Most of us crave a glowing tan, yet while this type of pigmentation is desirable, many people have some kind of pigmentation that they feel needs treatment: these can manifest in the forms of unwanted freckles, brown spots, sunspots, or age spots.
More than 80% of women over the age of 25 say they have some form of pigmentation that they would like to see lightened. Skin pigmentation can be split into three major types and treated several ways, which can become quite confusing when searching for the right pigmentation removal cream.
What Causes Skin Pigmentation and Hyperpigmentation?
Melanin is a brown pigment that protects your skin from the damaging effects of ultra-violet (UV) rays. It’s produced in the melanocytes found in the deepest layer of your epidermis, as well as your hair and in the irises of your eyes.
Hyperpigmentation is an increase in the amount of melanin and its distribution in the skin to the point where there is too much being produced in one area, leaving you with skin discolouration. This type of pigmentation can be triggered by a number of factors, including exposure to UV light, hormonal changes, skin inflammation, injury, and genetics.
Three Types of Skin Pigmentation
Solar Lentigines or Sunspots
These non-cancerous, clearly defined, and pigmented sunspots are larger than freckles. Found in the upper layers of the epidermis and mostly superficial, lentigines can develop over a period of years or suddenly appear anywhere on the body. They range from light brown to black in colouration.
The degree of the pigmentation is dependent on the intensity and duration of exposure. Sunspots should be monitored, as they do have the potential to turn into skin cancer and melanoma. Sunscreen and proper sun protection (hats, rash guards, etc.) can help reduce flare-ups and deepening pigmentation. To fade dark marks and patches quickly and safely, prescription pigmentation treatments that contain powerful active ingredients are ideal for smoothing and brightening uneven skin tone and texture.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) occurs as a result of injury to the skin from acne, burns, surgery, cuts and scrapes, insect bites, rashes, and aggressive skincare treatments. PIH can naturally fade over time or it may require the application of prescription skin pigmentation treatment that takes into consideration your lifestyle factors and triggers.
Melasma is pigmentation that occurs deeper in your skin’s dermis on areas of the face, neck, and sometimes the chest and arms. Hyperpigmentation from melasma takes the form of dark symmetrical patterns (usually across the centre of the face, forehead, cheeks, upper lip, nose, and chin). Women are more prone to melasma than men (only 10% of men suffer from melasma). People with darker skin, those of Latin/Hispanic, African, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Mediterranean descent are much more likely to suffer from melasma.
Melasma is commonly caused by exposure to UV light, which over-stimulates the skin’s melanocytes. Just a small amount of time spent in the sun can cause melasma to return even after it has faded. Which is why there is always an increase in the number of people looking for melasma pigmentation treatment in the summer.
Changes in hormones can also trigger melasma, often occurring during pregnancy, which is why it is often called “the mask of pregnancy”. Using birth control pills and hormone replacement treatments can also trigger melasma, both of which should be discontinued before the treating the increase in pigment.
Potent Pigmentation Removal Creams
Clinically Compounded Prescription Treatments
You can be prescribed pigmentation removal creams and serums that have been tailored specifically to your skin’s needs by a doctor or dermatologist. Telemedicine providers, like Qr8 MediSkin, offer an online video consultation with one of their doctors after you complete a comprehensive questionnaire. In the consultation the doctor will account for your lifestyle and skin sensitivity and tolerance, after which a specialist compounding pharmacist will tailor a cream with a selection of active ingredients for safe pigmentation removal. They will then deliver your pigment removal cream base or serum directly to your door, the service also includes personalised follow-up care from their Skincare Support Team, to ensure you get the best results in the shortest time. Simple!
Dermatologist-approved pigmentation treatment ingredients that are clinically proven to produce results include: hydroquinone, retinoids, kojic and azelaic acids, alpha-arbutin, tranexamic acid, and hydrocortisone.
OTC Lightening and Brightening Creams
Over-the-counter (OTC) creams can remove pigmentation, and these creams are often available in higher-strength formulas. Some commonly used ingredients include hydroquinone, liquorice extract, niacinamide and retinoids. While these are more readily accessible, they often take longer than other clinically prescribed pigment treatments. Below are some of the most sought-after creams to remove unwanted pigmentation:
Murad: Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum
Pollution and UV light can accelerate skin damage through oxidative stress. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that supports healthier-looking skin and can help prevent visible skin damage like hyperpigmentation, dullness, and uneven tone. Glycolic acid resurfaces and removes dead surface cells to reveal more radiant skin. Formulated for all skin tones and skin types, from oily to dry.
Skinmedica: Lytera® 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum
Lytera® 2.0 is an advanced Pigment Correcting Serum, formulated to address the appearance of stubborn skin discolouration. This non-hydroquinone, retinol-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic formulation helps optimize results of multiple treatment approaches, including chemical peels, laser therapy, microdermabrasion, and prescription skin care products, such as hydroquinone.
Aspect Skincare: Pigment Punch® +
Defy age spots and pigmented areas with this advanced formula that combines multi-functional plant extracts and peptides to reveal a more even skin tone. A powerful treatment to even skin tone, and visibly reduce the appearance of dark spots and pigmented areas. Not just for those with existing pigment concerns, this serum will enhance radiance, smooth and reveal a glowing complexion for all skin types. It contains, Vitamin B5, C & E, lactic acid, Kakadu plum, and daisy flower extract – this serum scores bonus points by being vegan-friendly!
While many of us do suffer from unwanted pigmentation, there are a whole host of ways to treat, manage and prevent future reoccurrences. Finding the right combination for your skin can take time, both with OTC and prescription-only treatments. OTC treatments are becoming more potent, which can have both positive and negative consequences (no one likes heightened skin sensitivity or dryness), that being said, seeking the help of a dermatologist can greatly increase your chances of success when managing or fading facial pigmentation.