In today’s post, we’re going to delve into the topic of skincare; more specifically looking at brown pigmentation spots and blemishes that can appear on your skin. Aesthetically unpleasing and psychologically damaging, these nasty spots can really cloud up a bright summer’s day.
And, they’re difficult to treat. As the old saying goes, an ‘ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’; and this really is the case when it comes to pigmentation. It’s better to do everything possible to prevent these patches from developing rather than relying on any particular treatment for a cure.
Shall we delve a little deeper?
Like every year, we reach the end of a long and hot summer season. If we’ve been lucky it’s either been a trip down to Spain, the Greek Islands or the Amalfi Coast in Italy – countries that are known for their good food, more relaxed (Mediterranean) way of life and notorious amounts of sunshine. What you may not have realized, as you spend numerous hours in the direct sunlight, was that you were going to bring home a most unexpected, but largely preventable skin glitch that just could end up ruining the upcoming autumn months – brown skin blemishes.
So you head off to the dermatologist to see what can be done? Mostly on the face, but also the chest and hands as well, brown pigmentation can occur almost anywhere on the body that gets direct, high exposure.
Don’t get me wrong, sunlight is not the only cause of dark skin pigmentation.
Let me explain first what this dark pigmentation is actually.
Your body has it’s own proprietary defense system to protect you against the hot sun. Melanocytes are cells in your skin that produce a dark substance called melanin when exposed to UVB light. This melanin in your skin is what gives your skin a dark, tan color, which, in essence, is a defense against burning. You see these cells are specifically designed to absorb the sunlight. Without it, your skin wouldn’t know how to manage all that heat energy and thus it would burn. Melanocytes transform all that solar energy into dark melanin instead. When sun exposure is too high, melanin deposition in the skin can get too high and remain. This is what we refer to as a state of hyperpigmentation.
Just as a quick note, sunlight also contributes to other processes in your body like the production of vitamin D, which as you may know is extremely important in maintaining your overall health and youth. If you want a few tips on how to expose your skin to the sun naturally without overexposing yourself to UVA and UVB light, check out my other post, ‘The Vitamin D Dilemma’.
Dark pigmentation has several other causes as well. It can be caused by hormonal changes resulting from pregnancy, HRT therapy, and even oral contraceptives which also alter your pregnancy hormones. Even acne scars can become dark and appear as skin blemishes. The point is that in all cases, sun exposure can end up aggravating all types of pre-existing dark pigmentation – making them look worse (darker). Treating all these conditions, regardless of the cause, revolves around utilizing one or more of the treatments I’ve listed below.
Since pigmentation is frequently associated with alterations in the pregnancy hormones, it follows that women are generally more affected and susceptible to this than men. Albeit men have pigmentation issues as well.
From an aesthetic perspective, brown blemishing on the face can be quite disconcerting and upsetting.
What you can do about Dark Pigmentation?
There are 3 basic ways that can help you manage this dark pigmentation. The first one is quite obvious but less favorable. That is decreasing or staying out of the sun as much as possible in the summer months and increasing your outdoor activities in the off-months.
The second is not spending long durations or many hours in the sun at any one time. It’s much better to break it up over the course of the day with several periods in and out of the sun. Try not to remain more than 20-30 minutes at any given time directly in the sun.
The third is using the highest quality, minimum SPF 30 sunscreen to protect your skin. SPF stands for ‘sun protection factor’ and the number refers to how much additional time you can spend in the sun with the sunscreen on.
For example, if you normally tend to burn within 30 minutes of being out in the sun, then using an SPF 30 sunscreen means that you get protection for an additional 15 hours. Similarly, an SPF 15 would protect you for an additional 7 hours.
UVA, UVB, and SPF
As I discussed above, brown pigmentation is caused (and worsened) by spending too much time in the sun without protection. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that it’s mostly UVB rays that produce the melanin. However, UVA light doesn’t get off scot-free. UVA rays penetrate even deeper into the skin than UVB and, NO, they may not cause your skin to burn, but, YES, they do cause your skin to age prematurely by damaging the structural support system with the production of free radicals – causing those ugly fine lines and wrinkles. The production of free radical damage has been well documented and I’ve written another post about how vitamin C is a strong anti-oxidant that can protect your skin from free radical damage and premature aging of the skin. You can read more here.
The important factor in choosing the right sunscreen is getting one that is broad spectrum to protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. The other factor is good skin protection is to make sure you use it unsparingly. Here are a few of our recommended sunscreens.
Bleaching your skin to fade pigmentation is the first palliative treatment you can implement. They’re effective up to a point, but only a form of management, not a permanent cure. There are several prescription and OTC topical products available that contain either hydroquinone, retinol, tretinoin or cortisone. Which is best for your condition? This is something your best discussing with your dermatologist. Fading of pigmentation is gradually over occurs over several months. During this time and afterward, you need to continue using your sunscreen or the blemishes can return even after 1 day of being in the sun. So, take it seriously if you don’t want to just throw your money away at all the treatment.
Technology advances over the last decade have brought about tremendous results with different forms of light therapy. Intense Pulsed Light(IPL) and Broad Band Light(BBL) therapy systems are quite effective in reducing the amount of pigmentation. The melanin pigment in your skin absorbs the light energy and then gets broken up and eliminated by your body following the treatment. The result is a reduction in dark pigmentation and a clearer, brighter complexion. Since IPL and BBL are broadband, they also actually stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin deep in the dermis of your skin – improving your skin’s tone and texture and making you look younger. So it’s kind of like getting 2 treatments in 1. Read my recent post about ‘Best Lasers For Youthful Skin’ here.
Remember, similarly as to with bleaching, post-treatment, you need to avoid direct sunlight or the pigmentation can return again.
And If you want more information about BBL and other Laser Skin treatments, I’ve included a link in the description to our new free Ebook ‘6 Great Reasons to Why You Should Consider Skin Rejuvenation Treatment’.
Until next time