Dark Spot Formation and Treatment
Hyperpigmentation is a common challenge in the treatment room, but how exactly does a spot or demarcation form?
There are a variety of factors that contribute such as:
- Overall health
- Stress levels
- Sun exposure
A breakdown of the process may help shed some light on the issue.
Melanin at Work
Approximately one out of every eight cells is a melanocyte. The cells produce melanin – an action that occurs in the granular layer. This is a natural and necessary process, as pigments provide skin color and a unique defense system against UV radiation.
The pigmentation process resembles that of an assembly line. Issues occur when this assembly line overproduces or slows. When there is the potential for damage, the pigmentation process goes through the following:
1. A trigger (such as UV exposure) sends a signal to melanocyte-stimulating hormones that the skin is in need of protection. This activates the enzyme tyrosine.
2. After tyrosine is signaled, the melanocyte cell receives a message to produce pigmentation (melanin). The melanocytes make melanin, bundling them into melanosomes.
3. These melanosomes are then dispersed upward through the granular layer via dendrites to keratino¬cytes, where they form melanin caps, which reduce DNA damage caused by UV exposure.
Common triggers may include
- The sun
- Hormonal changes
- Aggressive skin care products
- Acne (in the form of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation).
In healthy conditions, the pigmentation produced in response to potential damage will eventually diffuse or fade on its own, but in some cases, a permanent discoloration may occur.
As the skin ages the pigmentation cycle is less controlled. DNA damage to the skin cells may result in the steady distribution of melanin. As excess melanin is produced, and disbursement is interrupted, hyperpig¬mentation forms. This creates deposits of color that stay indefinitely unless treated.
Skin Care to the Rescue
Fortunately, there are a number of ingredients that help support the skin and control hyperpig¬mentation. These include:
• Hydroquinone has tyrosine abilities. Since it is typically more stable and less sensitizing than HQ, it is a great alternative for those with sensitiv¬ities. It can only be used for a specific period of time, then must be discontinued.
• Kojic acid. Derived from fermentation of rice and some Japanese mushrooms. It works to effectively inhibit melanin synthesis.
• Glycolic acid. This alpha hydroxy acid has natural brightening abilities, works to smooth skin and improves texture.
In addition to corrective and skin-building ingredients, supporting the skin’s overall health will also be essential in properly controlling pigmentation. It’s when DNA damage occurs, that pigmentation becomes an issue. Regular exfoliation, nourishment and protection with our once a day sun protection will help keep pigmentation issues at bay.