When it comes to skin discolourations, we all know that prevention is the best medicine. You know the drill: Wear sunscreen, big hats, and seek shade whenever you can. And surprisingly, avoiding hot environments should also be part of the drill.
“Heat can often stimulate the pigment cells,” says our dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett. So those hot yoga classes may be doing more harm than good, at least for your speckled skin.
I learned this at my last consultation with Dr. Kellett about my own hyperpigmentation issues. During this conversation, we discussed the myriad of non life-threatening skin discolourations in-depth. Here’s The Skiny on what causes them and (what we all want to know) which clinical treatments are the gold standards.
Dr. Lisa Kellett: There are a number of “normal” discolourations and their causes and treatments vary. Some can’t be treated and will only, with any luck, fade in time.
• Melasma is also known as the mask of pregnancy and generally appears on the cheeks, forehead, nose and around the mouth, but it could turn up anywhere. The cause is a combination of hormones and the sun; no matter how much sun protection you use, you could still get it. The pigment cells are also heat sensitive, so if you go out in very warm weather, you’re at risk. It’s more common in pregnant women because they have high estrogen states, but it can happen to anyone. The treatment is a combination of light treatments and topical bleaching creams or agents, like azaleic acid, arbutin and hydroquinone. It’s often very difficult to remove. But it may fade in time.
• Post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (PIH) is found in people who have darker skin types, after a burn, acne or any other trauma, even a scratch or irritation. The skin reacts by producing spots of dark pigment. In Caucasians, the skin can turn red. Treatment is usually bleaching creams and Lumenis Intense Pulsed Light treatments (light energy). Untreated, it can fade, but that might take months or years.
• Seborrheic keratoses are also known as liver or age spots and you see them on the back of your hands or your trunk. They start off as flat brown spots and become raised and quite warty. They can be burned off with electrodessication.
• Nevi (birth marks) are collections of mole cells, which develop in the fetal stage; it’s all pre-programmed. They’re usually flat, and they can be excised or lasered off.
• Port wine stains are a collection of blood vessels. You might be born with it, or it might develop in infancy. These, too can be lasered off.
• Lentigines or sunspots appear on the face, shoulders or back, hands and arms; anywhere exposed to sun. Simply put, it’s sun damage and, although they can removed or minimized significantly with lasers or light treatments, the best cure is prevention as they’re permanent.
Dr. Kellett is one of the few dermatologists in Toronto that has one of the most powerful photofacial (IPL) machines on the market today. This woman had just one session!
Click here to find out more about this treatment for sunspots.