Tag Archive: skin discolouration

Everything You Need to Know About Melanin & Dark Spots

July 19, 2018

 

Melanin is the culprit behind the dark spots that give us an uneven complexion. It is a brown pigment found in the basal layer of the epidermis.

This pigment is synthesised by melanocytes. The process of melanin synthesis is termed melanogenesis. Melanocytes go through different stages of maturation, becoming more pigmented at each stage.

Certain stimulants trigger a gene to produce more of tyrosinase, a copper-containing enzyme that converts tyrosine into melanin. Stimulants that activate the melanocyte include hormones, inflammation (such as acne) and external environmental conditions (ultraviolet light that causes the production of free radicals).

One simple way to reduce melanin production is to use broad-spectrum sunscreens with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or iron oxide. These substances help block UVA and UVB light, thus impeding the stimulation of melanocytes.

Pigmentary disorders

Common hyperpigmentation disorders that involve the darkening of an area of skin due to increased melanin include melasma, lentigo, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Melasma is usually caused by chronic exposure to ultraviolet radiation or a spike in hormones due to pregnancy or the use of oral contraception. It can be found at the epidermisdermal layer or mixed, depending on the location of the pigment.

A lentigo is a light or dark brown area of discoloration that can range from 1mm to 1cm across, and is caused by an increased number of melanocytes. Its outline is usually discrete, but can also be irregular. Simple lentigines arise mostly during childhood on areas not exposed to the sun. Solar (or senile) lentigines are found on the backs of hands or on the face, most commonly after middle age.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is the skin’s response to inflammatory skin disorders. Common causes are acne and atopic dermatitis. PIH is caused by the overproduction of melanin caused by skin inflammation.

Treating hyperpigmentation

Hydroquinone: For 50 years, hydroquinone has been the gold standard treatment for hyperpigmentation. This compound inhibits tyrosinase activity, thus limiting the amount of melanin to be produced. It also alters melanosome formation, possibly degrading melanocytes.

However, prolonged use of topical hydroquinone has shown to have side effects such as ochronosis and permanent depigmentation. Ochronosis is a disorder with blue-black discoloration. As such, hydroquinone is banned in cosmetic formulations and only available through a prescription that should be carefully managed by an accredited dermatologist.

Retinoids are forms of vitamin A that can treat acnephotodamage and PIH. They have various pathways that lead to skin lightening effects, such as accelerating epidermal turnover, reducing pigment transfer and slowing the production of tyrosinase.

With common side effects being erythema, skin irritation, dryness and scaling, it is recommended to use a retinoid only under the supervision of an accredited dermatologist. Corticosteroids (steroid hormones) have anti-inflammatory abilities and are often prescribed along with retinoids to prevent excess irritation.

Arbutin is a botanically derived compound found in cranberries, blueberries, wheat and pears. Though arbutin is a derivative of hydroquinoine, it has shown to be a more controlled way of inhibiting the synthesis of melanin as it does not permanently destroy melanocytes.

Kojic acid is a naturally occurring fungal substance. Its skin-lightening ability works by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase. However, frequent use can cause side effects of contact dermatitis or erythema (redness of the skin).

Azelaic acid is known to be effective for treating PIH and acne. Azelaic acid depigments the skin in several ways. It can inhibit tyrosinase or reduce levels of abnormal melanocytes. This means that azelaic acid does not influence normal skin pigmentation but only acts on the proliferation of unwanted melanocyte activity.  Side effects are mild and only last for a short period of time. Irritation, burning sensation or mild erythema may emerge, taking 2 to 4 weeks to subside.

Niacinamide is a derivative of vitamin B3. It works by decreasing the transfer of melanosome to keratinocytes. Niacinamide is a stable ingredient as it is unaffected by light, moisture or acids. This ingredient is often incorporated into cosmeceuticals due to its safety profile.

Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid is a naturally occurring antioxidant that helps with skin lightening. It prevents tyrosinase from converting tyrosine to melanin. Vitamin C is also favored for its anti-inflammatory and photoprotective properties. However, L-ascorbic acid is highly unstable and rapidly oxidized. It is not used in the treatment of PIH.

