We offer Vancouver pigmentation treatments (in Surrey), for both hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation problems. Clients come to us from Delta (Ladner and Tsawwassen), Langley, White Rock, Burnaby, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, the Sunshine Coast, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Aldergrove, Chilliwack, Abbotsford and beyond for this treatment, and others.
Related to skin colour, we also treat:
- Rosacea and redness, known as erythema, which you can read about here.
- Red spots or dots, which you can learn about on this page.
- Macular (flat and dark) acne scars, described on this page.
- Sun damage forming a host of pigmentation issues, listed here.
- Moles, written about here.
And more. You can see all the conditions we treat in Vancouver, at our Surrey clinic, here.
Pigmentation issues are often uneven, and unsightly. They result in blotchy skin, which can be embarrassing, or down right annoying. Many people choose to cover up these skin tone abnormalities with makeup.
The good news is, in many cases, you don’t have to keep covering up. There are treatments available that can help to equalize your skin’s discolouration – whether it is red, purple, brown, black or lacking colour at all.
On this page, we’ll cover the browns and whites, since that’s what people usually mean when speaking of “pigmentation.”
Pigmentation on the skin can be localized, or form throughout the body. They can come and go, or be permanent. You can be born with pigment problems, or develop them later in life. They can be genetic, or related to infections or diseases. They can be spots, or patches of colour.
There is almost no limit to how the skin can form discolouration as a result of melanin over or under-production (which we explain below).
If you have melasma, brown spots, moles, sun damage or other cosmetic, benign pigmentation problems, the first step towards treatment is to book a consultation at our clinic. We’ll be able to take a closer look, and make recommendations on solutions we think will work for you. We’ll also be honest, if we think your condition is simply not treatable, or if we believe you’ll experience little change from our procedures.
Please note: procedures and consultations at our clinic, even if performed by a licensed doctor, are not covered by MSP, nor most private insurance carriers. We also do not treat cancerous or infected skin, which you should see a doctor about, right away. Our clinic focuses on aesthetic medicine, which is usually elective, and used for harmless beauty concerns. If you are not sure whether your condition is dangerous or not, you may see our doctor for a fee, or visit your insured provider as a first step.
Some people can form grey or blue hues on their skin. We don’t treat those cases at our clinic. Please see a doctor right away if you have this problem.
What causes skin pigmentation problems?
Skin pigmentation is the result of abnormalities in the way your body produces melanin. Melanin is contained in your skin. It is basically pigment, produced by melanocytes, through a system called melanogenesis. When pigment is formed in these little ‘melanin factories,’ they spread to other nearby cells. In healthy skin, this causes a uniform distribution of colour.
Melanin itself can be found in your skin, your eyes, your hair and anywhere you see colour on your body (including genital areas and organs).
Melanocyte activity explains why some people have lighter skin, and some people have darker skin. Darker skin means more melanogenesis is happening more often in the dermis. Albinism is the absence of melanin, due to disrupted melanocytes. The condition is genetic, and untreatable.
Melanocytes are immune-response cells that live at the bottom layer of your skin, called the stratum basale. They react to protect your skin, and thus your body, from ‘bad’ cells and invaders, like free radicals from sun damage. For example, when you tan, your melanocytes produce more melanin, to protect you from UV radiation. It is an immune response (and it’s not good!).
Melanocytes are also affected by hormone activity. They don’t act alone – they have ‘partners’ and ‘helpers’ in your body – whether invited or not.
Sometimes, so much damage is caused on your ‘normal’ skin, that melanin production goes into ‘overdrive.’ Clusters of ‘confused’ melanocytes start producing excess melanin. You’ll end up with permanent browning, yellowing or redness on the skin. Sun exposure and tanning beds can do this. But, so can other sources of toxins, skin diseases, genetic conditions, hormonal fluctuations, medication and more.
The skin can also lose its ability to produce melanin, which causes lighter skin patches. This happens with age, as the melanocytes in your body start to decrease and spread out. But, it can also happen when the skin barrier is damaged, and forms a scar. Still, other times, the issue of lighter patches is genetic (like vitiligo), or related to a skin condition.
Hyperpigmentation is the term used to describe darker skin patches and discolouration.
Hypopigmentation and depigmentation are the terms used to describe a lack, or loss of skin colour.
Do you treat all skin pigmentation issues with lasers and creams?
We can treat many non-infectious skin pigmentation issues, but not all. In some cases, a skin condition of dark patches can be indicative of a dangerous problem, which is not just a skin colour issue. These cases need to be seen by a medical practitioner, who will look at them from a medical angle, before anything cosmetic is done about them.
