Skin 101: Treating pigmentation

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Whether it’s freckles, brown spots or age spots, many of us suffer some sort of pigmentation. In its various forms, hyperpigmentation affects more than 80 percent of women over the age of 25 and is the number two skin concern besides facial wrinkling.

Pigmentation is a complex skin condition, and with such a wide range of treatments on the market, it can be confusing to know what will work for you. We give you a run down of the three major types of skin pigmentation, what changes you should look for in your skin, and how you can treat it.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation refers to an increase in the melanin content and distribution of the skin. Melanin is the substance that gives skin its colour and protects it from the sun. However, when there is too much melanin in one area, it can result in skin discolouration.

Pigmentation can be triggered by a number of factors, including exposure to sunlight, hormonal changes, skin inflammation or injury, and genetics.

Types of pigmentation

There are considered to be three major types of skin pigmentation:

Solar lentigines

These are non-cancerous, pigmented sunspots, larger and more clearly defined than freckles. This damage is primarily superficial and present in the upper layers of the skin (epidermis). Lentigines may evolve slowly over years, or appear suddenly. They may occur anywhere on the body and vary in colour from light brown to black.

These spots are caused by UV sun exposure and the degree depends on how much UV light these melanin pigments are exposed to. These must be monitored as they may develop into skin cancer and melanoma. Annual checks with your dermatologist are essential.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)

This is a response to injury of the skin and can be the result of acne, burns, surgery, as well as over-aggressive skincare treatments. With time, this condition often resolves and generally responds well to topical products.


Melasma is pigmentation that is deeper in the skin’s dermis. It appears on the face as larger brown patches with a non-distinct border. This type of pigmentation is more common in women.

Though causes are unknown, it is often linked to hormonal imbalances. The condition is made worse with UV exposure, overheating the blood, some medications, pregnancy and stress.

Treatment options

Treating hyperpigmentation depends on a number of factors, including the type of pigmentation (epidermal/dermal/hormonal/UV-induced) and your skin type/ethnicity.

Generally, most inflammatory hyperpigmentation spots related to acne will eventually fade. It usually takes from three months to as long as two years for them to disappear. Treatment by a specialist dermatologist can significantly speed up this process. Sunspots and age spots, however, do not go away on their own and require specialist treatment.

At Platinum Dermatology, we offer a wide variety of effective treatments to treat excess skin pigmentation either through topical formulations or non-surgical treatments.

Topical treatments

The importance of cosmeceuticals is pivotal. There is a wide range of active ingredients in topical skin agents, beneficial when melanin production must be regulated. Vitamins A, B and C are hero ingredients that help address uneven skin tone and pigmentation at different levels.

Quality active skincare goes hand in hand with an in-clinic treatment plan and, of course, an SPF30-50 sunscreen that is suitable to use on the face, neck, hands and décolletage.

Non-surgical treatments

Broadband Light (BBL) Therapy – by targeting the pigment in your skin, BBL Therapy can lighten and erase areas of discolouration, improving texture and tone.

Chemical peels – applies active agents, usually acids, to the skin’s surface. This eliminates the skin’s upper layers and stimulates the rejuvenation of skin cells in the dermis, resulting in a more purified and oxygenated complexion.

Ablative lasers – removes top layers of the skin very precisely, resulting in new, healthy skin and minimising the risk of hypopigmentation (lightening of skin).

Sciton ProFractional Laser – uses tiny light beams to target brown, sun-damaged skin, resulting in the production of normal-coloured cells, permanently erasing the brown spots.

The best results are usually achieved with combination therapy including cosmeceutical grade skincare, lifestyle modification, individualised clinical treatment and hormonal analysis if required.

While not all forms of pigmentation can be permanently removed, good results can be achieved and maintained to even out skin tone and colour for a more beautiful complexion.

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