Pigmentation – development, prevention, reduction
Pigmentation is when the skin, whatever natural tone it has, changes colour in patches. Either it loses colour, ie goes lighter, or increases in colour, ie goes darker. It can be a long process to improve pigmented areas, but at the same time, overall skin health will improve.
It’s a common problem brought about by several factors. The process of pigmented areas in the skin is when the natural pigment in our skin, called Melanin either increases or decreases. Melanin production and its spread through the skin cells is a natural protective response and the colour of our skin is determined by the amount and type of pigment we are genetically born with.
Darker skins have more Eumelanin in it, whereas lighter skins have predominantly Pheomelanin and no Eumelanin. This is a simplification but you get the idea. I like to think of Eumelanin as being melanin that has been down the gym, strong, robust and lasting, whereas Pheomelanin is a bit watery and floppy and a hit and miss in its distribution through the skin.
So what is Melanin trying to protect our skin from? Well, mainly UV light which is not only important for Vitamin D synthesis, but is also destructive to our skin’s structure and ability to perform its essential roles of protection, immunity, excretion, temperature control to just mention a few of the skin’s key roles.
Other situations that stimulate the production of melanin are pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, stress, pollution, medication.
So what happens? There is a complex chain reaction of enzymes and hormones that kick into place when the skin feels the need to protect itself. Ultimately, whatever the trigger event, special cells within the skin called Melanocytes, release the melanin pigment that travel up these finger like cells, called dendrites and flood into the main skin cells, called Keratinocytes. One melanocyte cell is capable of communicating with up to 40 keratinocyte cells.
This is how a tan (skin darkening) develops. So a tan is a scar, a self-protective discolouration. Darker skins are genetically programmed to be able to self protect more efficiently than lighter skins. But they are still susceptible to getting pigmented areas.
Ultimately, a very damaged skin through excess UV or other factors is at risk of skin cancer, pre-cancerous cells, or benign lesions such as solar keratosis. Ageing also makes the skin weaker, so our aim is always to prevent/reduce pigmentation, strengthen and increase skin health through well chosen products, appropriate treatments and other encourage other lifestyle choices that support general wellbeing.
So what can we do?
- Well chosen products that maintain our skin barrier protection mechanisms, this includes non-chemical SPFs and appropriate skin supplements . Skin barrier health will improve the look and feel of the skin as well as improve how it performs.
- Treatments that maintain skin barrier integrity, but also get key ingredients deeper into the skin, without trauma. This includes things like, gentle superficial peels (I’m not a big fan of peels in general), LED light therapy, galvanic current, microcurrent, radio frequency and needling. Some would also suggest laser and IPL, but again I tend to prefer less invasive methods. My Signature Holistic Facial which uses manual techniques only, is also very effective but does require a course of 12 treatments in 6 weeks.
- Use ingredients that minimise pigmentation occurring -these are called tyrosinase inhibitors – and ingredients that will also repair damaged skin cells, increase the health of new cells, encourage collagen production, maintain hydration levels and cell wall integrity – too many to mention but the key ones are Vitamin A (there are many different forms of Vitamin A, Retinol is not the only or necessarily the best form of Vitamin A), Vitamin C, D, E, B and many more.
- A Homecare routine that is simple, but effective and includes home rollering, or other product penetration devices, active serums, and daily use of SPF and other protective ingredients against blue light and pollution all year round.A home facial massage routine (that I can teach you) using Gua Sha and/or facial cupping will also benefit.
- Targeted skin supplements will make a difference – healing the skin from within. This is an often overlooked area in skincare. It’s crucial. Ethical brands with well researched products and high quality ingredients that use optimal levels, rather than just recommended daily levels, will turbo charge any home care or treatment plan.
Lifestyle choices – whilst medication can’t be changed unless your doctor says it needs to, other pigmentation creating situations such as smoking, stress management, exposure to blue light and environmental pollutants is within our scope to improve.
Yoga, pilates, walking, healthy eating, conscious breathing exercises, positive mental attitude methods, visualisation, using products and filters on devices and laptops, serums that contain filters against the environment, particularly if we are city or town dwellers. Becoming conscious of our choices when it comes to how we manage our reactions in stress situations – self awareness. This is a broader holistic way of looking at our skin, it’s part of us, not a separate organ acting in isolation from the rest of our body, mind and spirit.
Carving out time, for massage, reflexology and other hands on therapies complements the holistic approach. I also encourage clients to use homeopathy, a full system of energetic medicine and/or acupuncture as these will deal with not only physical symptoms but also our mental/emotional outlook and work on a deep level of our humanity. To find a registered practitioner in your area look at The Society of Homeopaths register www.homeopathy-soh-org or The British Acupuncture Council www.acupuncture.org.uk
A few words about ingredients – often people will hop from brand to brand or they’ve read on Instagram about a new “wonder” ingredient. There are very specific things the skin needs, I use brands that include ingredients that will actually benefit the skin and improve how it performs. They carefully source their ingredients and formulate their products to do specific jobs, and I never overload the skin with too many things at once. We go slow and carefully to minimise any skin reactions. When clients come to see me, their skin has a 30, 40 or 50 year history which needs to be taken into account as we start our skin care journey.
I use a selected number of ranges as they are medical grade, scientifically researched with scientific papers to back up their claims, are kind to the skin, support a holistic approach and have been developed by some of the most innovative and highly regarded doctors, cosmetic chemists and skin scientists in the world. These are not off the shelf cosmetic brands, but rather “cosmeceuticals” i.e. skin care products that have the ability to make real change within the skin and don’t just sit on the surface of the skin.
Environ, Dr Des Fernandes
Osmosis, Dr Ben Johnson
Dermaviduals, Dr Hans Lautenschlager
Skin Better Science and AlumierMD who have a board of scientists
Advanced Nutrition, Lorraine Perreta
I choose the product (regardless of range and sometimes mixing them) that is best suited to your individual situation and I always start with getting the basics right before moving onto more advanced serums and treatments. With Dermaviduals I can create tailor made products just for you. Osmosis also do a range of wellness supplements and elixirs
Working long distance
I have several clients who do not live near me. The process is, I send you a form to complete and then we have an online video consultation via Zoom or WhatsApp £30. If agreed with yourself, I post relevant products and we have follow up consultations and make any necessary changes to your products as needed. Keeping in touch is key here as it is much easier to sort a problem or enhance skin benefits when we deal with things when they happen and not weeks later. Once or twice a year these clients come to see me for treatments. Pigmentation is not a short term fix and it can take time to get the most effective product prescription right for an individual as every skin is different. So do bear that in mind. Also, consider your budget. This will impact what products I choose for you and that we get a balance between results and expense.