It’s truly amazing what can be hid under some good makeup and a lightroom preset, and the above photo is a perfect example of this. The reality of my skin paints a far different picture.
It’s been a while since I’ve shared a skincare related post here. In fact, I think it’s actually been years.
If you follow along on my instagram page, by now you’re well aware of my long time battle with a pretty severe case of melasma, aka hyperpigmentation. What’s worse about my case, is within my melasma, I’ve also been blessed with patches of hypo-pigmentation….lucky me! These pure white pigmentless spots are made even more obvious due to the contrast of the dark melasma.
Several years ago, in fact I think I blogged about it, I began using the Obagi Nu-derm system to help combat my pigment issues. I had friends who used the system with incredible results, so I consulted with an aesthetician at a local med spa about it, and jumped in with both feet and a great deal of enthusiasm. It’s a relatively strict regimen, but I stuck with it for a good two years to make sure I gave it the old college try.
A big component of the complete Nu-derm system is the use of hydroquinone, which in simple terms is a topical bleaching agent. Even prior to this, as in before Michael and I even got married–so over a decade ago, I had used hydroquinone that was prescribed by my dermatologist to help combat the melasma that was appearing on my cheeks, neck, and jaw line. At one point, I was even prescribed the strongest hydroquinone possible, which I had to have compounded at a local pharmacy and store in my refrigerator.
My dermatological woes go much further back, and include many different battles, but that’s a whole other blog post. So it’s difficult to recall exactly what my skin tone looked like 11-12 years ago, but in hindsight, it seems that perhaps all the prolonged use of hydroquinone may have contributed to my spots of white hypo-pigmentation.
Enter the amazing team at Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery & Medical Spa to the rescue, who have been tireless and undeterred in their pursuit of turning my skin around for the past year (since February 2020).
We don’t know for sure yet, but since I’ve also suffered from acne basically my entire life, one of our working theories is that the hydroquinone may have impacted my underlying scar tissue from acne more severely, which resulted in the hypo-pigmented spots.
For good measure, we did throw a series of oral and topical antifungal treatments at it to rule out Tinea Versicolor last year, but the treatments didn’t seem to have an effect. Though it’s still possible that there was an underlying fungal infection, but it may take years for pigment to naturally produce in those affected areas again.
To be clear, my experience with the Obagi Nu-derm system and Hydroquinone is not common, as I know several people who’ve used both with incredible results.
The bottom line is skincare is not one size fits all, so just because something works well for my friend, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you or I. I desperately wanted the Nu-derm system to work for me the way it worked for my beautiful girlfriends, so I ignored the signs when it wasn’t working for me and stubbornly carried on with it for far too long.
Fast forward to the year of COVID, which in spite of all the absolute horribleness that has come along with a global pandemic, it turned out to be a decent opportunity to lay low while experimenting with different skin treatments. And by far, the treatment that has been the most effective is the combination of Laser Genesis (click here for more info on Laser Genesis) and LimeLight IPL (click here for more info on IPL).
Laser Genesis in a nutshell:
- stimulates elastin
- stimulates collagen production
- minimizes appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and minor scarring
- breaks down tiny blood vessels and capillaries to reduce redness
- ideal for improving skin texture
- not painful
- non-invasive and requires zero downtime
- safe for all skin types and ethnicities, unlike some lasers that can cause discoloration if used on the wrong skin type
- 3-10 treatments are recommended
LimeLight IPL in a nutshell:
- ideal for correcting uneven skin tone and surface imperfections
- targets and reduces appearance of redness and brown spots
- involves some brief pain/discomfort, similar to a pinching or stinging with each short burst of light
- non-invasive and requires zero downtime
- At least 3 treatments are recommended for visible results
These two treatments have been found to work really well together, and they can conveniently be done in one session. My appointments usually take about one hour, and my sessions probably run longer than most because….well, I’m a talker ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’ve had three sessions now with Asta, who’s one of Sweetgrass’ trusted aestheticians. Asta also worked many years as a nurse prior to changing career paths, so she has a wealth of practical medical knowledge, which is enormously beneficial to her role as an aesthetician.
You can clearly see the difference below. My pigment patterns are almost like a road map, so it’s easy to compare the photos and see how the contrast between my hyper and hypo-pigment is less drastic, thus my skin tone is more even. You can also see specific spots where it appears the melasma is shrinking, or basically breaking apart under the surface. To say I’m happy with these results is an understatement.
The before pic on the top left was taken in the morning right before my first treatment. And If you compare that before pic with the earlier pic from 2018, you might notice that my melasma had actually slightly improved since that pic was taken. Over the course of the past year we’ve tried a few more mild treatments, as well as medical grade skincare products, which definitely improved the appearance of my skin, but again, the Laser Genesis and LimeLight combo has given me the most objectively noticeable results.
Does my skin look perfect? Nope. But it didn’t look perfect back when I was in third grade either, and a classroom bully named Anita Stanley asked me if I had scribbled red ink all over my cheeks. Funny the things we so vividly remember 30+ years later. I had skin issues even as a child in the form of broken capillaries and collections of visible blood vessels (aka telangiectasia) on my cheeks, but I digress. The difference since my three Laser Genesis + LimeLight treatments is absolutely huge to me. My melasma and hypo-pigmented spots are still there, but the contrast is far less drastic, so it’s no longer so glaringly obvious when I see myself in the mirror. Plus, it’ll be much easier to cover with makeup.
