To the layperson, one patch of brown discolouration looks like any other. However, the underlying cause as well as the type of pigmentation may vary. Why this is of any consideration to us is because the way we handle them may vary, depending on what type of pigmentation they are.

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If you have been judiciously applying lightening cream over your blemished skin to no avail, it’s time to find out what exactly is the cause of your demise and how to effectively treat them.

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#1 Sun Spots

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As the name suggests, this type of pigmentation is essentially seen after sun exposure. This may be after a short sunny break or accumulated exposure over long periods of time such as ferrying your kids to school every morning. Every time you leave your house without sun protection, you are putting your skin at risk of sun spots.

Prevent: Prevention is better than cure in this case. A sunscreen is a must. Whether you are happy to use a high SPF or a BB cream with a lower SPF, the key is to use them judiciously. Some amount of protection is always better than none.

Heal: Once sun spots have formed on your skin, the fastest way to get rid of them with little to no downtime is to undergo a BBL therapy. BBL, also known as broadband light therapy is very effective in clearing superficial epidermal pigmentation such as sun spots. To augment the recovery from sun damage, add a potent vitamin C serum with concentration between 8 to 20%, for optimal skin effects.

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#2 Melasma

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This is also known as the mask of pregnancy as it frequently occurs after pregnancy, though it can also appear in non-pregnant ladies. The cause of melasma is hormonal so even taking oral contraceptives pills can be attributed to its appearance. It appears insidiously and while it looks fainter than sun spots, it can spread to cover large areas of the face, hence its nickname ‘mask of pregnancy’.

Prevent: Sunscreen can prevent existing melasma from worsening even though it cannot completely prevent its occurrence.

Heal: Once you notice a faint layer of pigment creeping onto your skin especially after you have started taking OCP or after pregnancy, you should be aware that you are suffering from melasma. Melasma is well-known for being stubborn and may not be as easily cleared as sun spots. As the pigment lies deeper into the skin, lasers such as BB Aquatouch and Fraxel light in combination with face peels and vitamin therapies have shown more promise than any single modality. Topical creams containing mequinol, arbutin, kojic acid can be useful in lightening it in conjunction with transdermal tranexamic acid therapy.

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#3 Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation

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This is often the result of trauma to the skin such as acne, picking of the skin, even harsh peels and lasers. In fact, there have been increasing cases of women who have suffered from PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) after using strong creams they have purchased online.

Prevent: The best way to avoid this is to be careful what you put onto your skin or the type of treatment you undergo. If you are using a new skincare product, try it on your arm first. If you are planning to undergo a laser treatment, make sure your skin is untanned and that you avoid sun exposure after the treatment. Choose a reputable laser provider who knows what he or she is doing. Asian skins are more prone to this problem due to the higher melanin content of the skin.

Heal: The mainstay of PIH treatment are gentle peels and gentle pico pigment lasers, that can slowly break down the excess melanin in the skin without hurting  the skin further. Creams containing azelaic acid have also been shown to be helpful in treating PIH.

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