Pigmentation

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As I am always under the sun, I do put a lot of sunblock and skin care, but I am not sure if it truly helps me skin. What is a good skin care routine for someone who goes under the sun for around 4-6 hours a day to keep the skin hydrated and to prevent more pigmentation?

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Hi Bernie,

Effective pigmentation treatment first begins with the correct diagnosis of the type of pigmentation because they are not all the same. Small round brown patches starting from childhood are commonly ephelides (or freckles in layperson terms), those that start in one’s late twenties onwards are solar lentigo (sun spots which increase in size and number with more sun exposure and age), some are actually seborrheic keratosis (age spots) which dermatologists do not consider as a pigmentation problem at all, but are actually benign tumours of the skin which increases as one grows older. A more widespread form of pigmentation is melasma, which is a brownish-grey discoloration often in a butterfly shape across one’s cheeks and forehead (in late stages) which is related to hormonal influences such as post-pregnancy.

If you already suffer from pigmentation, first of all, you need to be properly evaluated and diagnosed by a dermatologist (check your doctor’s qualifications here). Never use non-prescription whitening creams as these could potentially contain whitening agents which could be dangerous without proper medical supervision, or otherwise be completely useless. One could also suffer an allergic reaction to these over-the-counter beauty products, and these could also contain banned poisons such as mercury which can cause harmful health effects.

Also, do your part by applying a dermatologically tested and formulated broad-spectrum SPF50 sunscreen, to prevent worsening of pigmentation and development of new spots, in addition to slowing down the harmful effects of UV-radiation on skin-ageing and pigmentation. For daily use, re-application is advised every 2-3 hours. Re-applying sunscreen or double application helps to ensure coverage of areas that you may have missed the first time.

For outdoor sports or activities, ensure that sunscreen is applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, instead of putting it on only on the beach for example. Studies have shown that the sun protective effect of a sunscreen can be lost after contact with sand and with immersions in water. The 2-hour re-application rule applies, and it is especially recommended for individuals to adhere strictly to it when engaging in outdoor activities. 

Dr Teo Wan Lin

Dermatologist 

TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre

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