Examples of these medical issues include:
- Addison’s disease
- Coeliac disease
- Acanthosis nigricans
- Cronkhite–Canada syndrome
- Chemical exposure or medication side-effects
Most of the time, you’ll know if you have these types of serious problems (where pigmentation is one symptom of many), since they start in childhood. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t get them later in life. We’ll let you know if we think your problem is serious, during your first consultation with us.
That said, when it comes to harmless – albeit undesired – skin discolouration, it is very probable that our beauty clinic can help. To give some examples, we can treat:
(Click the items below to expand for more detail, and a photo)Melasma (a.k.a. chloasma)
Melasma (a.k.a. chloasma) – this is when hormone changes produce large, patchy brown areas, typically on the face. This can also be called the “mask of pregnancy,” because it can happen during gestation. We have a page dedicated to melasma, here.
Linea nigra – this a brown, vertical line that forms on the abdomen during pregnancy. It is usually caused by excess melanin production, thanks to a hormone in the placenta. Though, it can happen in men, and outside pregnancy too. It usually goes away on its own. If not, we can help.
Café-au-lait birthmarks – these are flat, light brown, oval spots, often formed in childhood. If they don’t fade on their own, they can be treated with lasers. They should be screened for neurofibromatosis.
Freckles (a.k.a. ephelides) – freckles are innumerable tiny brown spots that form in clusters. They are inherited, and common in European, fair-skinned people (especially when exposed to the sun). They can be treated, if you don’t like them.
Moles – moles are collections of excessive skin and melanin. They can be dangerous, but many are benign. They can be removed. We have a page dedicated to moles, here.
Scars – when the skin experiences trauma, melanocytes can be damaged. As a result, when the injury heals, the skin may be lighter or darker in that area. Scar pigmentation doesn’t have to be from external cuts. They can also happen when irritated skin heals, such as from dermatitis, allergic reactions or chemical exposure (even from medicines).
Macular hyperpigmented acne scars – these are actually leftover blood cells that erupted when a pimple or nodule broke the skin open. The blood gets ‘trapped’ in the skin where the injury was. As it heals, it turns brown, or very dark red. These eventually fade on their own, as your skin sheds, and your immune system carries away the dead cells for disposal. However, there are ways of speeding up the shedding process, to heal them sooner. For more on acne scars, please see this page.
Vitiligo – this is when your skin is partially depigmented in severe, high-contrast patterns. The only thing that can be done about this skin condition is blending the darker skin into the lighter skin, using skin lighteners.
We list even more pigmentation problems on our page about dermal sun damage.
What solutions do you offer for Vancouver hyperpigmentation treatments?
Our Vancouver hyperpigmentation treatments start with a consultation to:
- Determine the condition you have, and to eliminate other possibilities.
- Find out how severe the pigmentation is, using technologies to see under the skin, as well as an analysis of visible skin. For example, we’ll take VISIA® UV photographs.
- Learn about your skin type, health history, allergies, existing diagnoses, and the issues that bother you the most about your skin.
- Educate you on the treatment possibilities available at our clinic, or otherwise.
Skin pigmentation can come from a wide variety of sources, as we’ve explained above. So, depending on your case, we may recommend one, or a mix of treatments, to better deal with your skin tone.
Some of the common treatment options we offer, to even out blotchy skin, include:
(Click on the items below to expand for more detail)
Laser photofacials to remove skin pigments
We carry a wide variety of lasers. They each come with their own strengths for reaching a certain depth in the skin, or a certain pigment colour. This way, we can help patients who have irregular skin pigmentation. These don’t often ‘fit’ into one ‘category’ of laser solutions, so they need multiple kinds.
While we are always updating our technologies to offer the latest advancements in skin care, our current lasers for targeting skin pigments include the enlighten®, PicoSure™ and GentleMax Pro™. Though, technically, our other lasers can also do this job, depending on the case we are dealing with.
What about IPL or BBL photofacial treatments?
You may have heard of IPL, or BBL treatments as a popular, light-based option to treat pigmentation. We do not offer these at our clinic.
We have found that the undirected light from these technologies can create more side effects, including a worsening of skin pigmentation. For that reason, we choose to do our photofacial treatments with specific wavelengths of light, using the latest lasers on the market. Lasers target only the cells with colour in them, while leaving surrounding skin cells alone.
Deep exfoliation and resurfacing methods to remove pigmented skin cells
An important part of treating skin hyperpigmentation, is removing the cells where excess melanin has gathered. This might sound scary, but it’s not; your skin is supposed to shed, and renew its cells naturally.
