Last updated: August 30, 2011
Hyperpigmentation occurs when patches of skin become darker than the surrounding areas. I got my first sun spots (also known as age spots or liver spots) on my arms and chest when I was 23. I'm now 35. Sun spots are one of the most common forms of uneven skin tone and there's no hiding, they are ugly.
From what I understand, unevenly pigmented skin cells are stuck on the skin's surface which means skin resurfacing procedures can easily get to and remove them to uncover normally pigmented skin underneath. Of all these treatments for getting rid of uneven skin tone, microderm abrasion is, without a doubt, the least invasive procedure. What microbrasion does is peel off a very fine layer of skin by sandblasting it with a flow of aluminum oxide micro crystals.
You wouldn't think that would be enough to even out skin tone but it does help. In some cases, though, these cells are deeper in the skin and not so easily removed with microderm abrasions.
My darker sun spots, for example, saw an improvement but did not fade completely. If you have severe hyper pigmentation (and by that I mean darker patches) you may have to look at other treatments. Microdermabarasion also improves cell turnover which helps with the irregular pigmentation (so long as it's the superficial kind). The quicker old, unevenly pigmented cells are shed, the quicker they are replaced by new, normally-pigmented skin cells.
Many people try micro dermabrasion once and give up in disappointment. Because this exfoliation is so superficial you can expect to see results after 10-12 abrasions. I didn't have microderm abrasion specifically for my sun spots but for the stretch marks left from my pregnancy. However, I was pleasantly surprised with what it did for my spots after a full treatment.
I really thought I'd need laser to get rid of my sun spots but, fortunately, they were very small and faded away nicely with microdermabrasion. You, however, may have other, more serious forms of uneven skin tone so here's a short list of available treatments:
Age or liver spots are the most common form of uneven skin tone. "Solar lentigines" (the medical term for this form of uneven pigmentation) appear due to sun damage. Areas most prone to age spots are those frequently exposed to the sun, like your hands, neck and face. Liver spots are caused by excessive sun exposure and the lack of appropriate SPF protection.
Melasma or chloasma spots look almost identical with age spots but they are larger and are caused by hormonal changes. You can get them on your face (temples and forehead), chest or abdomen, depending on what causes hyper pigmentation. Melasma appears most often because of hormonal changes (pregnancy or birth control pills, for example) and disappears after child birth or once you stop the birth control treatment.
Freckles are also signs of uneven skin pigmentation and can appear anywhere on the body, especially on the face, cleavage and hands. Freckles are usually inherited from parents.
Some forms of skin hyperpigmentation may be the result of acne or other skin conditions that could leave colored marks on the skin after healing. Cosmetic surgery, burns or injuries can also cause hyperpigmentation.
Another cause of hyperpigmentation may be drug treatment with amiodarone, tetracycline, minocycline, bleomycin, cyclophosphamide, chloroquine and quinacrine. If you have a history of taking any of these drugs and have uneven skin tone, it would be best to see a dermatologist.
Whatever form of hyper pigmentation you may have, you must remember that exposing unevenly pigmented skin to the sun can only make problems worse. Freckles, age spots or melasma only become darker or larger. What happens is that melanin absorbs ultraviolet rays in order to protect the skin. Usually, this process is called tanning, but in the case of hyperpigmentation, it can cause any dark patches to become even darker.
So, what I do is wear plenty of broad spectrum sunblock (broad spectrum means that the SPF lotion can block both UVA and UVB). I've been doing this since before I had most of my age spots removed. It may be too late for prevention but it's never too late to care.
Next, some of the personal-use microderm kits I've tried.
A: Some doctors say that over the counter microdermabration can work on mild acne without any risk of irritation or break-outs. There are a few studies published online that show that microdermbrasion can be an effective treatment for mild acne. Other specialists recommend against using microderm abrasion as acne treatment, especially on moderate or severe acne. Acne makes the skin more sensitive and prone to breakouts and exfoliation can cause severe scarring and additional inflammation.
A: Personal micoderm abrasion products can be used on your feet as long as it's especially formulated as a body micro dermal abrasion set. Using a facial microdermabrasian tool on your feet will not have the desired result because it's much too mild to have a significant effect on your feet. Clinic microderm abrasions are not suitable for use on the feet because the skin is too thin in that area. However, having microderm abrasion on your heels should work but better ask your doctor first.
A: Laser skin resurfacing is more invasive and also more effective on deeper skin imperfections. Microdermabration gives better results on superficial scars, lines and stretch marks.
A: We recommend that you wait until you deliver your baby and finish the nursing period before microdermabrastion Your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy and nursing and microdermabrasions machine may cause irritation or severe scarring. This procedure is also not recommended for pregnant and nursing women because hormonal changes during this period may reduce the effectiveness of the procedure.
A: Yes, most women who have tried micrdermabrasion and shared their experience online say that the procedure successfully diminished or in some cases even removed superficial aging signs like line and age spots, reduced the number of mild acne episodes and made skin look younger and feel smoother. There are of course women who say that microdermabrasion either damaged their skin, causing irritation and dryness, or had no effect whatsoever. The way your skin reacts to micro dermabration is a very personal thing and you have to try it for yourself to see if it's effective or not.
A: By exfoliating the top layer of the skin, micro derm abrasion kit cleans deep into the pore and removes excess oil and dirt that clog pores - which causes blackheads. Most blackheads are removed while more stubborn blackheads are reduced.
A: Microdermabrasian is not recommended for Differin users. Differin works the same as Tretinoin (which prevents debris, excess oil and skin cells from clogging the pores) and increases the risk of scarring when used when having microdermbrasion This applies to do-it-yourself system and salon treatment.
A: OTC micro abrasion system is appropriate for all skin colors (including Asian skin ) because this procedure sandblasts only the outermost skin layer which is made of dead skin cells. There's no damage to live tissue which could cause scarring or severe irritation. The exfoliation process involved in specialist microderm helps the skin renew itself quicker and more effectively.
A: Microderma creams remove the outermost layer of the skin by sandblasting it with a jet of micro crystals. During the procedure, part of the pigment is physically eliminated and, at the same time, collagen production is stimulated so that your skin regains its density and elasticity. After 6 to 12 Microdem abrasion treatments, smaller sun spots are entirely removed while larger ones fade significantly.
A: Micro skin abrasion works by sandblasting the outermost skin layer but cannot abrade deeper skin layers where tattooed skin cells are which is why it cannot be used for tattoo removal. Removing tattoos requires laser or surgical procedures which are invasive enough to reach pigmented skin cells.
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