We can all admit to being pretty fortunate to live in such a beautiful country yet as much as we love our beach-filled summers (especially here in Newcastle) we sometimes forget the detrimental role the sun plays on our skin. We continually have clients walk through our door concerned with pigmentation whether it be freckles, age spots, melasma – You name it, we’ve seen it. In this article we are going to look at the melanin process, contributing factors to the stimulation of pigmentation, preventatives and also how to treat the damage that has already been done.
So, how is melanin formed? Melanocytes are the cells responsible for the creation of pigmentation and these are found in the deepest epidermal layer of our skin where our stem cells are also prevalent. When our pituitary gland gets signalled it releases an enzyme calls tyrosinase. Tyrosinase must be present in order to allow a melanocyte to release melanosomes. These melanosomes once released aim to travel up little spiny arms to our stratum spinosum where they inject pigment into our skin cells to create a little melanin “sunhat” over our cell nucleus or “brain” thus protecting this cell from further damage. This is a normal process however when there has been damage to DNA within a melanocyte many issues can occur such as hyperpigmentation, leaking pigment (freckles, age spots) skin cancers, etc. This melanocyte damage can usually be categorised into two different categories – UV Driven Damage & Hormonally Driven Damage.
UV Driven Damage is caused by factors such as heat, UV radiation, free radicals, inflammation and incorrect treatments. UV rays are a trigger to signal the pituitary gland to release tyrosinase and begin the pigmentation process which is why we are fighting a continuing battle at our salon getting our clients to commit to every day use of a good quality SPF (see sunscreen blog).
Hormonally Driven Damage can still be aggravated by UV radiation however it is mainly the link to how different hormones increase the stimulation of our pituitary gland which plays the main role in pigmentation issues here. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a multitude of hormonal contraceptives and even pregnancy can produce excess MSH (Melanin Stimulating Hormone) thus creating increased pigmentation issues including both melasma and chloasma (pregnancy mask). A staggering 30% of women have a genetic predisposition to produce excess MSH whilst pregnant or on hormonal contraceptives/HRT.
The most obvious preventative is a physical SPF30-50. An SPF will protect your skin from damaging UV rays but don’t forget that protection is needed from sunrise to sunset as your UVA remain the same strength all day long even if rainy or cloudy! You can read our article on sunscreens and what to look for by clicking HERE. There are also skincare ingredients to look out for such as vitamin C, lactic acid & peptides. These three ingredients are what we call tyrosinase inhibitors meaning they prevent the enzyme tyrosinase from being produced therefore putting a stop to the melanin process altogether. These ingredients are the perfect cocktail to use in the lead up to any in salon procedures where we are targeting present melanin and also if you know you are someone that suffers from pigmentation issues to make sure they don’t continue to worsen.
Sheer Elegance offers a variety of treatments that can combat pigmentation problems. Superficial pigment can be reduced using skin peels and microdermabrasion treatment however for that stubborn pigmentation you might need something a bit more advanced. Two treatments that are going to deliver the most effective pigmentation results are Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and Skin Needling.
Intense pulsed light energy along side RF technology is used to target pigmented lesions such as age spots, freckles and even broken capillaries resulted in clearer, more even-toned skin. Following your treatment freckles and age spots will darken, forming a milo-like appearance, and will flake away over the following few weeks. This is the best treatment for people wanting to see an immediate change in their skin.
Skin Needling works by releasing a variety of growths factors – Epidermal Growth Factor, Keratinocyte Growth Factor, Melanocyte Growth Factor and Transforming Growth Factor. Each one of these growths factors is important in treating pigmentation but all in all they will normalise melanin absorption, make sure your melanocytes are holding correct amounts of pigment (not in excess), making sure your melanocyte is functioning properly, restoring melanocytes and also speeding up the exfoliation process to remove excess pigment from the skin surface. This is a great alternative for someone wanting to treat the cells responsible for the melanin issue right at its source and correct its functioning.
Now, even though both these treatments are amazing we do need our clients to understand that if your pigmentation is Hormally Driven Damage you may need to address the underlying issues or there is a chance that the desired results can not be achieved. If you are still pregnant/breastfeeding, taking contraceptives or on HRT then the pituitary gland is still being stimulated so you need to understand that this can still stimulate pigment too therefore potentially affecting the outcome of your results. Just a heads up if you are considering any of the above treatments!
Well, that was a lot to take in, huh? As you can see, pigmentation is one busy process! At least now with the help of a great sunscreen, some key ingredients and some miracle treatments we can begin to treat and then prevent those pesky skin discolourations. For more information on what we can do to help get your skin clear again speak to your skin therapist next time you visit us at Sheer Elegance.