When we use technology to deeply exfoliate, we are simply ‘helping’ the skin shed more quickly. We do this by removing thin, top layers of the epidermis. As a result, the body goes into ‘response’ mode, by producing fresh, new skin cells, sooner.
Deep exfoliation can be as ‘light’ as routine sessions of:
Or, it can go as extreme as:
- A strong chemical peel
- Plasma skin resurfacing
- A skin resurfacing treatment with the Fraxel® DUAL or a Fractional CO2 laser
The more advanced skin rejuvenation treatments listed above can require a series of treatments to be effective. They can also involve before-and-after care, and routine habits to keep the pigments at bay.
How do we know your skin won’t produce more melanin when it creates new skin cells after exfoliation?
This is why it is so important to seek a qualified, medically-run laser clinic before doing these types of treatments. It’s also why your initial consultation with us is necessary.
If your pigmentation is related to an internal, functional problem in your body, then it is likely the melanocytes will over-activate again, regardless of how well we exfoliate. Skin resurfacing can even make your condition worse. Or, if your skin type is sensitive, over-exfoliation – even with so-called ‘mild’ methods – can cause redness, which is not helpful, either.
We try to prevent these issues before we encounter them. Though sometimes, they are extremely hard to predict.
That said, some cases of functional, hyperpigmented skin can be helped by continual treatment sessions. Other times, a patient’s expectations need to be realistic about how much can be done for their skin, even with the best technologies on the market.
Prescription and cosmeceutical skin brightening treatments
Most prescription medications used for hyperpigmentation target tyrosinase. This is an enzyme that regulates your melanin production, inside those melanocytes we described earlier on this page.
To that end, we look for topical creams that contain ingredients like:
- Retinoids (Vitamin A derivatives)
- Azelaic acid
- Kojic acid
- Antioxidants to fight free radicals (e.g. Vitamin C)
- Sun screen to inhibit free radicals
These are particularly useful as so-called, ‘skin bleaching products.’ However, since some of the above ingredients can be quite strong, and not safe for long-term use, some doctors may use different solutions. For example, one skin lightener being used lately is arbutin. This is actually a glycosylated hydroquinone. It is less intense.
Sometimes, alternative, or milder concentrations of skin bleaching ingredients are used in the classification of products known as cosmeceuticals. In these cases, a prescription is not needed. For skin pigmentation, we recommend the following cosmeceuticals, which are proven to be effective:
SkinMedica® Lytera® 2.0
This product uses pigment-fighters like tranexamic acid, phenylethyl resorcinol, niacinamide, tetrapeptide-30, marine extracts and phytic acid.
Buy Lytera 2.0 online, here.
Read more about this product, and other essential skin treatments, here. SkinMedica® also produces retinol-based skin creams, and other pigment-helpers, which we may recommend, after seeing you in person.
Colorescience® Even Up® Clinical Pigment Perfector® with SPF 50
This is a tinted cream SPF that also helps to correct skin tone with a proprietary blend called the “LUMIRA® Skin Brightening Complex.” SPF is critical to preventing hyperpigmentation, and all Colorescience® products use broad-spectrum, mineral-based sunscreens.
Overall, Even Up® comprises the perfect cohort of features to protect you from the sun, cover up blotchy skin and treat pigmentation – all at the same time.
Buy Even Up® online, here. On that page, you can also read about the product, and view studies proving its effectiveness.
We sell both of the above cosmeceutical products at our clinic, and recommend they be used together, for best results.
What is the cost of skin pigmentation treatments at your Surrey clinic?
Since there are many types of skin pigmentation, and many treatment options to go with them, it is hard to say what the absolute cost of anyone’s treatments will be. Sometimes, a series, or mix of treatments will be recommended, depending on the unique individual we are dealing with.
We can say that our treatments start at around $150, more or less, and can go up to thousands per session.
If you are covered for prescriptions, your treatments might even cost you nothing. You’ll need to check with your insurance provider about this.
To learn more about your condition, and what it will take to treat it, we recommend booking a consultation at our clinic. From there, we’ll be able to give you ballpark figures of cost, as well as options that we think will work for you.
Our initial consultation has a fee. However, this fee can be used towards services at our clinic, within a certain time frame.
Note: our services are not covered by MSP, nor most insurance providers. We do have a licensed physician on staff, who can write prescriptions, the products of which may be covered. However, seeing our doctors through our private consults are not covered, which means they are charged to the patient.
Prices on this website are to be used as a guide, and not a definite cost for your treatment. Prices can change at any time.
Procedure results are not guaranteed, and can vary from patient to patient.