The sun is our prime culprit when exploring the causes of skin discoloration. Exposure to the sun or UV light can increase skin color, or pigmentation. Hyperpigmentation problems occur when the body makes too much melanin, resulting in the brown pigment known as freckles, sunspots and melasma. It is triggered by an enzyme called tyrosinase, which creates the color of our skin, eyes, and hair. Excess melanin production is often caused by chronic unprotected sun exposure or hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or from birth control medication.
Melanin itself does provide some sun protection by absorbing the sun’s ultraviolet light. This explains why darker skin colors are less susceptible to sunburn and the overall damaging effects of sun exposure, although care should always be taken to avoid UV burns.
Other common causes for skin discoloration include vascular changes and a history of skin inflammation, such as occurs with chronic acne. Even if the acne itself has long since resolved, oftentimes a scar in the form of discolored skin can linger.
BBL / IPL
Broad Band Light (BBL), a form of Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), is an ideal laser light solution to target skin discoloration, particularly from acne or UV exposure. BBL uses heat via a flash lamp to produce light energy of multiple simultaneous wavelengths. These wavelengths are specifically attuned to target hemoglobin (the red blood cells in blood vessels) or melanin. The light beam passes through the skin and is absorbed by either hemoglobin or melanin, resulting in damage to the vessel wall or fragmenting of melanin pigment. These tiny vessels and the melanin pigment are then absorbed by the body, making them less visible.
BBL cannot make major improvements in the texture of skin. However, BBL can penetrate deeply through the layers of skin without ablating or wounding skin cells.
Chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing, and micro-needling via the Dermapen work by triggering the body’s wound healing response. When the skin is cut, the body rapidly works to repair the wound. Precisely cutting or removing the upper layers of skin in a cosmetic medical environment releases platelet-derived growth factors, builds collagen, and creates new, thicker, and more robust skin. The discolored skin has been removed and new, fresh skin takes its place.
Chemical peels and CO2 laser skin resurfacing each removes the damaged topmost layers of skin. Chemical peels use an acid-based solution which is applied to, and then removed from, the skin by our nurse, physician assistant or medical aesthetician.
Laser Skin Resurfacing
Laser skin resurfacing, sometimes referred to as micro-laser peels or fractionated lasers, peels and vaporizes the epidermis instantly. Instead of removing the whole skin as a flat surface, fractional lasers create hundreds of channels smaller than the size of pin holes in the skin. The body’s wound healing response is still activated, but because some skin is left untouched between the channels, recovery time is much quicker. New, fresh skin will grow to replace the area that was discolored before treatment.