Several factors contribute to hyperpigmentation, including the amount of collagen, elastin, and melanin present in the skin. Collagen and elastin are the proteins responsible for skin elasticity, tone, and texture, and are affected by diet, age, hormones, skin products, cosmetic treatments, and overall health. Melanin is the substance responsible for color.
The first step you can take to reduce hyperpigmentation and improve your skin texture is to identify the culprits behind these problems.
Causes of Blotchy, Uneven Skin Complexion
- Age: Age plays a role in the formation of wrinkles, age spots, blotchiness, and rough skin texture. Age spots, sometimes called liver spots, are light to dark brown patches that appear on the hands, legs, feet, or face as people age. Age spots have rounded edges and look very much like large freckles. Age spots develop as a result of genetics or exposure to the sun. Some people are genetically predisposed to developing age spots. The other cause of age spots is prolonged sun exposure. Many years of tanning, working outdoors, or living in a sunny climate makes people more likely to develop age spots.
- Certain skin conditions: Specific skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and allergies can severely affect the skin's overall health and contribute greatly to blotchiness and uneven skin texture. If you experience excessive inflammation, itching, dryness, or pain, it is important to incorporate treatment for your specific condition into your skin care plan.
- Environmental factors: There are several environmental factors that can cause the skin to appear blotchy and uneven. These include wind, dirt, chemicals, arid climates, smoking, pollution, and ultraviolet radiation (which causes sun damage). All of these elements strip the skin of its natural collagen and elastin fibers, causing it to appear dry, rough, and wrinkled.
- Sun Damage: Sun spots are the result of long-term exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. These flat, brownish patches appear on areas of the body most often exposed to the sun - especially the face, hands, and arms. Though sun spots are benign, they are unsightly and are often accompanied by other types of sun damage such as rough skin and wrinkles. In some cases, sun spots obscure the presence of skin cancer.
Treatment for Hyperpigmentation
There are a wide variety of cosmetic dermatology treatments available for sun damage.
- Chemical peels: Chemical peels and abrasive procedures can be used to treat hyperpigmentation. A chemical peel strips away dead skin cells and damaged outer layers of the skin, stimulating the growth of healthy new skin.
- Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion, a procedure that exfoliates the outer layers of the skin with a spray of fine crystals, can also be used to stimulate new skin growth.
- IPL: With Intense Pulsed Light (IPLTM) therapy, the dermatologist treats the skin with flashes of light from a high-energy, full-spectrum xenon lamp. This technique is particularly effective for treating pigmentation problems and capillary damage.
- Cosmelan® Depigmentation: The Cosmelan® Depigmentation treatment involves the use of an in-office and at-home cream mask that is applied to the face for a designated amount of time.
- Laser skin resurfacing: Laser skin resurfacing uses a single wavelength laser beam to dissolve molecular bonds in the skin and vaporize the outer skin layers. Once the skin heals, it appears tighter and smoother.
- Obagi®: The Obagi® prescription skin care line is a good option for patients who want to avoid more involved procedures that often require recovery and healing time. Obagi® offers a wide variety of products that are available by prescription from a cosmetic dermatologist. These products are specifically designed to address skin problems associated with sun damage and other threats to skin health.
How to Achieve a Smooth Skin Complexion
There are a number of simple steps you can take to achieve smooth skin and a vibrant complexion.
- Cleanse: Skin that is free of excess oil and debris is going to look and feel better. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends cleansing normal skin with plain soap and water. If you have dry or oily skin, you may want to find a cleanser specifically suited to your skin type.
- Exfoliate: Simple cleansing is usually not enough to improve skin texture. Exfoliation helps remove excess skin, oil, and dirt from the top layer of the skin, making it less prone to roughness and breakouts. Usually, a gentle facial scrub will do the trick; however, if your skin texture is very rough or uneven, spa treatments such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels, or laser skin resurfacing can help smooth your skin and brighten your complexion.
- Moisturize: Even if you have acne-prone skin or an oily complexion, it is still important to keep your skin hydrated by using a daily moisturizer combined with regular spa or at-home masque treatments.
- Protect: Sun damage is among the leading contributors to roughened skin texture and uneven tone, not to mention skin cancer. Therefore, it is crucial to protect your skin by wearing a sunscreen or moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher every time you are outside.
In addition to a careful skin regimen, simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference in achieving healthy skin and a glowing complexion. Among the many other health benefits it provides, regular exercise (about 30 minutes per day) increases circulation and supplies extra oxygen to the skin. Drinking eight glasses of water a day is also one of the easiest and least expensive ways to improve skin texture and appearance. Finally, a balanced diet that is rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (found in wild-caught cold-water fish, walnuts, fortified eggs, flax seeds, and leafy green vegetables) can help keep your skin smooth and healthy year-round.
Prevention of Hyperpigmentation and Sun Damage
Prevention is the best way to address sun spots and other types of sun damage. Using a sunscreen lotion or cream daily, especially on the face and hands, is a good way to avoid sun damage. Anyone who enjoys outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, or skiing should always be sure to use sunscreen that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays, and to reapply it as necessary according to the product's instructions. Swimming and any prolonged contact with water can wash off conventional sunscreen products, so anyone planning to be in the water should be sure to use a waterproof sunscreen lotion or cream.
Avoiding excessive exposure to the sun is also a good way to avoid sun damage. Too much exposure to the sun and other sources of UV radiation elevates the risk of contracting skin cancer. UV exposure can also accelerate the natural aging of the skin by damaging collagen fibers, and it is associated with the formation of sun spots and other types of sun damage. Indoor and outdoor tanning both contribute to this process. It is important to limit exposure to UV radiation from any source.
Find a Dermatologist in Your Area
If you would like to learn more about removing age spots, use the DocShop directory to contact a dermatologist in your area. A qualified skin specialist can examine the age spots and determine the best way to treat them.