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Skin discolouration is a very common issue which I see and treat in my clinics regularly, and is more common in women compared to men and in Fitzpatrick skin Types 3 and 4. The pigmentation is due to overproduction of melanin by pigment cells in the skin's dermis called melanocytes. You are more likely to experience hyper pigmentation or melasma if somebody in your family has it.
MELASMA: This is a type of hyper-pigmentation, most often occurring across the mid-face in a butterfly-shaped patch, due to hormonal changes seen in life phases such as pregnancy and adolescence. Melasma is often temporary, and can be worsened by sun exposure.
HYPER-PIGMENTATION: Depending on the cause, this can occur on the face alone, or be more widespread. If localised to the face, it is most likely to be caused by exposing the skin to sunlight over many years without enough protection. The widespread form is more likely to be caused by a dietary deficiency, certain medications or disease, so it is important to see a derm specialist if you have dark patches on your body.
TREATMENTS: It's true that prevention is cure - using a daily sunscreen all year round will protect from worsening and spread of discolouration. A course of peels can also lighten the dark patches; I prefer combination peels as these have faster, more profound results. IPL Laser has also shown promising results. It is really important to visit a qualified practitioner for treatment to avoid unwanted side effects such as worsening of the discolouration. Sun spots or solar lentigines are common in the 40+ age bracket and can be treated with liquid nitrogen. Your dermatologist may also recommend you use a cream between treatments such as Retinol or Hydroquinone which encourage skin lightening, and a glycolic product to maintain exfoliation.
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