[By Pauline Yeo]

Discoloration- think age spots and brown spots-can make you look just as old as a face full of wrinkles. “Pigmentation makes the skin look dull, muddy and worn out. Even if you have very few wrinkles or lines, if there is discolouration, your skin won’t not look as bright or fresh,” explains Dr Kenneth Lee from the Sloane Clinic. “Every skin type should have a clarity to it so that it reflects light properly, glows and looks radiant”

How Discoloration Forms

  1. Sun Damage, inflammation or exacerbated hormones are present, prompting the cycle.
  2. A signal is sent to activate the enzyme trosinase. From there, skin cells (melanocytes) are told to start producing melanin, or pigment. The cells create small, organized groupings of pigment.
  3. These bundles of pigment, A.K.A melanosomes are sent from the dermis to the top layer of the skin. Where the melanosomes live determines whether the pigmentation is deep or superficial.
  4. Pigmentation becomes more permanent and embedded in the skin as the skin is exposed to elements such as inflammation, the sun and hormonal cycle.

Pigment Erasers


Today there are more spot eradicating products being sold than ever. Medical grade Hydroquinone has been the gold standard for years, but it shouldn’t be used long term and some people also can develop sensitivities to it. Other options include kojic acid, arbutin and vitamin C. Any brightener should be used with a retinoid or exfoliating agent for better results.

In-office Chemical Peels

Chemical peels remove the top layer of the skin, getting rid of surface discoloration. It’s important to eliminate dead skin, which contains pigment, otherwise discoloration will manifest and the skin will look dull and ruddy. Pigment removing peels range from no downtime options such as glycolic or lactic peels,  to TCA or Luminizing peels afterwhich you may experience 3 to 4 days of redness and flaking of the skin.


The cause of discoloration, and how severe it is determines what course of action will best suit your problems. Pigment removing lasers again range from no-downtime options like the Q-switched NdYAG laser to Fraxel where the skin may appear red and swollen for about 2 to 3 days.


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