Unwanted pigmentation is a skin concern that is experienced by many people at some stage in their lives.

Pigmentation refers to the pigment in the skin, so is the overarching term used. Hyperpigmentation means the skin looks darker than usual whereas Hypopigmentation means that the skin looks lighter than usual.

In order to understand this skincare concern better, let’s look at the role that pigment plays in giving skin its natural colour.

Melanin is a pigment that is produced by cells known as melanocytes in the bottom layer of the skin’s epidermis. A person’s melanin level determines the natural colour of the skin from very fair to dark brown. Melanin protects the skin by absorbing UVA and UVB rays in the sun. The more melanin, the more protection.

UVA radiation is what makes us tan. As these rays penetrate the lower layer of the epidermis, they trigger the melanocytes, increasing melanin production, which causes tanning. Melanin is the body’s way of protecting us from the damaging effects of UV radiation.

UVA radiation can cause cellular damage and UVB radiation can cause sunburn.

Pigmentation on the surface of the skin becomes visible as melanin moves upwards though the layers of the skin’s epidermis to the skin’s surface.

Pigmentation irregularities occur when UVA radiation damages melanocytes causing them to release melanin irregularly into the skin, either too much or too little and this can happen anywhere on the body, however it is most commonly found on the areas of skin that are exposed to sun, like the face, décolletage, arms and back of the hands.

Pigmentation not only develops because of different causes but also presents in different intensities. It is important to find where you are on the pigmentation scale so you can best choose your individual treatment.

SO WHAT CAUSES PIGMENTATION?

The body produces excess melanin when the melanocyte becomes damaged. This can be due to sun damage, skin trauma, acne scarring, stress, hormone irregularities or hereditary pre-dispositions.

Skin type also plays a role.  For example, fairer, lighter skin will be affected more by sun damage, while darker skin will be impacted more by skin trauma and olive skin will be more affected by hormonal changes.

There are different forms of pigmentation which include flat brown marks, age spots, larger darker patches and uneven skin tone.

The body produces excess melanin when the melanocyte becomes damaged. This can be due to sun damage, skin trauma, acne scarring, stress, hormone irregularities or hereditary pre-dispositions.

Skin type also plays a role.  For example, fairer, lighter skin will be affected more by sun damage, while darker skin will be impacted more by skin trauma and olive skin will be more affected by hormonal changes.

There are different forms of pigmentation which include flat brown marks, age spots, larger darker patches and uneven skin tone.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF PIGMENTATION?

The most common types of pigmentation are hyper-pigmentation and melasma.

Hyperpigmentation

Is often caused by skin damage, such as burns, scarring or UV damage caused by overexposure to the sun.  It can also be caused by post acne scaring. Hyperpigmentation is often patchy covering quite small areas of the face or can be widespread across larger areas.

Melasma 

Often appears on the face and may be caused by hormonal changes, such as pregnancy (the pregnancy mask), birth control pills, hormone therapy including IVF and HRT, and medication that causes sensitivity to sunlight, stress and overexposure to the sun.  Melasma usually forms a symmetrical pattern on the face.

Hydroquinone is my go-to ingredient for treating melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

DR. MICHELLE RODRIGUES - MBBS (HONS) FACD, DERMATOLOGIST

*Do not use for more than 3 months without seeking medical advice.

Other types of pigmentation:

Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation 
(PIH) occurs after an injury to the skin. It is a discolouration of the skin that follows an inflammatory wound such as a rash, scrape, or pimple. Popping a pimple increases the chance of PIH as it is increasing the inflammation.  It can range in colour from white, to pink, red, purple, and very dark brown.  It affects both men and women and all skin types, however, tends to be more severe for people with medium to dark complexions.  As the skin starts to heal, the skin overproduces melanin and this excess melanin darkens the skin.  Unlike acne scaring, PIH is a type of pigmentation, like sun damage as it does not damage the hair follicle.

Solar Lentigines 
More commonly known as liver spots or age spots, refer to pigmented spots, which, unlike melasma, have a clearly defined edge. A form of pigmentation that can occur anywhere on the body, liver spots may vary in colour from light brown to black. These spots are caused by UV sun exposure and the degree of their darkness depends on how much UV light they are exposed to. It is important to ensure that liver spots are regularly monitored, as they may develop into skin cancer and melanoma. Subsequently annual checks with your skin specialist or GP are essential.

Solar Keratoses
More commonly known as sunspots usually appear as flat, pale, or pink patches on sun-exposed areas.  They usually feel rough, with a sandpaper-like consistency and they may be easier to detect by touch than by appearance.  Sometimes, solar keratoses become raised with a thick, crusty surface. They usually affect people aged 40 years and older and balding men frequently get solar keratoses on the scalp, and women often get them on the chest, or forearms.

HOW TO PREVENT FURTHER PIGMENTATION?

The most effective is to avoid further sun damage. Protect the skin, wear sunscreen everyday even in winter whenever you are exposed to the sun.

WHERE ARE YOU ON THE PIGMENTATION SCALE?

Pigmentation not only develops because of different causes but also presents in different intensities. It is important to find where you are on the pigmentation scale so you can best choose your individual solution.

Superfade has the complete solution for mild, moderate and hyperpigmentation and offers both medicated and non-medicated solutions for unwanted pigmentation.

Superfade Accelerator Serum

Rapidly exfoliates surface discolouration and mild pigmentation. The Ferulic Acid Cytovectos enable penetration, increasing speed and efficacy. 

The Patented Cytovector Technology allows superior intracellular penetration of Ferulic Acid, which increases speed and degree of inhibition of melanin synthesis.

A potent blend of AHA’s quickly and effectively exfoliate the outer layer of old skin cells, increasing turnover of skin cells. 

*This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. If symptoms worsen or change unexpectedly, talk to your healthcare professional. Follow the directions for use.

THE TECHNOLOGY

This product reduces mild pigmentation and can be used in conjunction with the Superfade Face Cream for hyper-pigmentation

Superfade Cream and Face Cream

SuperFade Cream and SuperFade Face Cream are the only non prescription pharmacy medicines in Australia which contain the powerful active ingredient Hydroquinone.

Hydroquinone is the ‘gold standard’ in pigmentation fading, it stops the formation of excess melanin at the source – in the melanocyte

About Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is the most widely used and effective ingredient in fading unwanted pigmentation and has been used for over 50 years. Although there has been some controversy over this powerful ingredient, it has been confirmed as safe to be sold as an over the counter treatment at a 2 % concentration and at higher concentrations on prescription from a doctor or dermatologist.  Hydroquinone is the gold standard in fading pigmentation as it limits the formation of excess melanin at the source – in the melanocyte.

Common side effects may include, mild stinging of treated skin or mild itching, dryness, redness or other irritation.

Hydroquinone is the most widely used ingredient for treating pigmentation as it reduces the formation of excess melanin at the source. I prescribe hydroquinone in concentrations between 3 – 6% for some types of hyperpigmentation, however 2% hydroquinone is available over the counter in pharmacies without a prescription.

DR. MICHELLE RODRIGUES - MBBS (HONS) FACD, DERMATOLOGIST

*Do not use for more than 3 months without seeking medical advice