What Is Pigmentation?
"Pigmentation, or hyperpigmentation, is the darkening of the skin in localised patches or sometimes this occurs in widespread areas in generalised hyperpigmentation," Dr. Gunatheesan told marie claire.
"Hormonal fluctuations, sun exposure, inflammation, ageing and certain medications can result in an overproduction of melanin (pigment) from melanocytes (pigment producing cells)."
What Are The Different Types Of Pigmentation?
As it turns out, not all dark spots are exactly the same. In fact, before you can treat your pigmentation, you have to know which kind of discolouration you're dealing with.
Below, Dr. Gunatheesan's breakdown of the different types of pigmentation:
Sun Spots & Age Freckles
"Sun spots (solar lentigines) and age freckles (macular sebarrhoeic keratoses) are types pigmentation that are caused by chronic sun exposure and ageing. They commonly occur on the back of hands and face," she said.
"Melasma is brownish discolouration and patches on the forehead, cheeks and moustache area (upper cutaneous lip). It's the result of of hormonal factors such as the oral contraceptive pill, pregnancy, genetics and sun exposure," she explained.
"Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is More of a reactionary increase in pigmentation due to inflammation such as acne, or a superficial trauma (i.e. picking at pimples) or scratches," she added.
"Certain medications such as antimalarials and some antibiotics can cause pigmentation," she said.
Generalised or Widespread Pigmentation
"Generalised or widespread pigmentation can be due to dermatological conditions such as Lichen Planus or be due to underlying medical conditions such as Addison disease," Dr. Gunatheesan told marie claire.
Do Different Types Of Face Pigmentation Require Different Treatments?
The answer is yes—but there is also a general rule when it comes to dealing with most types of pigmentation.
"Yes, each specific diagnosis or cause will lead itself to different treatment options," Dr. Gunatheesan explains.
"But the overarching principle is to use sun protection to prevent further exacerbation of the pigmentation."
Other topical ingredients that can help eliminate current hyperpigmentation are actives such as hydroquinone, azelaic acid, kojic acid, thiamidol and arbutin.
"[These] have been shown to inhibit the activity of tyrosinase (the key enzyme involved in the production of melanin)," Dr. Gunatheesan added.
What Are The Best In-Clinic Treatments For Face Pigmentation?
Depending on your budget and the intensity of your pigmentation, there are number of in-salon or in-clinic treatments available to help tackle face pigmentation.
According to Dr. Gunatheesan, the best ones are as follows:
Prescription Topical and Oral Medications
This is one to speak to your doctor about, as there are a number of medicines that can help to reduce the appearance of facial discolouration, and are best curated specifically for you by a dermatologist.
"Recent studies of oral tranexamic acid has been shown to improve melasma significantly," Dr. Gunatheesan added.
"Gentle chemical peels consisting of a combination of lactic acids, vitamin C and retinoids can really help with pigmentation," Dr. Gunatheesan explains.
Low-level peels, often combined with light therapy, can help to gradually break down the pigment and even out the complexion.
Light and Laser Treatments
If you're looking for a heavy-duty fix and are game to undertake multiple sessions, there are a variety of different light and laser treatments that can significantly reduce the look of pigmentation.
"Broad Band Light (BBL), HALO and Fraxel treatments are effective at clearing sun freckles whilst rejuvenating the skin," Dr. Gunatheesan explained.
BBL, also known as a 'photofacial', is a subtle form of light therapy and considered one of the most popular types available. It uses a series of short, high-intensity light blasts to give the skin a younger, firmer and more refined tone.
HALO, however, targets sun damage, pigmentation and scars by penetrating into the deep tissues of the skin through non-ablative wavelengths (which exfoliate the superficial layers of the skin) and ablative wavelengths (which penetrate the deep layers to promote collagen growth), and is considered ideal for intensive facial rejuvenation.
Fraxel, like HALO, is a laser treatment, but only uses non-ablative wavelengths. Your dermatologist or clinician will be able to determine which kind is best for your type of pigmentation.
One word of warning before going in for a laser treatment?
"The use of lasers should be used in great caution in melasma due to the possible worsening and rebound effect," she emphasised.
What Are The Best Skincare Products For Face Pigmentation?
Rejoice: there actually are good products that can help you minimise pigmentation from home. Below, Dr. Gunatheesan's recommendations for skincare ingredients and pigment-fighting product types to keep in your beauty bag:
All the in-salon treatments in the world won't mean a thing if your SPF game isn't up to scratch, Dr. Gunatheesan emphasised.
"Sun screen is an absolute must! Look for a broad-based UVB and UVA, ideally a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide," she said.
Medik8 Phsyical Sunscreen 90ml, $79 at Adore Beauty.
"Vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant, augments sun protection when combined with a broad based sunscreen. Most importantly in hyperpigmentation, it inhibits over-production of melanin," Dr. Gunatheesan explained.
Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum, $136 to $195 at MECCA
Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)
"Vitamin B3 is anti-inflammatory active that calms inflammation, increases skin immunity and reduces DNA damage," she said.
Alpha-H Vitamin B 25ml, $69.95 at Adore Beauty
Vitamin A Complex (Retinoids)
"This is to be used at night to break up pigment clumps and recalibrate skin renewal," Dr. Gunatheesan told marie claire.
Drunk Elephant A-Passioni™ Retinol Cream, $45 to $119 at MECCA