I was less concerned about the redness from my mild areas of telangiectasia, but I also can tell that the appearance of my surface blood vessels and other generalized redness is diminishing too, which is a huge bonus.
I’m hopeful that perhaps we can repeat these treatments, and they’ll provide equally impactful results to continue to combat my melasma. I’ll definitely keep you posted of any future results.
I know I have spent many a night googling melasma treatments into the wee hours, so hopefully this info will help someone as desperate as I have been to find solutions to correct pigment irregularities.
Catch a glimpse of my whole experience in the video below:)
*A note about my relationship with Sweetgrass.
I have received treatments at a discount or free of charge since February 2020 as an ambassador of Sweetgrass. I wasn’t asked to write this blog post, but simply felt compelled to because I really wanted to share these impressive results.
If you’ve suffered from pigment issues as well, and have other recommendations for effective treatments, please share them in the comments below! Also, I’m just a girl who shares random stuff on the internet, so you should definitely do your own research and due diligence when it comes to my recommendations, or really anything I post here. I will never intentionally mislead you, but I’m also not an expert in pretty much anything and bound to make mistakes! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
J Tay says
I have similarly had melasma, acne, and tinea versicolor, althought not as extreme. I took oral antifungals to clear up the fungus, then i started accutane to get the acne under control, now im starting my melasma treatment which wasnt as bothersome for me since it was mostly a few areas on my forehead. Have you considered tresting the acne? It does wonders when i stopped picking my faCe and it healed over aFter some microneedling.
Good luck and thanks for Sharing!
Thank you for sharing this! I’ve actually done multiple cycles of accutane….I’m not sure my liver could handle any more!=\ Now I intermittently take either antibiotics or spironolactone when it’s especially out of control. It’s unfortunately bc I think a lot of anti-aging products tend to break me out, but at my age I need them;) For the hypo-pigmented spots we tried oral antifungals and a topical last year prior to this series of laser treatments, but unfortunately there was no change so we sort of came to the conclusion that perhaps the hypo pigmented spots were a result of scaring vs tinea versicolor. However, I’ve been doing some more research lately and it seems that maybe I need a longer course of oral antifungals bc some people apparently have more stubborn cases and require monthly maintenance doses, so I think I’m going to give that a go again and see what happens;). Ohhh the joys of adult acne and pigment struggles =\
THANKs FOR SHARING THIS. ITS SO HARD TO FIND INFORMATION ABOUT both HYPO AND HYPER PIGMENTATION ON THE INTERNET. I’VE STRUGGLED WITH HYPO-PIGMENTATION (LEFT OVER FROM ACNE SCARING, SUN DAMAGE AND WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE) AND HYPER-PIGMENTATION /MELASMA FOR YEARS. I’M EARLY 30S FEMALE AND HAVE SIMILAR LOOKING SKIN TO YOURS ALL OVER MY FACE, JAWLINE AND CHEST. I’VE TRIED COUNTLESS TREATMENTS AND PROCEDURES – PRP microneedling, peels, non-ablative lasers, oBagi + zo products, tretinoin, Hq cream, Doing nothIng – but have found NO Real IMPROVEMENT SO I’M STILL SEARCHING FOR A SKIN MIRACLE. CURRENTLY i’m TRYING UVB LIGHT THERAPY to rePigment light spots, but just started so not sure If its working yeT. Looking at MICRONEEDLING WITH LATISSE next.
YOUR TREATMENT RESULTS LOOK so good!! I’M GOING TO LOOK INTO THIS as well. I’M CURIOUS HOW YOUR JOURNEY IS GOING SINCE YOU WROTE THIS POST? WHAT MAKEUP DO YOU USE OR RECOMMEND TO COVER? ANY OTHER skin ADVICE OR TIPS? I CAN NEVER COVER MINE FULLY AND NEVER FEEL COMFORTABLE IN MY SKIN. THANKS!
Thank you for reaching out Em! Oh do I feel your pain! It’s such an ongoing battle, and mine is still not quite over. The biggest struggle for me still is the hypo-pigmented spots….mainly bc they make the melasma look 10x worse, ya know?! So I’m currently in month 5 of taking an oral med regimen to see if my hypo-pigment is in fact caused by tinea versicolor. We took a stab at this theory a couple years ago with two doses of flucanazole and topical antifungals for a couple months, but I didn’t see results back then. However after doing more research it seems maybe we just weren’t aggressive enough with the treatment (studies show some people need to be on a maintenance dosage of oral meds to keep it under control). I’m in the process of documenting this journey….not quite sure yet if it’ll be 100% successful, but I feel like I’m seeing a little progress with some white spots starting to re-pigment. I started reconsidering the fungal/tinea versicolor theory bc the white spots are in places where I’ve never had acne (so there’s no scar tissue there), nor have I applied hydroquinone in these spots (so there’s no reason for the skin to be bleached), so fingers crossed this will work! As far as makeup goes, my absolute favorite foundation for good coverage is the estee lauder double wear maximum cover (it’s in a navy blue container and I buy it on amazon without any problems). A little goes a really long way so it lasts me like 5-6 months….and for a more dewey finish I sometimes mix a couple drops of Epionce’s oil primer with the foundation:). Whew! I hope this all helps!! Please reach out if you have any other questions:) Xx ~Bree