Pigmentation problems cover a wide range of conditions, including hyperpigmentation, melasma, lentigo – and even freckles.
Your skin has its own natural colour which is its normal pigmentation. This is determined by melanin: the darker your skin, the higher the concentration of melanin.
Pigmentation problems occur when this melanin is unevenly distributed, leading to hyperpigmentation: dark spots and patches. These occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Exposure to the sun
- Dark spots caused by sun exposure is very common. Melanin acts to protect your skin from harmful UV rays so if you spend lots of time in the sun, the production of melanin is naturally increased by your body. It’s the reason we tan, but also causes hyperpigmentation.
- Hormone imbalance
- Hormone imbalance can cause melasma, which is a specific form of hyperpigmentation. Most often it’s associated with pregnancy, if your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, or when you’re using birth control pills or HRT.
- It’s quite common to find pigmentation problems run in the family – for example if your mum has freckles, you may well inherit them. And there’s a higher incidence of melasma in Hispanic and Asian families.
- Trauma from injury
- When you have a wound such as a cut, the healing process can overproduce melanin, which will darken the skin and remain even after the wound has healed. This is what we call post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
While some people aren’t too worried about dark spots and patches, other people feel very self-conscious about them.
Luckily there are a variety of treatments that can help return your skin to a clear, even toned and radiant condition. For best practice treatments you may wish to consider options including skincare systems, chemical peels and IPL.
Obagi Nu Derm System
Most dermatologists consider prescription-strength hydroquinone to be the gold standard for pigmentation problems as it lightens the problem area and slows the production of pigment. Obagi’s tried and tested Nu Derm skincare system includes a prescription-only lightening product containing 4% hydroquinone and prescription-only Tretinoin in different strengths. Tretinoin is a natural Vitamin A retinoid which is often used in tandem with hydroquinone to achieve the best results.
Chemical peels remove the top layers from your skin to reveal fresh youthful layers underneath. Different peels are designed to work at various skin depths using different ingredient depending on the result you want to achieve.
Intense Pulse Light (IPL)
IPL stimulates your body’s own natural production of collagen and is an excellent treatment for sun-damaged skin. IPL technology uses safe visible light which is absorbed by the pigmented areas of your skin; the light is converted into heat which causes the pigmentation to be broken down. Treatment leaves your skin feeling smoother, younger and looking fresher, reducing age spots, freckles, sun damage and uneven pigmentation.
Which one is best for your skin?
Any of these clinic-led treatments could provide the results you are looking for in reducing pigmentation problems. You may find it most helpful to make an appointment to discuss the options with an experienced practitioner who will explain more about how the treatments work and guide you on the best treatment for your particular skin and pigmentation issues. They can also explain what the difference is between prescription-only Obagi Nu-Derm and over the counter products.
You can also ask about any payment plans or treatment packages during this appointment. As of September 2022 the pricing is as follows:
Obagi Nu-Derm Kit from £469
Chemical Peels (single treatment) from £99
IPL (single treatment) £249 (full face) / £169 (age spots cheek)
Choosing a clinic
There are certainly plenty of clinics to choose from, so make sure you choose wisely and don’t simply choose the clinic closest to where you live or work. You will get the best outcome from a clinic with proven results and happy clients, so make sure you read a good selection of reviews, ideally for the treatment you are considering.
The experience of the clinic’s team will ultimately have an impact on the quality of the treatment you receive. For example, at Brigstock Skin & Laser Centre our lead clinician is Dr Vajpeyi who also heads up award-winning NHS dermatology services in several areas of London. Her recognised expertise ensures that our treatments produce excellent results. You can check out our reviews and find out more about our results guarantees – these will give you a good benchmark to compare with other clinics.