Stable forms of vitamin C include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or sodium ascorbyl phosphate. For safe and effective results, consider a dermatologist-formulated serum VITA C GOLD™ Serum,a formulation tested for bio-activity in a laboratory.

As seen above, there are various treatment options to treat common hyperpigmentation disorders. Recognizing the underlying cause for pigmentation is critical for proper treatment and choosing the best-suited therapy. Visit an accredited dermatologist for effective and safe treatments catered to your condition.

© 2018 TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre. All rights reserved.

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Meet with Dr. Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.

To book an appointment with Dr. Teo, call us at +65 6355 0522, or email appt@twlskin.com. Alternatively, you may fill up our contact form here.

Your Guide to Melasma

March 18, 2018

 

What is melasma?

Melasma is an acquired skin problem of hyperpigmentation, frequently faced by women in their reproductive years. The condition is characterized by hyperpigmentation primarily on the face, so we may observe irregular brown or blue-grey macules on the face. Common areas where the brown patches appear are cheeks, nose, forehead, jaw and the chin.

How prevalent is the disorder?

While melasma occurs in all ethnic and population groups, studies have shown that there is a higher prevalence among more pigmented phenotypes. These include Asians, Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern. In the Americas, those who suffer from melasma mostly live in intertropical areas where exposure to UV rays are greater.

What are the different types of hyperpigmentation?

You may be doing your research diligently to find out more about melasma, but there are different types of pigmentation, and they are not all the same. Apart from melasma, your face could be suffering from freckles, sun spots or age spots. Freckles, or ephelides, are small, flat and brown marks that are prevalent in childhood. Sunspots, or solar lentigo, only surfaces in our late twenties and can increase in size and number with increasing sun exposure. Age spots, or seborrheic keratosis, is actually not a form of pigmentation, but a non-cancerous skin growth that kicks in with age.

Melasma, on the other hand, can be identified with a greyish-brown discolouration, at times in the shape of a butterfly.

What causes melasma?

While the cause of the disorder remains unknown, current research point towards sex hormones and sun exposure as the greatest culprits.

These brown patches appear on our face as when there is an excessive production of a pigment called melanin. UV radiation induces the increase in melanin production to protect the skin from sun damage. This causes the development of pigmentation to take place on the skin. A leading cause of melasma is excessive sunlight exposure.

Hormones can also be another cause of melasma. You may develop this condition at the start of your pregnancy or if you are on birth control pills. Pregnant women experience higher levels of increased progesterone, estrogen and melanocyte-stimulating hormones. Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin in your skin.

Other causes can be due to certain medications, scented or deodorant soaps, or your toiletries. These products may contain an ingredient that causes a phototoxic reaction that can trigger melasma.

What are the types of melasma?

There are three types of melasma: epidermal, dermal and mixed.

The epidermal layer affects the outermost surface of the skin, and the easiest type to treat. It can be identified by the presence of excessive levels of melanin in that layer. Patches will be a darker brown colour, with a defined outline.

The dermal layer will affect a deeper layer of the skin beneath the superficial layer, and we can recognise it by the occurrence of melanophages throughout the dermis. Melanophages are cells that ingest melanin. The dermal layer can be more deep-rooted, and may not respond well to treatment. For this layer, patches have a less defined outline, with light brown or bluish colour.

A mixed condition of melasma would be having both the epidermal and dermal types, and improvements on the condition can be expected with treatment.

How to treat melasma? 

The response of melasma to treatment can be slower if the condition has been present for a longer time.

Excessive sun exposure leads to the deposition of melanin cells within the dermis and can persist long term. Coming into contact with UV radiation will deepen the pigmentation as it will activate the production of more melanin, causing your brown patches to turn darker and harder to remove.

Generally, by including sun protection into your skin routine, hyperpigmentation can be resisted. With Singapore’s tropical weather, it is recommended to reapply sun protection every 2 hours with a broad-spectrum sunscreen having at least SPF 30. Consider bringing along sunglasses or a hat when you are outdoors.

