Hyperpigmentations such as spots, freckles, and other pigmentary changes are not uncommon and they affect about 50% of women and 20% of men over 50. Although often completely harmless, some people find that the dark spots on the skin make them feel insecure and take a toll on their confidence.
Hyperpigmentation is a phenomenon caused by an excessive amount of pigment (melanin) in the skin. Although in most cases they occur in mid to late years, pigment changes, considered by many to be an aesthetic defect that needs to be removed, are not uncommon in younger people.
They are caused by aging, overexposure to the sun, genetic predisposition, allergic and inflammatory processes, or during pregnancy. Hyperpigmentations are generally light to dark brown in color, and in level with the skin. The most frequently develop on the face (forehead, cheeks, chin, above the lips), but can also appear on hands and other parts of the body. Some are visible throughout the year, while others are more pronounced during the summer months.
As there are many different types of hyperpigmentations that differ in morphological and histological characteristics, the assessment and treatment of pigment changes is always done in consultation with a specialist physician.
There are several types of therapy that can solve this problem, with laser treatment being the most frequent choice. Its advantages are precision and safety. The result of laser treatment is a more uniform complexion and improved skin quality.
Types of hyperpigmentation
Melasma is a skin change in the form of brown spots that occurs in adults. It is more common in women than in men and is most frequently seen on the cheeks, nose, forehead and upper lip. The intensity of the dark spots is enhanced by exposure to the sun or artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation. It is common in women taking contraceptive pills or other hormonal therapies.
Chloasma, or the “pregnancy mask” occurs in some pregnant women, due to excessive melanin production. It is most common on the face and sometimes occurs on the abdomen.
Sunspots are one of the most common forms of hyperpigmentation. They occur as a result of skin damage due to excessive sun exposure. Small dark spots usually occur on the hands, face and upper back.
Freckles are common and usually hereditary skin condition. They are most often considered aesthetically appealing, but there are people who, for various reasons, want to reduce their visibility.
Postinflammatory or postoperative hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a pigmentary change that occurs after mechanical injury to the skin. It is common after acne, injuries, skin damage, or too aggressive treatments.
One treatment is sometimes sufficient in order to remove the pigment changes. On average, it takes 3 to 5 treatments for optimal results.
As with any other laser procedure, the first step is to select a specialist with proven experience in the use of laser technology.
Preparatory steps to be taken before treatment:
• The skin needs to be thoroughly cleansed (makeup, creams, self-tanning products …)
• The area to be treated should not be exposed to sunlight or other UV light sources, such as tanning beds, for at least two weeks before the treatment
Redness and swelling that last no longer than 24-48 hours are normal after the treatment.
Throughout the duration of the series of treatments, it is essential to avoid direct sun exposure and tanning treatments, as well as to strictly follow the recommendations of physicians. Be sure to use products with high SPF whenever you are outdoors.
Since some hyperpigmentations are caused by a hereditary factor, it is possible that after a few years the skin spots will start to appear again. In such cases, one maintenance treatment per 2-5 years is recommended, depending on the client’s skin condition.
For a couple of months following the successful laser hyperpigmentation removal, it is essential to take serious sun protection measures, i.e., using sunscreen products with SPF 50+ whenever you are outside. During this time, the skin is still sensitive to ultraviolet radiation, which can cause pigment changes to return to some extent.