Seeing brown spots? Here's what to do when pigmentation pops up this summer.
As careful as one can be about applying sunscreen, even the most cautious of us can get caught off-guard. A car ride, impromptu walk along the beach or even lunch at an outdoor cafe can expose us to "accidental" sun exposure.
Given that UV light is one of the main causes of hyperpigmentation, increased sun exposure during the summer months means those tell-tale dark patches are far more likely to appear.
Yet the issue of pigmentation is one of the most confusing in skincare. That's why we've set out to separate the facts from fiction here.
Fact: Melanin – the pigment responsible for the color of our skin and hair – is produced by melanocytes in the skin. Common causes of excess, or "hyper" pigmentation include a post inflammatory response following acne, eczema or psoriasis, and hormonal melasma, which is often associated with pregnancy or certain brands of contraceptive pills.
Fact: From about the age of 30 onward, sun exposure, genetics and the skin’s natural aging process can disrupt the production and distribution of melanin. This uneven distribution can contribute to the "pooling" of melanin, forming larger and more visible dark spots.
Fact: There are several ways to prevent and reverse pigmentation. SPF is obviously a crucial prevention strategy. Once the skin is already pigmented, products and treatments work by blocking tyrosinase (the enzyme responsible for kick-starting the pigment production process), stopping melanin from rising to the skin’s surface and / or by lightening patches on its outermost layers.
Fiction: It’s all bad news. Melanocyte-stimulating hormones produce melanin, which in fact protects the skin from DNA damage – up to a point. They are also believed to suppress appetite by acting on the hypothalamus in the brain, a blessing for those who are watching their weight. It’s only when melanin production goes into overdrive that we find ourselves with hyperpigmentation.
Fiction: There’s a quick fix. Unlike dry skin, acne – even light wrinkles - there's no quick remedy for pigmentation. In fact, skin specialists often rate it as one of the most difficult conditions to rectify. But the good news is that with the right products and plenty of perseverance, you can make a visible difference and really turn back time on those dark patches.