If you are spending 30 minutes on covering up uneven skin tone everyday, you will understand the struggle of dealing with pesky skin pigmentation. You can be blessed with wrinkle-free skin but if you are looking older than your age, chances are the culprit is uneven skin tone. A sweet smatter of freckles across the nose may be cute, but not the bigger, uneven brown patches on the face, or even the hands and shoulder areas. To understand what causes pigmentation and what are the effective remedies to tackle them, you need to first understand what causes them. We speak to Dr Kenneth Lee and Dr Chua Han Boon from SW1 Clinic at Paragon to give their insight on what are the latest treatment options to save our skin from a dark future.
What causes skin pigmentation?
Skin pigmentation is caused by excessive melanin being deposited in our skin.
- Melainin production is in turn stimulated by ultraviolet light exposure, thus sun exposure causes skin to be tanned and increases the risk of skin pigmentation.
- The female hormone, estrogen, also stimulates melanin production. This is the reason why ladies tend to get more pigmentation issues compared to men. Pregnancy and use of oral contraceptive also increase the risk of pigmentation because of increased estrogen levels in the body.
What are some good habits we can adopt to prevent skin pigmentation?
SUN AVOIDANCE! This is extremely crucial especially in a tropical climate like Singapore, where it is literally summer all year round with plenty of sun.
If there is no way to avoid the sun, then maximum SUN PROTECTION is key. Hats and UV blocking umbrellas are a must if one is under the sun. For the patient who does not want to be seen with a hat or umbrella, make use of a newspaper or magazine to shield the face from direct sunrays.
Lastly and most importantly, daily application of sunscreen of at least SPF 30 is a must. Sunscreen wears off few hours after application. Thus the problem for ladies who apply them early in the morning is that by lunchtime the sunscreen will have worn off and they will be going out of the offices for lunch at the time where the sun is the strongest. It is not feasible to ask ladies to remove the makeup and reapply the sunscreen before they leave for lunch. For them, they can use a sunblock powder which will provide some UV blockage and can touch up their makeup at the same time. Sunblock powder is easily purchased in the cosmetic shops.
Read more: 4 Sunscreen Mistakes To Avoid
What are some myths with regards to skin pigmentation?
MYTH 1. All pigmentation issues are the same.
Quite a number of patients came into the clinic and quote that one friend has treatment A done for her pigmentation and with just one treatment, the pigment is removed. There are many kinds of pigmentation conditions, and there are different treatments methods for them, with varying degree of treatment effectiveness.
MYTH 2. Eating soy source/seafood after skin injury will darken the healing skin and cause pigmentation.
There is no evidence to the statement. Asians by nature have more pigments in our skin, and after skin injury, the scar then to heal with darkening. This is called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. There is no association with diet.
What are the types of common pigmentation disorders that Asian women and men face? What are the possible in-clinic treatments that can help target these problems?
There are a few common types of pigmentation that Asians tend to have.
Solar lentigo, or sun spot, is pretty common. As the name suggest, they are formed partly due to sun exposure.
Thankfully, these are usually superficial and can be treated with a series of lasers, as long as you choose the RIGHT lasers.
Melasma is an annoying skin pigmentation condition that plagues many ladies. It is also called “mask of pregnancy” because some ladies develop melasma during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, the pigmentation is usually quite deep. The treatment of choice is combination of creams with gentle lasers like the latest Pico Pigment laser or the Fraxel light laser to lighten the pigmentation. Pico Pigment is one of the latest technological advances on the market. To put it in perscpective how fast each shot of a laser is: a picosecond is an SI unit of time equal to 10−12 or 1/1,000,000,000,000 of a second. That is one trillionth, or one millionth of one millionth of a second, or 0.000 000 000 001 seconds. A picosecond is to one second as one second is to 31,710 years. The Pico Pigment laser triumphs with its efficacy and safety for pigmentation. However, pigmentation as with most skin conditions require maintenance. There is no permanent solution that will still leave your skin fair and unblemished despite a poor lifestyle and sun exposure. Regular maintenance treatment is usually needed.
To put it in perscpective how fast each shot of a Pico Pigment laser is: a picosecond is an SI unit of time equal to 10−12 or 1/1,000,000,000,000 of a second. That is one trillionth, or one millionth of one millionth of a second, or 0.000 000 000 001 seconds. A picosecond is to one second as one second is to 31,710 years.
What the doctor says: Pico Pigment is an excellent option for patients with solar lentigines and superficial freckles. My patients love our Porcelain Skin program which combines Pico Pigment lasers with aquadermabrasion and Pearl eclat ( a topical stem cell and glutathione skin infusion facial therapy) for a holistic skin whitening and brightening treat.
Seborrheic keratosis, or seborrheic “wart” is another common pigmentation condition in Asian women and men. Simplistically speaking there is a layer of pigmented “skin” growth top of normal skin. Electro-cautery procedure or SmartX laser can be used to remove them effectively. SmartX is a fractionated carbon dioxide laser that delivers micro beams that is finer than standard carbon dioxide lasers on the market, enabling it to deliver exciting skin refining results with less downtime than traditional lasers. As it is able to penetrate deeper into the skin, it also causes collagen contraction, an excellent “side effect” for those who wants tighter skin and younger looking complexions in addition to clearer skins!
What the doctor says: Patients who have undergone the Transform Skin Program — 5 sessions of SmartX lasers with other goodies such as Oxyshot, show appreciable complexion rejuvenation and brightening benefits.
Read more: Is Laser Making My Skin Better Or Worse?
Are there any skincare ingredients that can also help in the management of skin pigmentation?
There are quite of number of skincare ingredients that can help lighten skin pigmentation.
Ingredients like Mequinol, Azelaic acid, Koljic acid and Arbutin, disrupt the production pathway of the melanin in the skin, resulting in the lightening of pigmentation. And latest studies show that a combination of ingredients in the correct doses work better than a single ingredient. Thankfully, all these skin lightening wonders are fortuitously found in SW1 Special Effects, a potent complexion saving potion that A-listers swear by.
Antioxidants like Vitamin C and Glutathione, besides inhibiting the production of melanin, also prevent further ultraviolet damage to the skin by neutralizing the free radicals that are being generated with UV exposure. These reactive free radicals not only cause pigmentation, but also age the skin by decreasing collagen formation. The trouble is that vitamin C degrades once it is solubilized, so how do we get the freshest, most potent form of vitamin c into our skin where it can work its magic? Enter Citrine Vitamin C elixir & Powder that combines a special hydra-active elixir with pure, fresh vitamin c in powder form, to be activated by you before application.
Antioxidants inhibit the production of melain and prevents sun damage.
Once pigmentation is cleared, I advise my patients to:
1. Always practise sun avoidance and sun protection. Never be lazy with the application of sunscreen.
2. Daily use of antioxidant creams to reduce free radical damage from UV rays.
3. It is impossible to totally prevent UV induced pigment formation especially in a tropical climate. Thus it is important to have regular maintenance treatment to scatter the pigments before they become visible.