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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Parsons


Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Are you prone to darkening of your facial skin with sun exposure? We all get a tan during the summer months, this is the normal darkening of our skin as our skin cells produce more melanin, which is a pigment that protects our skin cells from ultraviolet damage from sun exposure. Over time, this melanin rises to the surface of our skin and is naturally exfoliated away as skin cells mature and slough off. This is how our tan fades. But sometimes these cells that produce melanin, melanocytes, become damaged or over stimulated by hormonal imbalances, in men and women, and these menalocytes keep producing melanin, not in way that produces a nice even tan, but in a splotchy pattern that persists long past summer. This abnormal melanin production is known as melasma. It can occur when exposed to hormones like pregnancy, birth control pills, or can occur during hormonal changes during menopause. It can also be related to a genetic variation known as MTHFR which can cause melasma in men as well as women.

There are prescription medications that inhibit this abnormal production of melanin. The best known of these topical medications is hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is also available over the counter, but in lower percentages. Prescription hydroquinone is 4% or higher and is available only through a physician or compounded with a physician's order. Hydroquinone works by blocking the enzyme, tyrosinase, that leads to the formation of melanin. Other topical medications can also block the formation of abnormal pigment such ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Two additional topical prescription medications that are currently the most promising additions to melasma treatment are cysteamine (brand Cyspera), a very potent anti-oxidant, and tranexamic acid, which specifically targets hormone induced hyperpigmentation or melasma.

Of course, abnormal pigment on the face is aggravated by sun exposure, not only natural sunlight, but also visible light and even light from our computers and smart phones. So it is important to block the sun's ultraviolet light with zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and to block blue light from devices. Both ZO and Colorscience sunscreens have ingredients that block blue light from devices, which most sunscreens do not. So now, yes, wear your sunscreen before you go to bed if you are going to be on your smart phone!

Blue light from devices damages skin
Blue light from devices also damages skin

Though visible light can aggravate melasma, it is a specific wavelength of light that can also lift and eliminate abnormal deposits of skin pigment, the color cyan. And this is the color that we will use with our Sciton Broad Band Light treatment, also known as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) or photofacial.

Intense Pulsed Light with Sciton BBL
Intense Pulsed Light Treatment with Cyan Light

October is a perfect time of year to have an IPL treatment, to lift and eliminate sun spots, freckles and melasma caused by summer sun exposure. An IPL treatment is simple and quick. We will apply a cooling gel to your skin, and then a series of bright flashes of light similar to a camera flash will be applied to your skin. This will feel like brief pulses of heat. Upon completion of the treatment, you will feel as if you have a sunburn, which will last a few hours. You will notice the unwanted pigment begin to darken and over the next few days to week, the unwanted pigment will begin to work it's way to the surface of your skin and naturally exfoliate. For most people, only one treatment is needed, and results last as long as your skin remains protected. Melasma however is very stubborn, as the hormonal imbalances and genetic factors are ongoing. For melasma it will be very important to add topical prescription agents to limit the return of the abnormally produced pigment. I will recommend hydroquinone, zinc and titanium oxide, ascorbic acid, Cyspera, and topical tranexamic acid which is compounded.

Dr. Parsons performs all IPL treatments
You are in GOOD hands with Dr. Parsons!

For the month of October 2020, anyone who purchases a skin lightening and brightening regimen (products are variable and individualized, minimum purchase amount of $185) will be eligible to obtain all IPL treatments, any body area, half off. We want you to have the best results possible with your IPL treatment and maintain those results for as long as possible. Our skin brightening protocol works for all skin types and colors. IPL treatments can be performed on light to medium skin tones but cannot be performed on the darkest skin colors as it may lead to a burn.

My recommended skin lightening and brightening protocol is:

  • Gentle Cleanser

  • Salicylic 2% exfoliating and calming pads

  • Hydroquinone 4% with Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) to prevent the formation of unwanted pigment

  • Tretinoin (Retin-A) to speed up removal of unwanted pigment

  • ZO Daily Power Defense to normalize moisture production

  • Glycolic Acid 10% to exfoliate dead dry skin cells and speed up removal of pigment

  • Topical tranexamic acid, compounded, for Melasma

  • Topical Cyspera - currently the only practice in DE to offer this product

  • Zinc and titanium oxide with blue light protection Sunscreen

If you would like to begin the recovery process from a season or years of sun exposure and remove areas of unwanted skin pigment and damage or if you suffer from melasma, please call us to set up your IPL treatment and begin having lighter brighter skin and even complexion now.

Visit Us

416 Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach, DE Office: 302-227-1079 / Fax: 302-227-7080 OUR HOURSMonday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday: 10:00am - 2:30pm(10:00am - 4:30pm bi-weekly) ​​Wednesday/ Saturday/ Sunday: Closed

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