Saturday, July 6, 2013

That Little Problem Called Pigmentation

You may be a victim already and don't even know it....or maybe it's something that has made you conscientious for a while. I'm referring to, of course, the pigmentation problem.
To be more direct, it might be areas of your skin that are darker than the rest. AKA "sunspots", "age spots", and sometimes "freckles". In the biz it's called hyperpigmentation. If you are a nerd like me...the prefix "hyper-" meaning excess and "-pigmentation" for color. Hyperpigmentation is an overproduction of melanin created by the skin cells. And another disorder related to pigmentation is hypopigmentation or "lack of color". These patches that are lighter than the rest of your skin or that contain no melanin. Hyperpigmentation can be treated where as hypopigmentation has no cure and can only be changed with permanent cosmetics. So being forward focused, let's talk about what we can do to prevent and treat!

Why ME?!

Well, hyperpigmentation can occur for many different reasons- horomones, trauma, chemical reactions. These factors cannot cause pigmentation without one thing...UV rays. It's kind of like the factors are the ingredients for a cupcake, but we all know that the ingredients combined aren't a cupcake until they are baked in the oven. UV is our oven people! 
Let's break it down a bit-
Horomones can cause our skin to be more sensitive and to be more vulnerable to the sun. That's why a condition called "Melasma" occurs with pregnant women. Also, when we are stressed, a horomone is secreted that also can cause us damage. So when we've had a hard week...no wonder we feel like we got drug through the wringer! Medications can alter our horomones as well, so that's why women who are on birth control experience very similar results.
Trauma to the skin is a factor that most people know about. Think about it, when you had that pesky breakout and you picked at it or even tried to it "pop it". After a couple weeks, when that breakout was gone you still saw a residual "shadow"- that's hyperpigmentation. That angry little thing was inflamed and inflammation is an indicator of damage. Where damage is present there is a compromised barrier that allows things to penetrate deeper, especially UV.
Chemical Reactions car range from just spraying perfume on your décolleté to recently receiving a chemical peel. Perfume dries out the skin because of the alcohols and weaken the skin. Think about when we age, what skin is one of the first to show our age? Our hands and our chest because of all the sun exposure. And chemical peels or resurfacing treatments exfoliate the skin and re
move cells. Two things can happen, because skin cells are removed then this can allow UV to damage cells and their DNA. Also, should you have had the peel recently, the heat can reactivate the acid to penetrate too deep which can cause trauma to the cells. Double edged sword right there.

UV stimulates the brain to secrete a melanin-stimulating horomone that tells a melanocyte (a cell that creates melanin, the pigment) to create more melanin to be sent to the skin cells that are in the "line of fire". The melanin is then sent to the 36 cells that are designated to that 1 melanocyte. Once the skin cells receive the pigment it surrounds the nucleus to act as a bodyguard and protect it from damage. So, this is actually one of the body's defense mechanisms against excessive sun exposure. That's what happens when you tan also. However, because of factors outside of our control, some cells receive too much of that melanin and that's when hyperpigmentation begins to haunt us!

Hypopigmentation can be caused by these factors as well if they are killed or destroy the DNA of the cell. Vitiligo is a disorder where the melanocytes (cells that create melanin) are damaged . Some hypopigmentation can be genetics ( an example would be albinoism) Wanna know more? Check this out!

What do I do to help?!

If you've never gotten to experience a Wood's Lamp or Skin Scanner, do it! Talk to your local esthetician or skin care professional. This is a device that can actually show you conditions your skin is experiencing. It can also show you hyperpigmentation that hasn't reached the surface yet. If you see a faint brown or light purple spot...by the age of 50, if you don't take any measures to speed up cell turnover, that hyperpigmentation caused by the sun will make it's way to the surface of your face.
 The goal to treat the pigmentation is to encourage cell turnover so that more cells are reproduced and pushes the cells that contain that extra melanin to the surface so that they can be exfoliated off or treated with vitamin C or other lightening/brightening ingredients (kojic berry, licorice for example). Treatments that would encourage cell turnover- microdermabrasion, chemical peels, exfoliating treatments/products, any services that stimulate blood circulation are ideal. But make sure before you jump into a treatment bed that you understand what you are getting yourself into! Not all are suited for these types of treatments. Again, talk with your skin therapist on the right path for you.

Only you can prevent pigmentation...

Obviously the common denominator behind pigmentation are UV rays given off by the sun so preventative measures includes building up your barrier and protecting with sunscreen! To read more about sunscreens and the new regulations check out my sunscreen post. So if you are being conscientious of these factors and taking the steps to protect yourself from UV, then problem no more!