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Winter is a great time to tackle pigmentation. Skincare expert, Tracy Quinn tells Elise Wilson how to banish brown spots.

Fine lines, wrinkles and an uneven skintone are all signs of sun-damage and skin ageing. But while your anti-ageing skincare products might improve collagen and elastin production, giving you plumper, younger­ looking skin, chances are they will not improve the appearance of pigmentation – those uneven brown patches, which can appear on the face, décolletage, and hands.

So what exactly is pigmentation?

Pigmentation is caused by the overproduction of melanin – which results in patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding area. Although it only affects the top layers of skin, pigmentation can have a hefty impact on our appearance and self-esteem. Hormonal changes (due to pregnancy or the contraceptive pill), hereditary conditions and certain medications are all known causes of pigmentation, but the main culprit is overexposure to the sun’s UVA rays.

“Unfortunately pigmentation is a problem in New Zealand due to our lifestyle and love for the outdoors,” says Tracy Quinn, skincare expert from House of Camille. The sun damage that leads to pigmentation can occur during childhood and adolescence, but the characteristic brown patches often do not appear for 10 or 20 years, she adds.

What can be done about pigmentation?

Treatments for pigmentation range from the high-tech to the topical, and all aim to lighten the appearance of the affected area.

“With the latest technologies all skin types can be treated for pigmentation,” says Quinn. “Skin needling treatments and IPL (intense pulsed light) are highly effective in breaking up the existing pigmentation in the skin’s cellular level.” These treatments can both be a little uncomfortable, but thankfully not painful, Quinn assures. “You can expect a bit of superficial swelling that could last up to a day, but there’s generally no scabbing,” she says.

The broken down melanin rises to the surface of the skin, making pigmented patches appear darker for up to a week, before skin cells renew leaving a clearer, more even complexion.

Alternatively, professional-strength products can be used to treat pigmentation at home as part of a regular skincare routine. “Products are more advanced in terms of ingredients, which are now more gentle on the skin and target key concerns like sun-induced pigmentation, melasma, freckles and post-inflammatory pigmentation,” says Quinn , who advises daily use of broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect skin from further damage. Pigmentation can be treated at any time of year, but Quinn recommends having more invasive treatments like peels, laser and needling in winter for optimum results, as these can all leave skin temporarily more sensitive to sunlight.

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