen reduces ultraviolet light exposure, which reduces the risk of skin cancer.

Treatment: Your skin care therapist will address questions you have about your skin and to work with you to determine an appropriate treatment plan to meet your needs. The treatment of brown spots can be highly effective, but it takes time.

Professional treatments for hyperpigmentation may include physical and chemical exfoliation treatments or laser treatments in combination with the use of medical grade skin care products. Again, your skin care therapist will advise you on ways to achieve your skin care goals. Following the directions for home care after professional treatments is very important to your success. Make the most of the time and money you've invested in your treatments by following up on your skin care therapist's instructions.

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