Hyperpigmentation can arise due to many factors, including inflammation often secondary to acne, hormones, often during pregnancy, and UV exposure. The net result of this is darker patches of skin than its surrounding areas. The root cause of pigmentation is, melanin. A substance found in the body that is responsible for hair, skin and eye colour. As well as creating our natural skin tone, in some cases in can inadvertently give rise to heavier deposits in our skin. Whilst these darker patches are generally harmless, they can knock self-esteem as they can make you look older and tarnish a clear complexion.
What is the cause of hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation can be caused by an array of factors. The most common is sun exposure. The sunlight triggers the production of melanin as it is the skins natural way to protect it from UV rays, too much sun can result in sunspots.
The changes in hormone levels can trigger melisma. This is particularly relevant during pregnancy due to natural hormonal changes. Melasma results in dark, wide patches of skin discolouration, it is likely to fade shortly after childbirth but may not completely disappear without the help of a treatment. However, this is not always the case and underlying pigment can persist for years following delivery. By the same complex mechanism those who take hormonal contraception can cause dark spots on the arms and face.
The other common trigger for dark spots is post inflammatory reaction. This is when injured skin heals itself. Acne Vulgaris is a common skin complaint and the most common type of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
How does it affect different skin tones?
It can affect people of all ages, skin types and race. Those with darker skin tones are naturally creating more melanin as this is the substance that gives them their darker complexion. Therefore, when their hormones or trauma triggers increase, the skin can be more susceptible to hyperpigmentation.
How to prevent hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation cannot always be avoided. However, there are some simple steps you can follow to take guard of your skin against those darker patches.
Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is very important. You should always wear a SPF (minimum factor 30) on your skin at all times, even when it’s not a typically sunny day. The UV rays are still beating down and these can cause damage to your skin that is not immediately visible to the naked eye. Choose a sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection and a high SPF rating. Applying SPF cream to your face every day will be the most effective and reliable way to protect your skin and help to prevent hyperpigmentation.
To reduce the risk of scarring and inflammation, do not pick at Acne spots, use an gentle exfoliator once or twice a week, and apply a moisturiser to soothe the skin to reduce irritation.
How does the laser treatment work?
The laser treatment is a safe and effective treatment that reduces the appearance of dark spots and fine lines for a smoother and more even skin tone giving you permanent results.
The Harmony XL Pro Dye-VL attachment and ClearLift laser target the melanin collection underneath the surface of the skin with a narrow band spectrum of light energy. The narrow wave band is consistent with specialised light pulses for exceptional accuracy. The melanin absorbs the energy from the laser and the pigmentation is cleared though the body’s lymphatic system, so you’re left with even skin tone.
The wavelength of light emitted by the Dye-VL stimulates greater melanin absorption thatn the clear lift. As a result, it is felt that this laser is not safe in darker skin types (Fitzpatrick VI-VI) due to the increased levels of natural melanin. Ion these skin types however, Clear Lift offers a safe and effective alternative to issues of hyperpigmentation. Both lasers can be used on all areas of the body, face and neck. Laser treatment encourages the skins natural healing process, which stimulates collagen production with fast, long lasting results. A treatment course of 4-6 sessions would be appropriate to establish a more youthful, smooth and spotless skin complexion.
Preparing for laser treatment
- Avoid sun exposure on the treated area including UV tanning beds four weeks prior treatment.
- Use SPF30 or above on a daily basis.
- Shower or bath to completely clean skin, with no products placed on skin before treatment.
- If there is hair growth in the area being treated, it is recommended that it is shaved off beforehand.
- Discontinue the use of self-tanning products 2 weeks prior treatment.
- Do not use topical products (e.g. hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinols) in the are being treated for 3 days before treatment. You may use a gentle cleanser and moisturiser.
- If you are taking any medications, you must inform your laser technician before the treatment.
- If you have had any other services such as Botox, dermal fillers or laser, please make this known to your laser technician.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments will depend on many things such as the type of pigmentation, how large the pigmentation is and the depth of the pigmentation. Some lesions may require a single treatment and others will require several. It is recommended to have one every 4-6 weeks for optimal results. Each treatment should take as little as 15 minutes, but this can vary depending on the size and area you are being treated on.
- The treatment has minimal downtime or side effects. You will be able to continue with your life as normal following treatment.
- There may be mild redness, swelling and flaking for 2-3 days following treatment.
- The pigmentation may darken, lighten, fade or have no change immediately after treatment.
- It typically takes 4-6 treatments for your body to process the treatment and the excess pigment to be removed by lymphatic drainage.
- The pigmentation may get darker for up to seven days but will then fade and may even completely vanish.
- Cleanse once a day with gentle soap, pat dry with minimum pressure.
- Avoid sun exposure during the course of your laser treatments. If unavoidable, keep the area covered.
- Do not use UV tanning beds for at least four weeks after treatment.
- Do not undergo any physical activity for 1-2 days, any rough physical activity should be discontinued for 10 days.
- Avoid the use of heat treatment, saunas/steam rooms, chemical peels/facials for at least 3 days following treatment.