Uneven skin tone can be described as a part of skin that is lighter or darker than the majority of skin surrounding it, resulting in an uneven complexion. Uneven skin tone is caused by an over-production, or uneven production, of melanin. Melanin, also called pigment, is a substance that gives the skin and hair its natural color.
Uneven skin tone can be the result of :
- Exposure to the sun – as the body gets older the skin is less able to recover from sun exposure. This is why uneven skin tone and age spots appear more typically in elderly people and adults.
- Hyper-pigmentation – this occurs when too much melanin is produced, causing brown or dark patches of skin to appear.
- Post-Infammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) – this condition typically occurs when skin is injured by a cut, scrape, burn, or chemical exposure or by acne scars, eczema or psoriasis. It’s not the wound itself that’s the problem but rather what happens during the healing process. As the wound heals, you may experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), in which the area around the injury turns dark, like a scar. This discoloration can last for months or years or may even be permanent.
- Hypo-pigmentation – the opposite of hyper-pigmentation, this occurs when too little melanin is produced, generally causing the loss of skin color.
- Vitiligo – a form of hypo-pigmentation that occurs when the cells responsible for creating melanin die or are unable to form melanin. It is characterized by patchy areas of depigmentation (no color) most typically on the face, hands, and wrists.
- Hormones – when hormones are the cause over-production of melanin, the condition is referred to as Melasma. Melasma is one of the most common forms of hyper-pigmentation and is often experienced by women who are pregnant (which is why it’s also known as the “mask of pregnancy”) or who are taking contraceptives, but it can also be from a reaction to cosmetics or medications.
- Oily Skin – those with very oily skin are more prone to have uneven skin tone. The oil (sebum), on the skin may cause the dead skin cells to solidify and stick, rather than flake away from the skin. Over time, this can give the appearance of uneven skin tone. However, this is the easiest form on uneven skin tone to treat – simply embark on a routine of regular exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and reveal healthy skin with a more even tone.
Prevention and Treatment
One of the most important things you can do to treat uneven skin tone is to prevent further damage from the sun. Always use a sunscreen, wear protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses, paying particular attention to areas already discolored. People with Melasma must take particular care to cover up and protect the skin as their discoloration may darken further and the condition may even spread.
There are a number of treatments for correcting uneven skin tone – some you can do at home, while others require a visit to your Dermatologist or Esthetician.
Skin bleaching, skin lightening, or skin whitening refers to a chemical process which will lighten the darkened patches and even out the skin tone.
For mild cases of uneven skin tone, simply add a brightening serum to your moisturizing lotion and use it daily. Products that contain natural extracts like soy, vitamin C, arubtin and licorice root all help reduce dark pigment and reveal a brighter complexion.
Bleaching agents such as Hydroquinone (the most commonly used bleaching agent), work by preventing melanin production and speeding up the exfoliation process. Even though the American Academy of Dermatology has declared this product a safe and effective chemical in treating uneven skin tone, it is somewhat controversial due to the active ingredient. Long-term use of Hydroquinone can damage the skin tissue over extended periods of use and some studies have even shown that very large doses could be carcinogenic.
Routine exfoliation removes dead skin cells from the outer layer of skin, revealing new skin and a more even skin tone. Failure to exfoliate regularly may result in even darker spots due to the increased melanin in those areas. There are many different exfoliants available including creams, scrubs, masks, sponges, exfoliating gloves etc. Always clean the skin first, then exfoliate the skin, and finish with a moisturizer to tone and condition the skin.
Microdermabrasion is a mechanical exfoliation of the top layer of the skin. This is done by using a hand held machine that fires crystals over the skin, or uses a diamond tip device, to abrade the skin and exfoliate the dead skin cells – it and then uses a suction to extract the debris. It is basically like an ultra-advanced facial scrub with a vacuum.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
IPL creates very high intensity light for short pulsed durations. The idea behind IPL treatments is that the light energy that contacts the surface of the skin is then transformed to heat energy in the deeper tissue. This is believed to bring the dark pigmented skin to the surface. Later that skin will then flake off revealing more even toned skin beneath it.
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