As our skin ages, a common complaint is that the pigmentation is no longer even. As we age, we accumulate brown spots, freckles, broken capillaries, and redness in our skin which makes it less appealing to the eye. The bad news is that these changes are inevitable with age, but the good news is they are reversible! We will discuss these changes one at a time.
Your skin is built out of layers. The top layer of your skin is called the epidermis. It is a thick layer of dead cells whose job is to protect you from UV radiation, infection, dehydration, and everything else that the outside world can do to your skin. The second layer of your skin is called the dermis. This is where the living cells of your skin are found. The dermis is responsible for your skin being radiant, and alive. Underneath your dermis is the subcutaneous tissue, where your collagen is found. The cells which control the color, or pigment, of your skin are called melanocytes. These cells live in your mid-dermis. Under a microscope they appear brown, because they are producing brown pigment. People with very light skin have fewer melanocytes, which make smaller amounts of pigment. People with darker skin have more melanocytes. Melanocytes serve a very important role. When the sun hits your skin, the melanocytes feel this radiation and response by making more melanin. This is beneficial, because it protects your skin from UV damage. However, over time, the incessant beating of the UV radiation damages the melanocytes, and they start proliferating. When one melanocyte starts replicating itself over and over, you end up with a group of melanocytes all in one spot, all producing pigment all the time. This leads to brown, or dark spots on the skin. These are called solar lentigines, or more commonly sunspots or age spots. These occur in all individuals, regardless of skin type, although they are more visible and more common in people with fair skin.
While brown spots which are caused by Sun exposure are the most common type of brown spot (and freckles are included in this category) there are other categories of brown coloration as well. Many people are born with some number of brown spots on their skin which occur naturally. These are commonly called moles, or beauty marks.
A third category of brown discoloration is called melasma. The process that leads to melasma is a very different process than the one that causes sunspots. Melasma can be distinguished from sunspots in that sunspots tend to be discreet spots. Melasma tends to be seen more in patches, covering larger areas of the face such as the cheekbones or forehead. The most common cause is hormonal – a common term for melasma is “pregnancy mask”. However, it does not only occur in pregnancy, they can happen to individuals who are using hormonal birth control, and also some people are genetically prone. Since the cause of melasma is different from the causes sunspots, it requires different types of treatments.
Treatment of brown pigments
There are several different treatments for brown discoloration in the skin. Some work better for certain types of pigment than others. If you are suffering from sunspots or age spots, suffer no more. The treatment of these spots with an IPL laser is fast, easy, and painless. For melasma, PIH (Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) and other types of discoloration which are not primarily caused by sun exposure, the IPL laser is unfortunately not as effective a tool. For these types of discoloration, we typically recommend other products. In order to get your individual skin consultation, come to Restōr where one will be provided for you along with a personalized care plan.
IPL stands for intense pulsed light. This is a laser treatment which specifically targets melanocytes. Because people typically have multiple shades of brown in their skin, a series of three treatments is recommended to fully clear sunspots from the skin. This treatment is fast, safe, and effective, and can be done any part of the body, including hands, décolleté, face and shoulders. An IPL requires no numbing cream, and no downtime. This treatment works by using intense light to heat the melanocytes until they are killed or deactivated. Once the extra cells which are creating the extra pigment are gone, the pigment sheds out, and disappears. Typically these treatments are two weeks apart. The IPL is a “lunchtime laser”. While people are typically flushed after treatment, make-up can be reapplied immediately, and most people can return to work directly after a treatment.
Prescription Grade Skin Care
Retin-A, hydroquinones, and other prescription grade skin care can increase the skin turnover, which results in increased shedding of dead skin, and excellent exfoliation and decrease of pigments. At Restōr we can provide you with prescription grade products that will reduce pigment your skin, while also reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
The Melanage peel is used to treat uneven skin tone, deep pigment (such as freckles, birthmarks, or age spots) or melasma in all skin types and colors. The treatment begins in the office and is supplemented by comprehensive home care products that amplify and extend the peel benefits. This peel comes in an aggressive formulation, as well as a “mini” form with less down-time. The benefit of the Melanage peel is it works on hormonal discolorations as well as hyperpigmentation from scarring, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and most other types of pigmentation which are not caused by sun exposure. The Melanage peel is safe to use on all skin types, including African-American, Asian, and Latin skin.