[By Tania Hui]
You are edging towards your 4th decade of life and although you managed to drop those stubborn pregnancy gains, somehow you are not liking what’s staring back at you in the mirror. It may not be a double chin, saggy skin, deep frown lines and crow’s feet that you have, but if you feel like you have aged, chances are it’s due to your uneven skin tone. Blotchy skin doesn’t reflect light as well, making one’s complexion dull and lacklustre. A fairly large number of women are affected by pigmentation problems, sometimes triggered by hormonal fluctuations like pregnancy or birth control pills. In a bid to get our skin flawless for spring, RSB talks to aesthetics physician, Dr. Low Chai Ling from The Sloane Clinic on how best to get our skin from patchy to perfect!
RSB: Hi Dr. Low! To begin with, can you explain a little more to us about skin pigmentation?
Dr. Low: Hi Tania! I’m glad to be given the chance to dwell on this topic because treating skin pigmentation is an aspect of my job that interests me most. In a nutshell, pigmentation is a condition that causes the skin to appear lighter or darker than normal. Our skin contains pigment or melanin producing cells known as melanocytes, and they are responsible for imparting the natural colour to our skin, hair and eyes.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when excess melanin is deposited in the skin, leading to patches of skin becoming darker in colour than the normal surrounding skin. Similarly, hypopigmentation occurs when patches of skin become lighter or whiter in colour than the surrounding skin.
RSB: So what are the common pigmentation problems faced by women today?
Dr. Low: Hyperpigmentation is certainly more common compared to hypopigmentation. Some forms of hyperpigmentation such as moles and port wine stains are congenital and present at birth while others such as melasma and solar lentigines are acquired later in life.
Commonly known as the mask of pregnancy affecting up to 50 to 70% of pregnant women, melasma is a skin condition in which light to dark brown or greyish patches of pigmentation appear on the face, especially on the forehead and cheeks. The exact aetiology is unknown, but certain factors such as hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy and birth control pills have been implicated.
Also known as sun spots or liver spots, solar lentigines are darkened spots caused by prolonged exposure to harmful ultra violet rays from the sun. They can appear at any age and any part of the exposed body and are usually not harmful though cosmetically disfiguring.
RSB: So besides making a beeline for the best concealer in town, what else can be done to tackle these annoying spots and patches?
Dr. Low: To start off with, if you are not already practising this #1 beauty tip religiously, “Never leave home in the day without your sunscreen”. This is one of the best and most economical ways to avoid pigmentation! So slap on a UVA & UVB shielding sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30+ regularly, especially if you are heading outdoors.
The formation of melanin from melanocytes to its eventual deposition on the skin surface is a multi-step procedure and various factors had been identified to stop this process at different stages. When you are shopping for cosmeceuticals for hyperpigmentation, look out for key ingredients such as hydroquinone, vitamin C, tranexamic, azelic and kojic acid, mulberry and soy produce.
RSB: When all things fail, is it about time to call in the big guns such as laser therapies?
Dr. Low: For stubborn pigmentation that don’t seem to respond to your creams, they can be safely and effectively treated with a variety of laser treatments. However, one should not see lasers as a last resort to tackle pigmentation. In fact, early treatment with the correct type of laser that is appropriate to one’s skin type not only help to clear pigmentation faster and earlier, but has the dual benefit of preventing further pigment formation too.
RSB: Dr. Low, can you share with us some of the laser works you had done to help women achieve or restore blemish-free complexions?
Dr. Low: As the spots on your face have been around for months, years or even decades, one should be realistic about her expectations to the time required and the eventual outcome of any treatment. A single session of laser may show little or at most minimal improvement. To treat pigmentation in a more structured and comprehensive manner, I would prefer to put my patients on an individualized program that’s tailored to suit her skin condition.
The Divine Whitening Program and the Brilliant Skin Program offer by The Sloane Clinic are two great options I like to engage to help my patients with pigmentation issues to go from drab to fab. By using FDA approved Pigment Laser and Fraxel Light Laser Therapy respectively as the core treatments in adjunct to whitening vitamin therapy and LED red light photo-modulation to encourage skin healing and rejuvenation, we are able to refresh dull, fatigued complexions and radically correct skin discolouration and texture irregularities without significant downtime. Besides busting pigmentation, it is also good to know that these laser treatments when performed regularly will also help stimulate collagen production, giving rise to more youthful and supple-looking skin!
RSB: Thanks for the insightful interview, Dr. Low! Any last words for our readers?
Dr. Low: Nothing makes a woman feel more confident and beautiful than having a flawless and radiant complexion. A handful might have won the genetics lottery when it comes to good skin but the majority have to work a little harder and invest a bit more time at it. Ultimately, for the amount of effort you put in, the results are bound to be gratifying.