Skin discoloration can manifest as hyperpigmentation, the most irritating manifestation of which are melasma and lentigos.
The difference between melasma and lentigos is that melasma appears in quite big patches, often around the lips, forehead and the cheek bones. Melasma is linked to hormonal balance and is seen more in women using hormonal contraceptives. Lentigos are blotchy hyperpigmentation spots usually found in mature skin in areas of constant sun exposure as on the back of the hands and the decollete area.
Melasma is the most common type of hyperpigmentation. Its main internal contributor is fluctuation in hormone action, often related to birth control and going off it, or menopause and accompanying hormonal treatments. Pregnancy can sometimes also cause melasma, and some illnesses, medicines, and liver disorders may also give rise to it. Stress is a common cause for almost anything, including melasma. A poor or too restrictive diet, as well as anemia, can also cause pigmentation disorders.
External factors include burns, skin infections like acne, radiation, harsh mechanical irritation, and perfumes with high alcohol content.
Treating melasma requires patience and consistency. The best treatment is preventive: if you are predisposed to discoloration and you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun, I suggest starting preventive treatment by the time you’re 30.
The corner stones in treating melasma and lentigos are lightening products that control melanin production. They affect either tyrosinase enzyme activity which is the main contributor in melanin production or by breaking melanin. Ingredients used to affect tyrosinase enzyme activity may not be able to lighten already formed pigmentation. Ingredients used to break melanin on the other hand can lighten already formed pigmentation. The results can most often be seen in 8 to 16 weeks of beginning the treatment.
Aside of melanin production decreasing ingredients the regimen will contain an AHA peel. Glycolic acid or products containing it are the most beneficial in treating hyperpigmentation. Ingredients with ample antioxidants are a key factor as well, they play a part in reducing hyperpigmentation and inflamation and neutralising free radicals.
The process where melanin, pigment is formed is called melanogenesis. Hyperpigmentation can be treated with raw ingredients which restrict melanin filled melanosomes from transferring on to kerationocytes, this prevents melanogenesis, sun tan forming on the surface of the skin.
Read more about skin lightening ingredients in cosmetics from here.