Ask a Skin Expert: How Can I Treat Pigmentation?

Pigmentation is a complex skin condition to treat and there isn't a "one size fits all" solution.

There are several different types of pigmentation which are all influenced or brought on by different contributing factors.

In essence, hyperpigmentation is caused by an increase in melanin. Melanin is the natural pigment that gives our skin, hair, and eyes their colour. Melanin is also a form of anti-oxidant that protects the skin from UV radiation.

Several factors can trigger an increase in melanin production, but the main causes are UV exposure, hormones, medications, and trauma.

As a Skin Therapist, I get a lot of questions about Pigmentation from my clients. So I compiled the most commonly asked questions about Pigmentation in this blog to help you guide you in case you have this skin condition.


Mesoestetic Mesoprotech

Q. How do I treat pigmentation?

A. Let's get started with the #1 most asked question: how to treat pigmentation.

This is a tricky question, as there are different forms of pigmentation and they are treated entirely differently from one another. Their trigger factors are also very diverse.

So for this question, my answer is always the same: Have a Skin Consultation with a Professional Skin Therapist.

This way you can work together to find the root or the leading cause of your pigmentation and before treating it, eliminate the triggers.

Your Skin Therapist will then tailor a personalised skincare program for your specific type of pigmentation and recommend the appropriate treatments.

As I mentioned above, there is not a "one size fits all" solution, and there is no point in investing in products that will not bring results, simply because they aren't right for your pigmentation type.

Q. Why is Pigmentation so complex to treat?

A. Two main reasons here:

1. As above mentioned, there isn't just one type of pigmentation, but many, with different causes and treatments.

2. The potential triggers are both internal and external factors.

For example, our lifestyle and sun exposure levels are two external factors that play a major role in pigmentation.

Internally, we experience a decrease of 15% of melanocyte cells every ten years from the age of 35 onwards. Those cells can never be recovered or replaced.

Q. What are the causes of pigmentation?

A. These are the internal and external causes of pigmentation:

  • Genetics
  • UV radiation
  • Medication
  • Hormones
  • Illness
  • Trauma
  • Lifestyle
  • Damage of the melanocyte
  • Cellular damage
  • Ageing
  • Chemicals on the skin or ingested
  • Topical treatments
  • Incorrect clinical choices or modalities
  • Impaired barrier function

Q. Why does my pigmentation come back?

A. If you are not covering all bases in regards to the root cause of your pigmentation, or working to eliminate the risk factor, there will always be one missing link.

Pigmentation issues involve multiple processes we need to look closely at, such the health and function of the melanocyte and the keratinocyte cells.

The communication between these cells needs to be optimal. If these two cells are not in synergy, one of them could be damaged, which could be the leading factor for your pigmentation.

Q. Why does my pigmentation come back when I go out in the sun?

A. Everyone who experiences hyperpigmentation knows that the heat and the summer months exacerbate pigmentation.

This is due to the melanocyte cellular memory.

Let me give you an example: imagine you just had a professional skin treatment on your pigmentation and had amazing results, but then you go on to spend two weeks out in the sun on the beach. Your pigmentation will come back - because of the cellular memory of your melanocyte cells, which are now already "wired to misbehave", for a lack of a better way to put it.

Woman with pigmentation on cheeks - dark spots, sun spots, melasma

Q. Why do we burn more easily when we are elderly?

A. This is due to the decline of melanocyte activity. There are not enough melanocytes for protection. So it is important to protect the ones we have.

Q. Why do genetics play a role in pigmentation?

A. Even though nobody is born with freckles, your genetics play a large role in determining how prone you are to developing them.

Freckles are caused by the increased production of melanin. In an effort to protect us from genetic damage from the UV rays, our skin releases an enzyme called Tyrosinase. This enzyme allows our melanocyte (our melanin cell) to release melanosomes (pigmented melanin). These melanosomes act to absorb UV rays to protect our nucleus (DNA) from being damaged by the sun.

Q. Why is UV-driven pigment different from hormonally driven pigment?

A. Hormonally driven pigmentation is called Melasma.

30% of women have a genetic predisposition to produce an excessIve melanin stimulating hormone whilst pregnant or on hormonal contraception/hormonal replacement therapy (HRT).

You will notice this type of pigmentation is quite different from UV-driven pigmentation.

Hormonally driven pigmentation is symmetrical, tends to all be a similar colour, and the borders aren't as defined.

Q. What is the primary role of melanin?

A. A lot of people do not realise that the role of melanin within our skin is to give us protection. Melanin protects our DNA within the nucleus of the keratinocyte cells. 

Q. Why just wearing a hat or sun protection won't help treat hormonally driven pigmentation?

A. Unfortunately, it is much more than an hormonal imbalance that causes this type of pigment.

Our pituitary gland also stimulates melanin release. Therefore, anything that disturbs the pituitary gland function can lead to an excessive production of melanin and trigger pigmentation to appear within the skin.

This is why sunglasses are essential to wear during the summer months to prevent any hormonal triggers as the UVR is absorbed through our retinas (eyes).

Q. Why am I getting pigmentation on my temples and under the eyes?

A. In these areas of the face, pigmentation is mainly caused by stress, triggering our alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone.


Q. What is Pregnancy pigmentation?

A. Pregnancy pigmentation is called Chloasma and it is known as "the mask of pregnancy" due to the butterfly-looking pigmentation present in the middle of the face.

The trigger for this type of pigmentation is believed to be the higher levels of estrogen, progesterone, and melanocyte-stimulating hormone during pregnancy, causing the skin to darken.

Q. What are the dark spots on my face or hands?

A. These are called Solar lentigo. Solar lentigo is a harmless patch of darkened skin.

Solar lentigo results from over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Solar lentigos are very common in people of the age of 40 and over. They are also called "age spots".

Q. Why am I left with markings after my breakouts?

A. Any form of trauma inflicted onto the skin that is associated with inflammation will result in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIHP) - aka, the markings leftover from previous breakouts.

Top tip here is: keep your hands out of your breakouts to not worsen the inflammation and the post-inflammatory reaction and keep your skin healthy before, during and after your breakouts!

My go-to products to treat Pigmentation:

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Very high factor sun protection with UVB 131 and UVA 67 colour. A depigmenting ingredient helps regulate melanin synthesis by reinforcing
the preventative anti-spot action.

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Cosmelan 2 Cream is a depigmenting topical cream that has an intensive corrective action on skin hyperpigmentation to inhibit and control the appearance of new dark spots.

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This high-strength, high-performance vitamin C serum is ideal for those looking to blast pigmentation problems PLUS deliver a hit of anti-ageing power. Ideal for those looking to step up their vitamin C game for maximum results.

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Aspect Extreme B17 is an absolute must-have regardless of your skin type or concern. This cosmeceutical antioxidant serum calms and soothes skin, adds extra hydration, firms and lightens discolouration. Plus, it's great to fight those post-inflammatory types of pigmentation (e.g. post-breakout marks). It is the secret to the ultimate in complexion perfection and the perfect addition to any skincare routine.

About The Author

My name is Sari Pols,
I have been in the skincare industry for over 15 years. My passion lies in ‘Health’. Health for the skin and body. My philosophy is if we have good well-being on the inside, then it shows our vitality on the outside.
I have furthered my knowledge of Skin Anatomy, Skin Concerns, and Fitness. I am a true believer in how to make my clients feel their best both inside and out. My emphasis is on guiding my clients through their journey of skin concerns and conditions. I do not like to band-aid a concern or condition but want to get down to the root of the cause. I aim to give personalised consultations with treatment and correct prescribed skin products.

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