Depigmentation of the skin is commonly associated as a negative characteristic of certain people who, for reasons that we will see below, lose color in certain parts of their skin.
However, in the world of esthetics, skin depigmentation is a commonly used resource to treat skin blemishes.
What is skin depigmentation?
Depigmentation of the skin is a discoloration of the skin due to low melanin production.
Melanin is produced by melanocytes. Each of us has the same number of melanocytes; however, the amounts of melanin produced by the cells differ.
If the cells produce less melanin, the skin color is light, and if they produce more melanin, the skin color is dark. The amount of melanin produced in your body depends on your genes.
What causes skin depigmentation?
Depigmentation of the skin can be caused by a number of local and systemic conditions. Pigment loss may be partial, such as after a skin lesion, or complete due to vitiligo. It may be temporary, as for tinea versicolor, or permanent, as for albinism.
Symptoms and signs related to skin depigmentation include skin discoloration, dry skin and/or scaly skin.
Other causes of skin depigmentation include the following:
- Albinism: inherited lack of skin pigmentation.
- Dermatitis: inflammation of the skin.
- Infection: commonly a fungus called tinea alba or pityriasis versicolor.
- Steroid: corticosteroids, topical or injected.
- Traumatic skin lesions.
Vitiligo is the best known depigmenting skin disease. It causes the loss of melanin in the skin. It may be caused by genetic causes, stress, an immune system disorder or severe sunburn.
Treatments for skin depigmentation
As we said at the beginning of this article, in the aesthetic industry depigmentation is used to even out skin tone, lightening skin blemishes, which can appear anywhere on our skin, although they are especially unpleasant on the face, chins and upper lip.
Depigmenting creams are formulated with specific active ingredients to affect melanin production by inhibiting the synthesis of tyrosinase, an enzyme produced by melanocytes, responsible for the first step in melanin production. It converts a protein building block called tyrosine to dopaquinone, and a series of other chemical reactions convert dopaquinone to melanin in the body.
For a cream to have a depigmenting action, it must contain depigmenting agents. That is, it must be formulated with active ingredients such as:
- Hydroquinone, which prevents the overproduction of pigment cells and lightens spots.
- Retinoids, which promote skin regeneration.
- Corticosteroids: contribute to the reduction and prevention of skin inflammation.
- Vitamin B3, which decreases the production of melanosomes.
- And kojic acid, because it inhibits tyrosinase.
In addition to these depigmenting agents, creams also often include plant extracts, vitamin C, tranexamic acid and ferulic acid.
When to use depigmenting creams
Depigmenting agents are used in cases of:
- Vitiligo: a disease that causes loss of skin color in patches; the discolored areas usually enlarge over time.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: marks after chemical peels, laser treatments or even after an acne attack.
- Freckles: small flat tan or light brown spots on sun-exposed skin.
How to use depigmenting creams
We must apply the cream on the stain for a continuous period of time, which will depend on each case. The application can be done once or twice a day, although it is advisable to do it at night.
Depigmentation is usually achieved after one to four months. However, complete depigmentation of a particular site can take up to 12 months, when dead skin cells give way to new, brighter skin. The use of a sunscreen during the day increases the efficacy of depigmenting agents.
The common side effects that depigmenting agents can produce include itching or stinging; dryness; redness of the skin; reddening of the skin; and the skin, the following symptoms can be observed; localized contact dermatitis with blistering, scaling, dry skin and swelling; and loss of color (leucoderma) in sites away from the area of application of the cream.
Other less common side effects include:
- Exogenous ochronosis (asymptomatic blue-black pigmentation of the skin).
- Nail staining.
- Hypersensitivity reaction.
Who can use depigmentation creams?
In principle, anyone with dark spots on the skin could undergo depigmentation treatment.
However, people who have undergone surgery in the area to be treated must wait at least four months to undergo this treatment.
On the other hand, people with certain diseases or pathologies should not undergo this treatment without first consulting their physician.
Other depigmenting treatments
In addition to topical treatments, more advanced treatments can also be used, which are equally complementary and could give better results in case of combined use.
- Peeling: through the direct application of chemical substances, dead cells are removed and the skin is regenerated.
- Phototherapy: by means of ultraviolet light, it inhibits the inflammatory process, eliminating and slowing down cell reproduction. It also works with vitiligo, although in this case the treatment must be much longer lasting.
- Electroporation: also called virtual mesotherapy, it combines the use of topical products with active ingredients such as tranexamic acid, kojic acid, ferulic acid and retinol, together with electrical currents that allow these active ingredients to be introduced directly into the skin.
In addition, Sisneo’s virtual mesotherapy equipment also includes phototherapy, so both treatments can be combined to achieve an even greater result.
- Laser: the laser light beam acts directly on the stain in order to break up the pigment pocket. It is a very simple process that may cause mild redness.