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Aesthetic Dermatology Conditions

Skin Pigmentation

What is Skin Pigmentation

Skin Pigmentation refers to the colouring of the skin and this colouring is affected by the deposition of the pigment called melanin, which in turn is produced by specialised cells called melanocytes. Damaged or unhealthy melanin cells caused their production to be affected and causes skin pigmentation disorders. Some pigmentation disorders affect only certain areas or patches of your skin while others affect the whole body. Skin pigmentation disorders affects people of all races, genders and ages.


Causes of Skin Pigmentation

In some cases of skin pigmentation disorders, the causes are easily identifiable, while others do not have a clearly identifiable cause. Sun spots (Solar Lentigens) are formed due to an increase of melanin (skin pigment) through exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation via sunlight. UV radiation stimulates an increase in melanin, and excessive melanin can be focused on one particular spot, giving rise to the formation of a sun spot. Melasma is a result of a combination of factors (genetic / UV radiation / hormonal) and women tend to be more affected by this condition than men due to overstimulation of melanocytes by the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. This normally affects pregnant women who are also more exposed to Sunlight (UV radiation). Freckles are usually caused by overexposure to sunlight and tend to lighten or darken according to the amount of sun exposure. Hori’s Naevus is a pigmentation disorder that particularly affects Asians. Melanocytic Naevi or moles arise due to an abnormal cluster of melanocytes (pigment producing cells) in the skin.

Types and Symptoms of Skin Pigmentation

There are various types of skin pigmentation conditions. We’ve included some of the most common types and their symptoms below:

Type of Skin PigmentationSymptoms
Age Spots (Seborrheic Keratoses)Raised Sun Spots with rough texture formed due to an increase of melanin over time due to prolonged exposure to sunlight (UV radiation)
FrecklesClusters of melaninised cells appearing as light brown or red spots predominantly on faces of people with fair skin. As freckles are triggered by exposure to sunlight they appear more numerous in people after extended exposure to sunlight. Freckles are usually present since youth and increase with age.
Hori’s NaevusAffects predominantly Asian women in 30s – 50s. Brown and greyish spots, formed deep within skin and located over upper cheeks and nasal bridge.
Melanocytic Naevi (Moles)Mostly occur during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. Pigmentation colour ranges from dark pigmented spots to lighter and even flesh coloured spots. With age, the spots become raised and “dome-shaped”.
MelasmaBrownish dark, irregular patches over several areas on the face – cheeks, forehead, temples, nasal bridge, upper lips and jawline. These patches develop gradually over time. If appearing on pregnant women, they normally disappear once the hormones are balanced again.
Nevus of OtaA blue hyperpigmentation that occurs on the face. It can also appear as spots in the eye.
Sebaceous HyperplasiaYellowish lesions found primarily on the cheeks. It is a benign tumour that has a characteristic central “dimpling”.
Sun (Solar) Lentigo / Liver Spots / Sun SpotsHyperpigmentation blemishes on the skin due to sun exposure. They appear in areas of skin most exposed to the sun (hands / shoulders / face / arms) and range in colour from light brown to red or black.

Treatments for Skin Pigmentation: Lasers, Topical Creams & More

The types of treatments for skin pigmentation conditions differ according to the condition itself. It is essential that you go to a skin care specialist to get a proper diagnosis of your condition and treatment for it. For some conditions, if the pigmentation is light enough the dermatologist may prescribe treatments with creams that contain hydroquinone and tretinoin which can be applied topically.

For pigmentation conditions that are the result of UV exposure, prevention is often more effective and encouraged. Hence, the use of sunblock regularly to block the effects of UV radiation on your skin is an effective preventative measure. There are various types of sunblock that can be used – these include physical sunblocks that contain zinc and titanium dioxide which reflects the UV rays away, as well as chemical sunblocks that absorb UV energy and prevent them from damaging the skin.

For other pigmentation conditions, your dermatologist may advise you to go for treatments that might include cryotherapy, electrocautery or laser treatments to get rid of the pigmentation. Age spots, freckles, Hori’s Naevus and solar lentigens (Sun spots) can be removed with laser treatments for pigmentation such as Fractional CO2 Lasers, Intense Pulsed Light Lasers (IPL) and Pigment Laser Treatments. They can also be treated with chemical peels as they cause the skin to peel/exfoliate, encouraging skin regrowth around the area. The regenerated skin would be lighter. Pigmentation in melasma should not be treated by laser treatment as this may cause the pigmentation to become even darker. For this skin condition, chemical peels and IPL treatments are recommended. For sebaceous hyperplasia, the recommended treatments are electrocautery or laser treatments to get rid of the pigmented lesions, though there is a risk of scarring from these treatments.

Benefits of Laser Treatment for Pigmentation and Skin Rejuvenation

Laser therapy has now become a common and popular treatment method for skin pigmentation. Thanks to the advancement in technology, such treatment methods have yielded great results! Here are several benefits to using laser treatment to treat skin pigmentation:

1. Laser treatment for pigmentation and skin rejuvenation is safe and effective, as long as it is carried out by a trained professional.

2. Laser treatment for pigmentation and skin rejuvenation can tighten the skin, allowing you to enjoy more youthful-looking skin and an even skin tone.

3. Laser treatment for pigmentation and skin rejuvenation also helps reverse signs of skin damage such as brown spots, blotches, wrinkles, and freckles.

4. Laser treatment for pigmentation and skin rejuvenation helps reduce your pore size and may give your skin a smoother appearance.

UV Protection

To protect from environmental aggressors (like UV rays and pollution) which contribute to premature skin aging and pigmentation, Thomson Wellth UV Shield is recommended for daily use, both indoors and outdoors, especially under UV exposure. Learn more about Thomson Wellth UV Shield.

Laser treatments designed for pigmentation are effective in fading discolouration caused by acne, age spots, sun spots and freckles. Speak to our dermatologists to find out if our laser treatments are suitable for you.

Pigmentation may turn darker following laser treatment and this is normal as it slowly sheds off the skin’s surface. This process can last anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on your skin’s cell turnover rate. You should begin to see an improvement in your pigmentation afterwards.

Pigmentation that has been removed with laser treatments will not return but other factors such as acne and sun damage can cause new pigmentation to appear. Hence, in a nutshell, while laser treatments can remove pigmentation, they cannot prevent new pigmentation from occurring.

You should be able to see results after one treatment but it is advisable to be patient and go for a few sessions if you want to see dramatic and long-lasting results. The number of sessions you require will also depend on the type of pigmentation you have and how dark it is. Speak to our dermatologists to find out more about laser treatment for pigmentation.

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