Hyperpigmentation – undoing the damage

By Clinical Nutritionist Robyn Mason.

Ah sunshine. We here in the UK have a definite shortage of sunny days. When the sun comes out, we rush outside, baring as much skin as is decent in a bid to soak up as many rays as possible before the clouds come out again. And the sun brings so many good things with it. We need it to make vitamin D, which is so important for health, not to mention how happy everybody is when the weather is nice!

However, the sun has a darker side! Overexposure, as we now know very well, can damage the skin pretty badly. As well as the serious end of the spectrum, with the various skin cancers the sun can cause, there are the more cosmetically worrying issues of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation, also called sun-spots, melasma or chloasma, is characterised by dark patches caused by an increase in melanin. Melanin is the pigment in the skin that gives it colour. For this reason, people who naturally have more pigment, such as Asian and Afro-Caribbean skins, are particularly prone to hyperpigmentation.

As well as the sun, hyperpigmentation may also be caused by inflammation or other skin injuries, including acne, laser treatments or certain chemical peels, and, slightly ironically, skin lightening treatments.

Hyperpigmentation is associated with a number of diseases or conditions, including but not limited to, the following:

Addison’s disease and other sources of adrenal insufficiency
Cushing’s disease
Acanthosis nigricans – associated with insulin resistance
Melasma / chloasma – patchy hyperpigmentation often found in pregnant women, or from the contraceptive pill
Linea nigra – a hyperpigmented line found on the abdomen during pregnancy
Smoker’s melanosis
Celiac disease

Although medically these pigmented patches are benign, they are frequently found on the face and can therefore cause much stress and concern for people.

So what can be done?

Actually, there are many treatment options available, ranging from light-based therapies such as laser and IPL, through to chemical peels and topical at-home creams. All of these are effective to a certain degree and I have used almost all of them in clinic to treat my patients over the years.

In my experience, there are two main issues when it comes to treating HP:

1) As melanin is stimulated by light and inflammation, using products and treatments that use light and inflammation to work in skin that is already sensitised to these things, often carries the risk of short-term benefit but long-term disappointment and can even make things worse by stimulating more damage.


2) Because the skin is already quite fragile you need to proceed slowly, which can be disheartening.

I’ve been working with skin for almost exactly 17 years now, and I have treated a lot of sun damage over the years, especially as I have lived and worked in Australia. A few years ago I came across a treatment, which, from the first one I did, to this day, remains my firm favourite. This treatment is called Dermamelan.

Dermamelan is an in-clinic peel-type treatment, followed by an at-home product used at night time, and I love it for the following reasons:

1. It actually does what it says it will (and in an industry that promises big a lot of the time, that is exciting.)
2. It can be used on the very worst pigmentation, in the darkest skins that are not appropriate for many other treatments, without fear of it all going very wrong.
3. You need one, maybe two treatments, and you can often see very dramatic results within a week, with the full result taking about a month.

What’s not to like!

For further information on hyperpigmentation, visit www.flourish-health.co.uk/treatments/dermamelan-hyper-pigmentation. To book a consultation with Robyn, contact Flourish Heath, 48 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 8SF on 020 7 224 2247 or visit online at http://www.flourish-health.co.uk. 

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