Although many people are brought up to be color blind, it is obvious that skin color exists. The shade of your skin is not determined by race, but by the amount of melanin you contain. Melanin is a black, yellow, red, or brown pigment and is also responsible for the color of your iris, nervous system, and hair. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin will be, and as skin shades get lighter, these amounts are reduced.
Why would someone want to get rid of Melanin?
Almost everyone longs for a golden gram complexion; some even go through extreme measures to get there, so why get rid of it? Sometimes melanin begins to form in unwanted places. Acne scars, age spots and other forms of hyperpigmentation all have a common catalyst, overactive melanin.
Common pigmentation disorders include:
- Chloasma- Liver spots
- Lentigo- The proper term for freckles
- Melasma- A pigmentation disorder typically caused by a hormonal change. Pregnant women often get melisma on their faces (pregnancy mask).
- Nevus- A mole or birthmark
- Stain- Brown or red discolored skin
- Tan- Wait, a tan is a skin disorder? Let’s look into this a little further.
One of the biggest contributors to excessive melanin is the sun. Avid tanners often have freckles or moles that only appear because they’ve absorbed so much ultraviolet light. The UV light from the sun can penetrate the skin causing melanin to freak. Normally the entire body would develop the same amount of melanin throughout, so the skin appears to have a tan. Sometimes only certain spots are activated, and blotches appear. If you’ve always been a sunbather, unfortunately, most of your damage has already been done, even if it isn’t presently showing. The damage that you acquired when you were 18 could hide until you hit age 40.
For some, these dark areas appear because they are genetically tied to them. No matter what types of treatment you undergo, that spot is embedded in your skin and will come forward even if new skin develops. The one and only way to get rid of your natural born freckles or birthmarks is to cover them with makeup. Applying camouflage makeup takes a specific technique, so before you invest in a cover-up, consult with a makeup artist to learn how to execute the procedure correctly.
Make a few Lifestyle Changes
The habits you’ve developed over the years could be contributing to your additional melanin. Stopping these things may seem laborious, especially if you’ve been doing them for years, but it may save more than just your skin.
Slap on Some Sunscreen
As discussed earlier, the sun has a huge impact on your melanin production; the obvious way to protect yourself is to wear sunscreen. When shopping for the perfect product, be sure you are protected from all types of UV light. Although UVA rays don’t contribute to tanning, they can cause the skin to age rapidly. A good indicator that a sunscreen provides complete protection is to look for one that is labeled “broad-spectrum”. The most effective sun protection factor (SPF) is anything 30 and over. Yes SPF 15 is effective, but it won’t protect you as well or for as long as higher numbers. No matter which brand you choose reapplying sunscreen every two hours is ideal. Remember, your skin can absorb product and for sunscreen to work it has to remain topical. If you wear makeup invest in a powdered sunscreen, they make translucent ones so you can brush it right over your look. If you are going to be swimming, always opt for waterproof sunscreen but know that it will become ineffective after 80 minutes. You should also avoid tanning beds at all costs!
Switch up your Medication
If you have an illness that you take meds for, know that all medications come with side effects. Even if your concern doesn’t involve the skin, there are a few medications that could increase melanin production. Talk to your doctor about the effects of different treatments and request a different type if it is the source of your issue.
Slow down on the Partying
This is one of those habits that could fix a plethora of issues if you can kick it. Partying isn’t the main issue; it is the activities you engage in while you’re there. Smoking is very common in social settings, so much so that there are people who only smoke during those times. Studies show that smokers often have darker lips and fingers than non-smokers.
Although exfoliation should be as common as showering, many people aren’t aware of its importance. If you have discolored skin, and it doesn’t stem from genetics, the issue is only apparent on a few layers of skin. Any new skin cells that rise should no longer be discolored. Exfoliation helps to remove layers of skin quicker so that new cells are produced faster. Try not to scrub the skin too hard or use a harsh acid because they can make discoloration worse.
What the Doctor Ordered
Sometimes melanin production gets so severe that you have to visit a medical professional. You’ll probably see a dermatologist because they specialize in the skin, here are a few common treatments that are typically recommended for your concern.
Laser therapy- Your doc would attack dark spots with a laser. This treatment works very well but may require that you come back for additional sessions. Laser therapy is not effective for everyone; it works best when there is a big contrast between your original skin color and the dark spot. The laser can locate a dark spot on light skin much easier than it would on a deeper completion. I’m told the lasers feel like little pricks, and there isn’t much recovery time to worry about.
Medical Grade Exfoliation- If you are looking for an exfoliant at your local beauty retailer, you may notice that they are only available in specific strengths. This is because you have to be trained to work with stronger concentrations. If you need an intense scrub or peel try getting one at your dermatologist’s office, typical service options include:
Microdermabrasion-An abrasive tool is used to “sand” away layers of your skin. Don’t worry the layers removed will be very small so there will be no open skin.
Chemical peels- Using the acids we discussed earlier, the doctor will dissolve damaged/dead skin away. Most of these acids are the same ones you find in store bought peels, but they will be present at a higher concentration. For example, glycolic acid peels are only available in 30% or lower in stores, but you can go to a professional and get a stronger grade.
Melanin inhibitors- Skin lightening creams, serums, and lotions work by inhibiting melanin production. Your doctor may even prescribe a pill if your case is severe. Whenever you use these products, be sure to protect the skin from the sun by applying sunscreen on a consistent basis.
Keep in mind that reducing the amount of melanin in the skin isn’t going to happen overnight. Whichever treatment you choose will require a number of sessions so be patient!