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 lackluster. 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 my skin flawless for spring, RSB talks to aesthetics physician, Dr. Chua Han Boon, senior aesthetics physician from the SW1 Clinic on how best to get our skin from patchy to perfect!
RSB: Hi Dr. Toby! To begin with, can you explain a little more to us about skin pigmentation?
Dr. Chua: Hi! 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 color to our skin, hair and eyes. Hyperpigmentation occurs when excess melanin is deposited in the skin, leading to patches of skin becoming darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. Similarly, hypopigmentation occurs when patches of skin become lighter or whiter in color than the surrounding skin.
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Common Pigmentation problems (L-R) — Melasma, Solar Lentigo (sun spot/liver spot), Ephelides (freckles)
RSB: So what are the common pigmentation problems faced by women today?
Dr. Chua: 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.
Pigment-busting “Holy Trinity” from the SW1 Shop (L to R)— UMBRELLA, WHITE PLASMA, SPECIAL EFFECTS
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. Chua: To start off with, if you are not already practicing 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. If you’re prone to developing pigmentation or have a family history, it’s best to up the SPF to 50 or more.
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 hydroquinoneor its derivatives, vitamin C, tranexamic, azelic and kojic acid, mulberry and soy produce.
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RSB: When all things fail, is it about time to call in the big guns such as laser therapies?
Dr. Chua: 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. Chua, can you share with us some of the laser works you had done to help women, such as MYSELF (*strong hint), achieve or restore blemish-free complexions?
Dr. Chua: 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.
For your case, I can see a smattering of sun spots over your cheeks possibly from an active outdoorsy lifestyle without adequate sun protection in your younger days? (Bingo! I was in my high school military band and captain of the netball team). There are also a couple of dark acne marks (PIH) along your jawline, moderately sized open pores on your T zone and some fine undereyes’ lines. Although these flaws aren’t too bad when viewed separately, putting them together dull your complexion tremendously. I would opt to address your skin issues with the Pico Pigment Laser, best to be done as part of our Porcelain Skin Program.
The Pico Pigment Laser is certainly one of the most gentle form (yet highly effective) of laser treatment that I’ve come across in my 15 years of working experience with laser and light therapies.It is the latest generation of FDA-approved pigment lasers that engages state-of-the-art Picosecond technology to generate very high tensile stress which effectively shatter pigments under the skin at very low energy settings with very minimal heat and almost negligible collateral tissue damage.
I Did Pico Pigment Laser— Here’s what Happened
After 10 mins of numbing cream, I only felt a mildly warm, ant bite-liked sensation with the Pico Pigment laser treatment which lasted about 15 to 20 minutes. It was a very bearable procedure and there’s hardly any redness after having a post-laser mask to calm down the skin.
The Porcelain Skin Program is an in-house speciality of the SW1 Clinic based on a revolutionary Japanese research into ultimate skin fairness and pigment correction. Engaging advanced Pico Pigment Laser to tackle skin pigmentation, this comprehensive approach is designed to refresh dull, fatigued complexions and radically correct skin discolouration and texture irregularities without significant downtime.This brilliant laser utilizes premiere Picosecond technology with the possibility of an added IPL function to erase stubborn pigmentation together with surface imperfections such as pores, lines and textural irregularities; working in synergy with LED RED photomodulation and Pearl éclat to supercharge cellular renewal, self-repair and collagen replenishment to bestow upon users enviable glowy skins.
What’s my verdict?
A picture paints a thousand words… so what do you think?
Pico Pigment Laser @SW1 Clinic
$642.00 SGD (single session)
$5136.00 SGD (Porcelain Skin Program)
“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.”— Dr. Chua
With close to 15 years of working experience in the field of Aesthetics Medicine, Dr. Chua (formerly from The Sloane Clinic), is currently a senior medical consultant with the SW1 Clinic, a one-stop aesthetics destination that caters to both non-invasive cosmetics medical skin treatments and cutting edge plastic surgery, addressing all possible beauty woes without prejudice and limitations.