The Dark Side of The Sun
Updated: Jan 6, 2019
As the summer weather wanes and we return from our holidays in the sun, many women are starting to notice the dark side of all that fun. Many clients are beginning to notice dark patches of skin on their faces...the splotchy tan that just won't go. Unfortunately for many women these areas of hyperpigmentation are more than a tan, they are a common skin condition: Melasma.
Melasma is a skin disorder characterised by dark patches of skin mostly on the forehead, cheeks, sides of the face and upper lip. It is due to localised over-production of melanin, the pigment responsible for everyone's particular skin tone.
Melasma was once thought to be related to surges in female hormones. In fact, it has been called "the mask of pregnancy", as the dark patches affect up to 70% of pregnant women. Women who take the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy are also more likely to develop hyperpigmentation. Moreover, 90% of sufferers are women.
The story doesn't end there though. Melasma tends to run in families, with 40% of women having a relative with the same problem. People with thyroid conditions are also more at risk of developing the problem. However, the greatest risk factor for developing Melasma is sun exposure. Sufferers all say that the dark patches worsen after tanning or using a sun bed.
So what can be done about this? Melasma is a chronic condition so there is no cure. However the symptoms can be controlled in three ways.
1. Prevention: the time old adage prevention is better than cure applies to melasma. The first thing to do is to be smart about sun exposure. Avoid the sun during the hottest hours of 11:00 am to 3pm, wear protective clothing and use a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or more daily on your face. Melasma associated with pregnancy can fade after giving birth, and the pigmentation associated with the contraceptive pill can improve once you have stopped taking it.
2. Pigment Removal: Pigment lying in the upper layers of the skin can be removed using either a laser or a chemical peel. Lasers use high powered energy to break up the pigment in the skin which is then absorbed by the body. The high energy involved in lasers have to be used carefully as they can sometimes have the opposite effect and worsen pigmentation.
Chemical peels use fruit acids to remove the uppermost layer of skin and the pigment within it. It has the added benefit of removing old skin cells that contribute to acne, improving acne scars and diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. I'm a fan of chemicals having had several myself. When someone mentions chemical peels, most people are full of fear thinking about a red raw face. Let me assure you that this doesn't have to be the case. Chemical peels vary in strength and any safe practitioner will start you off with the lowest strength peel to assess how our skin reacts. The skin feels a little tingly during the process, but there shouldn't be any discomfort and effects can be seen within a couple days.
3. Pigment Control: this involves suppressing melanin production in the skin. Hydroquinone is a prescription strength agent which reduces the production of melanin and lightens the skin by blocking tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for producing melanin. Studies have shown that at 4% concentration and under medical supervision, hydroquinone is one of the best agents for improving melasma and evening skin tone. Hydroquinone's effectiveness is boosted when combined with tretinoin, a Vitamin A derivative, which speeds up the skin cycle causing old and pigmented skin cells to be shed. Lastly daily at-home chemical exfoliation using fruit and milk acid encourages the removal of superficial pigment. The american company Obagi combines all these ingredients into a skin care regime called NuDerm. Don't take my word for it, check out these before and after pictures.
As we head into autumn it is the ideal time to repair any damage that summer may have done to our skin, from the mildest of sunspots to the most noticeable Melasma, there are options to improve and even skin tone. There is no need to suffer in silence.
For more information on any of the treatments discussed send a message to Cosmetic Beauty Secrets today.