For clinical treatments, consultation with a trained dermatologist is recommended. A proper diagnosis of melasma should be conducted, and screened if there are any underlying conditions that may require treatment.

Prescriptions may be given to inhibit the formation of melanin. Hydroquinone is a controlled ingredient that is frequently included in medications to treat melasma, as it allows lightening of the skin. A precise concentration of hydroquinone should be administered for treatment, and may be professionally managed so by your dermatologist.

Procedural treatments for melasma can also be considered, such as chemical peels and lasers. Expected efficacy of each treatment can vary depending on the severity of melasma, with topical combination therapies being one of the most effective treatments for hyperpigmentation.

Speak to your dermatologist for a tailored recovery experience.

© 2017 TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre. All rights reserved.

—–

Meet with Dr. Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.

To book an appointment with Dr. Teo, call us at +65 6355 0522, or email appt@twlskin.com. Alternatively, you may fill up our contact form here.

 

 

 

What you need to know about Melasma

October 29, 2017

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What is Melasma?

Also known as the “mask of pregnancy”, Melasma is the presence of either brown or grayish brown patches, that typically appears on both sides of the face, especially on cheeks, upper lip, nose, forehead or chin area. The excessive production of melanin from melasma causes the pigment in the affected skin area to tan, resulting in a brownish or grayish brown discolouration.

Who does Melasma affect?

Although anyone can have melasma, it is more common amongst pregnant women, women who consume oral contraceptives and people with darker skin types. Even though sun exposure is seen to be a triggering factor, experts believe that the pigmentation is caused by hormonal changes that occur when a woman begins to consume birth control pills or is on hormone replacement therapy or during her second or third trimester of pregnancy.

What should I know about Melasma?

The duration in which the pigmentation fades, varies from individual to individual depending on the intensity and cause of Melasma. For some individuals, pigmentation caused by Melasma may worsen over time. For individuals who have been affected by Melasma during pregnancy or through the consumption of birth control pills or undergoing hormonal therapy, it may fade without treatment after childbirth or the discontinuation of such hormonal treatments. However, it is important to note that, Melasma can return with each future pregnancy, even if it fades after a prior child delivery.

What are the treatment plans available for Melasma?

Before starting any treatment against melasma it is important to consult a trained and accredited dermatologist. This is important to confirm the diagnosis of Melasma and to check that there is no underlying or associated skin disease that would require immediate treatment. Secondly, as Melasma can worsen over time and even become permanent, by having a consultation with a dermatologist this can be prevented. Thirdly, as effective medical melasma treatments require a prescription — as these treatments may sometimes produce mild side effects — these medications need to be consumed under medical supervision.

There are 3 ways that are used to treat Melasma:

  • Cosmetic: The use of cosmetics such as colour correctors, concealers and foundations to cover the dark areas. However, in the long haul, this method does not help melasma to fade.
  • Medical: Prescription medications such as those containing hydroquinone. These medications are aimed at inhibiting melanin production selectively, therefore causing a depigmenting effect, allowing Melasma to fade over time.
  • Physical: The use of topical agents such as chemical peels and lasers.

 

Dermatologists may recommend undergoing ‘combination therapies’ such as creams that combines a few active ingredients, in conjunction with laser treatments and chemical peels. This prescription treatment is able to lighten moderate to severe melasma quickly and effectively.

How to prevent Melasma from getting worse?

As tanning of the skin occurs when the pigment in the skin — melanin — absorbs the ultraviolet rays produced by the sun, with constant exposure to the sun,  Melasma has a tendency to get darker. It is recommended that one avoids exposure from the sun to prevent further darkening of existing melasma as well as the formation of new patches. By protecting your face from harmful UV rays of the sun by either wearing a hat or a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher, the possibilities of Melasma darkening could be reduced.

© 2017 twlskin.com. All rights reserved.

—–

Meet with Dr. Teo Wan Lin, accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.

To book an appointment with Dr. Teo, call us at +65 6355 0522, or email appt@twlskin.com. Alternatively, you may fill up our contact form here.