What is pigmentation?
Skin pigmentation or hyperpigmentation is a condition in which the skin darkens in patches and can either affect a small portion of the skin or the whole body. Although pigmentation can affect any skin tone, it’s mostly common in darker skin tones such as Asian, African, or Mediterranean.
Categories of pigmentation
Passive pigmentation occurs when the body experiences an internal imbalance either from contraceptive consumption, adolescence, pregnancy or menopause. The imbalance triggers overproduction of melanin, which causes darker patches on the skin.
Post-inflammatory pigmentation occurs when the skin experiences some form of trauma such as;
- Laser treatments
- Overuse of skin care products
- Skin burns
- Cuts or grazes
Pigmentation treatment options
Chemical peels with alpha-hydroxyl, glycolic, phenol or salicylic acid are very effective in removing deep-set pigmentation. A dermatologist applies the chemicals on the skin to exfoliate it, and the flaked skin later peels off on its own.
It’s paramount to note that chemical peels are not suitable for every skin type especially for those that are prone to scaring or darker skinned individuals. The treatment is also not ideal for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, individuals that have consumed Accutane in the last six months, have dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea or have used prescription skin care product like Renova or Retin A. Hence such patients should explore other options.
Microdermabrasion involves gentle removal of the upper layer of the skin either using a sharp-edged diamond wheel or a wire brush to remove hyperpigmentation. The treatment causes temporary injury to the skin, but it’s nothing to worry about because the skins heal well in a few days. Patients must follow post-procedure instructions fully to avoid infection on the affected areas.
Some options of microdermabrasion include infusion of anti-pigment ingredients to brighten the skin further. People that have a history of keloid have immune, skin or blood disorders, have had a face or brow lift recently, have active herpes, and have used isotretinoin for acne treatment in the last one year should avoid microdermabrasion.
Fractional laser resurfacing
Fractional laser resurfacing uses either carbon dioxide or erbium to remove hyperpigmentation and works best with stubborn pigmentation. The laser is safe and stimulates a natural healing of the skin while promoting a new and fresh non-discolored skin. Patients with very dark skin tones are not good candidates for this kind of treatment.
Intense pulsed light
If the cause of the discoloration is the sun, intense pulsed light works best. The light-based energy targets blood vessels to attempt to light out the dark areas. After treatment, the patches turn darker, but the dark hue flakes off with time.
Like with any cosmetic procedure, it’s essential to visit a qualified dermatologist before embarking on treatment. A qualified dermatologist will conduct a thorough assessment and suggest a suitable treatment because not every option is ideal for everyone. A certified professional will also recommend the best aftercare treatment to prevent wound infections.
Although skin pigmentation is harmless, it makes the skin look unattractive and could lead to lack of confidence or low self-esteem. A lot of people end up covering their skin with heavy makeup, which doesn’t help the situation. Luckily, there are better and permanent solutions to help solve the problem such as intense pulsed light, microdermabrasion, fractional laser resurfacing and chemical peels.