Hyperpigmentation is a very common skin issue that bothers women, especially Asian women. Such dark spots can cause distress and affect your confidence as they are difficult to hide. Here, we explore what causes hyperpigmentation and how to tackle them.
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is dark patches on the skin caused by the overproduction and irregular distribution of melanin in the skin. In the skin, melanin is produced in response to exposure to UV radiation. It is an important component of our skin’s natural defence system. Hyperpigmentation often occurs from inflammation caused by trauma, acne and UV damage.
What are the different types of hyperpigmentation?
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
This type of pigmentation appears after a trauma or irritation to the skin. It is also one of the most common types of pigmentation Asian women suffer from, as they undergo harsh skin treatments such as lasers and aggressive peels in the attempt to, ironically, lighten their existing pigmentation. PIH can be epidermal (top layer of the skin), dermal (deeper layer of the skin) or mixed. Epidermal PIH is the easier and fastest to treat, while dermal and mixed are very difficult to treat.
This appears as brown patches on the face, especially on the cheeks, forehead, nose bridge and upper lip. Some women have it mild, while others have melasma on more than 2 of the above areas. While the exact cause of melasma is unknown, it often appears when a change in your hormonal status takes, such as pregnancy and birth control pills. Hormonal changes coupled with exposure to UV rays, melasma can worsen.
Freckles are small spots that appear and are linked to genetics and skin type. Women with much lighter skin tone and red hair are more likely to develop freckles. Women with freckles tend to have skin that is more sensitive to UV rays, and will require extra care to protect their skin from the sun.
Small, dark spots that appear with age. While some age spots appear as a result of exposure to the sun, recent studies have shown that the development of age spots is a result of an accumulation of aged cells in aged skin. Such age spots are called lipofuscin, or “dark fat”. Lipofuscin is yellow and brown and contains lipid instead of melanin. These days, with increased oxidative stress, poor nutrition choices and bad sleeping habits, younger women are starting to develop such age spots at an earlier age.
What can you do to combat hyperpigmentation?
Sunscreens help to protect the skin from the harmful effects of sunburn and sun exposure, such as skin cancer and skin damage. Women who are genetically prone to freckles, taking birth control pills and who recently undergone harsh face treatments will benefit greatly from an SPF 50 sunscreen with a physical filter such as titanium dioxide. IOMA Cell Protector is perfect for daily protection against mild exposure to the sun. For those who enjoy soaking up in the Sun, Sunday Morning by bSoul does a fantastic job in protecting you from a nasty sunburn.
However, sunscreens are not necessarily the most effective preventive measure of pigmentation when you are indoors. Many Asian women who avoid the sun and apply sunscreens daily still suffer from pigmentation. There is no question that using a more holistic strategy such as strengthening the skin barrier and using anti-oxidant rich skincare is more effective for combating skin pigmentation in the long run.
Strengthen Skin Barrier
Your skin barrier is the security guard for your skin. It can keep out irritants and bacteria while keeping moisture in. When the skin’s protective barrier is altered, it is not able to perform the above functions as well, causing the skin to be irritated and red. In the long term, this chronic irritation leads to the overproduction of melanin, resulting in unsightly discolouration and spots on the face. This why many women continue to suffer from pigmentation even with a strict regime of daily sunscreen use. You may want to consider rebuilding your skin barrier to prevent and reduce hyperpigmentation as part of your anti-pigmentation strategy.
Acids and Peels
When used correctly, acids and peels are effective in lightening dark spots without many risks. Mandelic acid does not irritate skin the way kojic acid does, and it is much more effective in lightening dark spots. bSoul Total Renew Serum contains Mandelic Acid and antioxidant-rich Avocado Oil that gently lightens stubborn spots without side effects. Before starting on acids and peels, make sure you have invested at least 2 months in rebuilding your skin barrier. This improves results and increases your skin’s tolerance to acids. Meanwhile, we do not encourage the use of hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is a skin-bleaching agent with many side effects. In many cases, under the magnified view, white spots are often seen on the site of the skin where hydroquinone had been used. These days, where pharmaceutical-grade ingredients are more available, there are many safer spot lightening ingredients that are just as effective.
Antioxidants and Spot Lighteners
We prefer antioxidants for stubborn spots as they provide a more holistic approach to lightening spots. Antioxidants help to control melanin disorders caused by irritation, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. bSoul Ultra Bright Serum contains a blend of 10 traditional Chinese medicine herbs to reduce dark spots and even out skin tone caused by UV exposure. It is a fans’ favourite for its effectiveness and does not dry out the skin. Dark Spot Concentrate by IOMA, reduces melanin production with the help the ingredients Sepiwhite and Achromxyl, lightening dark spots within a few weeks of application.
Hyperpigmentation can happen to anyone. Building a strong skin barrier is one sure way to keep skin discolouration at bay. Light treatments and harsh peels should not be the first procedures to consider when you suffer from hyperpigmentation. While they often promise immediate erasing of the spots, they introduce severe inflammation in the dermal layers and hyperpigmentation often comes back with a vengeance months down the road. When that happens, it is often very much harder to treat.