Contrary to what many people think, freckles, melasma and dark spots don’t usually resolve by themselves. In fact, in about 90% of the cases, treatment is necessary to eradicate the problem. If you are sick and tired of that uneven skin tone and are desperately looking for a way to remove your pigmentation effectively, check this out.
What Is the Cause of Pigmentations?
The main component responsible for the colour of the skin is a pigment known as melanin. It is produced by special skin cells, whose function can get disturbed by genetics, hormonal imbalance and sun exposure. As a result, the pigmentations begin to cluster in patches in different areas of the face, causing what we call dark spots. This can be further aggravated by excessive sun exposure, especially if no proper protection is used.
To clarify – what we know as pigmentation is actually hyperpigmentation, which can be a little long to pronounce.
There are different types:
- Age Spots
- Solar lentigines (sun spots)
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Post-acne skin pigmentation
- Hori’s naevus
How to Remove Pigmentation – What are My Options?
Let’s look into the various treatments.
Anti-pigmentation Creams from Doctors
These medical products contain active ingredients that lower the levels of melanin in the skin. A short-term application might be able to improve the appearance of dark spots and even treat conditions like melasma. However, don’t forget that pigmentation removal creams may cause skin irritation in some minority individuals, especially with intense sun exposure. For this reason, make sure to keep your skincare routine in check with the doctor. And, always use sunscreen before you leave the house. This will protect the skin from the ultraviolet rays.
One of the main advantages of creams is that they are more affordable than lasers. The downside is they can’t treat deep forms of pigmentations eg Hori’s naevus.
These are treatments that to help remove the outermost layer of the skin. The cells are then stimulated to recover and come back healthier, making the complexion appear younger, fresher, and brighter. However, if the intensity is lower, the results are likely to be mediocre.
Depending on whether a mild, medium or deep peel is required, a different chemical solution will be used. For instance, those willing to do a less intense treatment can use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like fruit, lactic, and glycolic acids. They can certainly help with pigmentation but because of the low intensity, they need to be done over and over again to maintain results. They also offer a short recovery period.
Common side effects include swelling, redness, and stinging. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t expose your bare skin to the sun after the treatment.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
Another way to treat hyperpigmentation is by undergoing IPL. It uses broad-spectrum light, coming from a handheld flashgun, to target melanin. Multiple wavelengths are involved in the process. The light energy travels directly into the superficial and dermis layer of the skin where it breaks up the melanin particles.
Before the procedure begins, the doctor will clean your skin and apply a cool gel to get it ready. You’ll have to put on protective glasses. A session normally lasts 20-30 minutes and during the treatment, you may feel as if rubber bands are being “snapped” into your face, but generally tolerable.
If nothing else works, you could try this option – medical laser therapy. It’s a wondrous treatment for scars and acne, and the same applies for pigmentation. There are different brands and technology but the idea is all the same – short pulses of high laser energy reaches the different skin layers and fragmentize the pigmentations particles.
Despite the myths that have been lurking around, pigmentation lasers (eg Q-switched Nd Yag) do not thin your skin. It is important to understand that there are different types of devices and no two laser treatments are the same. They do not work by peeling your skin, hence you don’t have to worry about it getting thin or never recovering.
Usually, laser therapy results can be observed after a while – ideally when the downtime (if any) is over. The intensity of the laser may be increased with each subsequent session, depending on your condition.
Sunscreen and Sun Protection Measures
Don’t forget to use the good old broad-spectrum sunscreen and minimise unnecessary sun exposure. Otherwise, no matter how effective the above pigmentation treatments are, they will be wasted if you don’t protect your skin from the photodamage effects of the ultraviolet rays from the sun.
The Bottom Line
There are different ways to remove pigmentation from the face and it can be difficult to choose from so many options. A good old consultation with an experienced doctor will shed more light on the matter. He or she will evaluate your condition and point out the things that will work for you. The final decision is up to you.
In order to make that choice, you need to consider what outcomes you are expecting from the treatments, and how far you are willing to go. Are you alright with procedures with some downtime or would you rather stick with a no-downtime option? And of course, how badly you wish to remove the pigmentations? Only after you have answered these questions will you know what steps to take, with the advice from the right doctor.
If you have any questions or need advice on treating pigmentations,
You can also email me at:
Dr David Ng C H