HYPERPIGMENTATION: The Dark Side of the Sun
Bikinis, bonfires, sunsets: ahhh, summer is a seductive time of year. Many of us are even tempted to tan those dark spots into obscurity—but that quick fix has a cost come fall. “Suntanned skin shows your age—and then some,” says La Suite founder Rhea Souhleris Grous.
Hyperpigmentation is one of our clients’ most common complaints at La Suite, especially after several months of enjoying the outdoors. Sun exposure is not the only cause of dark patches and uneven skin, though it certainly doesn’t help.
WHAT IS HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Hyperpigmentation is a common, usually harmless condition that can affect skin of any tone or race. It’s when patches of skin become darker in color than the surrounding skin. Melanin is the brown pigment that produces our skin color and protects against the harmful effects of UV light. But excess melanin production is the body’s natural defense against sun overexposure. That darkening or tan is essentially a “scar”!
Remember the Coppertone Girl? The Bain de Soleil commercial? Sun-in? Then we’re pretty certain you grew up in an age when parents weren’t too careful about applying sunscreen! Hyperpigmentation can be the result of sun damage in childhood, but there are other causes as well. There is growing evidence that air pollution plays a significant role in hyperpigmentation.1 And all three types of hyperpigmentation are worsened by further sun exposure. Read on to learn about sunspots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Sunspots (age spots, liver spots):
We’ve all got ‘em. Sunspots are the result of sun exposure over time and are referred to by doctors as solar lentigines. These small, darkened patches are generally found on skin most exposed to the sun, like the face, hands, and décolleté.
Have kids? How about hormones? Melasma (or chloasma) refers to larger areas of darkened skin that can appear as a result of overproduction of melanin due to hormonal changes and radiation such as light, heat or UV exposure. Pregnancy can trigger overproduction of melanin, resulting in a "mask of pregnancy" on the face or stomach. Certain medications like birth control pills can also incite melanin, causing hyperpigmentation.
Melasma is usually symmetrical and is mirrored on both sides of the face, often on both cheeks or above the eyebrows. Sometimes melasma goes away after pregnancy or going off the Pill—but often not. Irritating skincare products, treatments, or anything that stirs up skin inflammation can also cause melasma flareups—so check your medicine cabinet for culprits!
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH):
If you’ve ever popped a pimple, sadly you’ve probably encountered PIH. It’s one of the reasons why extractions are best left to professionals! Acne, as well as insect bites, cuts or abrasions, burns, or surgical incisions can all result in discoloration of the skin.
HOW CAN I TREAT MY HYPERPIGMENTATION?
At the Clinic
Chemical peels are one of the most effective ways to remedy sun “overexposure.” That’s why veteran La Suite clients have standing post-summer facial appointments! Which chemical peel is best for you? Call us at 203-861-7338 to learn more about your customized treatment.
La Suite recommends topical treatments rich with ingredients to help brighten and even the skin tone. These “non-negotiables” both prevent and minimize sun damage—because even on the wintriest of days, UV rays are out there, waiting to strike!
- Vitamin C / Ascorbic Acid (supported by Vitamin E) - Rhea recommends our 20% Active Complex Vitamin C Serum or Silymarin CF for those with oily skin.
- Vitamin A, like La Suite’s best-selling Retinol Serum.
- Mineral sunscreen that includes zinc oxide, minimum SPF 30. We can’t keep this Sheer one in stock.
Many of La Suite’s signature products include other powerful ingredients that fight hyperpigmentation:
- AHAs like Glycolic, Lactic, and Phytic acids
- Botanical brighteners like Kojic Acid, Arbutin (Bearberry) and Emblica
- Licorice Root
- Azelaic acid
- Tranexamic acid
- Green Tea Polyphenols
Call us or schedule your Virtual Consultation to determine which are right for you.
HOW CAN I PROTECT AGAINST HYPERPIGMENTATION?
“Protecting your skin is the best beauty investment,” says Rhea. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Let’s review the basics:
- Avoid sun exposure. Use a mineral sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, 365 days a year. Reapply after swimming or sweating, and at least every two hours.
- During the day, apply antioxidants, especially Vitamin C, in conjunction with sunscreen. Apply your antioxidants first, then SPF.
- Don’t pick at your skin! Leave any treatment of spots, scabs, or acne to the experts.
- Wear sunglasses, hats, and clothing that block sunlight.
- Avoid the sun when it is at its strongest, typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Certain medications may cause hyperpigmentation; ask your doctor and take the precautions above.
A leopard can’t change its spots, but fortunately La Suite has got some game-changing treatments for yours. Save the animal patterns for your Manolos and let us brighten and restore evenness to your hyperpigmented skin!