Jul. 13, 2020

Hyperpigmentation - By Sara Ottevaere

Writing a blog about hyperpigmentation? Uh, of course. Wait, where do I start? So many things to tell...
Anyone who's followed the evolution of the beauty industry in recent years knows that the fight against hyperpigmentation has become at least as important as the  fight against wrinkles. Cosmetic brands are focusing massively on an even, fresh complexion.
Also at Lightfalls Clinic the requests for treatments against hyperpigmentation are almost impossible to keep track of and I suspect that the corona period has something to do with it. As far as the past few months are concerned, we can complain about a lot of things, but certainly not about a lack of sunlight. You saw the photos that appear on social media; people who had installed their home office outside on a terrace, ran a marathon on their balcony, or maniacally went about their vegetable gardening. In short, everyone who could, sat outside. The national vitamin D deficiency was suddenly exchanged for a Saint-Tropez tan for one and a hyena-like camouflage mask for the other. No, life isn't fair, we know that.


Those who suffer from hyperpigmentation (yes, I feel you) have cursed every now and then under all that sunshine. With me it all started about 9 years ago. Together with a beautiful son who listens to the name Elvis I also got a unflattering, but fortunately not malignant skin condition that listens to the name Melasma, or 'pregnancy mask'. This name is actually not quite right because even if you're not (or haven't been) pregnant you can get this hormonal pigment disorder. Symptoms: irregular brown spots that mainly appear on the forehead and cheek-bones and 'oh joy', on the upper lip! Especially the latter can be very frustrating, just ask the ladies who suffer from it...


But, there's hope! Because, and that is ultimately what this article is about, there are many ways to combat hyperpigmentation. To do this effectively, it is important to know what type of hyperpigmentation
you are dealing with, for example:
  • hormonally controlled pigment disorders such as melasma
  • 'ordinary' sun damage such as lentigo's or age spots
  • PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation - which is brown discoloration after an injury or acne)
There is one golden rule that applies to ALL forms of hyperpigmentation and that is: prevention is better than cure. UV prevention is crucial here! I can't stress enough how important it is to do enough sun protection from an early age. At the age of 20, you might look 'Instagram-proof' with your tanning-brown skin, the bill comes afterwards!

Sun protection

What is good sun protection? Don’t go in the sun during the hottest moments of the day and use a cream with a high SPF factor. A wide- spread misunderstanding is that with an SPF 50, you won't get tanned any-more. This is not true. In short: an SPF 20 is almost equivalent to an SPF 50, but with an SPF 20 you should ideally rub in every 20 minutes (which nobody does!) and with an SPF 50 every 50 minutes. The SPF says more about how long you are protected

Skin care

Furthermore, an adapted skincare ritual can work wonders for an even, complexion: provide Vitamin C in your serum or day cream (high and stabilized dose) and do occasionally a Retinol treatment. Vitamin C acts as a very strong antioxidant and prevents melanin over-production. Also different forms of tretinoin and hydro-quinone used in a cream have an equalizing effect on dark spots. A higher dosage of these ingredients is often only available on prescription and should be used according to your dermatologist's instructions. 

Cosmetic treatments

No matter how hard you try, hyperpigmentation can be very persistent and triggered by the slightest UV exposure. Don't panic, fortunately there are a lot of cosmedical treatments that can (partially) repair the damage.

  • The most demanded pigment treatment is removal of lentigo's (also called sunspots or age spots). These are the limited brown spots that often appear on cheeks, hands and décolleté. Although these spots are often very noticeable and can be annoying, they are fairly easy to remove with the right laser device. Lentigo's are a local discoloration of the epidermis and after 2 non invasive treatments almost invisible. These spots need to be very well protected from the sun afterwards. The DNA of these cells has mutated and the spots will return when there is a high UV exposure. A repeat of the laser treatment after a few years is therefore possible. With the right laser most hyperpigmentation problems can be treated. The melanocytes (cells that create the melanin - brown color - are located in the basal cell layer and release their pigment to the upper dead skin layers. In other words, when this layer is treated, the brown discoloration disappears.

  • When the hyperpigmentation has a hormonal cause, these melanocytes are confused and inject their melanin also in the direction of the dermis (the deeper skin layers). A superficial treatment will therefore not be sufficient to tackle the discoloration. On the contrary, a laser treatment using heat will 'trigger' the condition and exacerbate hyperpigmentation. Nevertheless, a hormonal hyperpigmentation can be treated with special exfoliations that really focus on this condition. There are some very effective melasma peelings on the market, this is usually strong stuff, so get yourself treated by an expert!
    Fortunately, every disadvantage has its advantage; those who suffer from hyper-pigmentation will soon learn to protect themselves against UV, so a tight and radiant skin at a late age will be yours! And also good to know, in most cases hyperpigmentation disappears automatically after a few years (sometimes only during menopause). If you suffer a lot from the discoloration, changing contraception can also help, as it is known that a hormone spiral aggravates the melasma. Something to discuss with your gynaecologist.
  • Other treatments that also give nice results on lighter hyperpigmentation are (fruit acid) peelings and microneedling. The choice of the peeling or the active ingredients incorporated plays an important role in this.

Multiple treatments are sometimes required. For the perfectionists among us there is another pigment treatment that is gaining popularity, namely the 'Intimate Bleaching'. Yes, you can hear it well, the bleaching of your noble parts. In short, everything is possible!

When choosing a treatment, always let someone with experience advise you! Wrong laser settings or too heavy peelings can give you more pigment instead of less and of course you don't want that! It is not for nothing that they call pigment 'the wrinkle of the future'.

Would you like personal advice? Feel free to drop by at Lightfalls Clinic!
Thank you very much for this beautiful blog Sara Ottevaere!
Sara Ottevaere is a skin consultant at Lightfalls Clinic, one of our partners. Be
sure to take a look at the website for more information and treatments

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Connect with us and follow the hashtag #MyNomige to stay up to date of the latest skin tips and news.

Volg de hashtag #Nomige en blijf zo op de hoogte over de laatste skin tips en nieuws.
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