Hyperpigmentation is a common, harmless condition characterized by the development of darker areas in the skin. Dark liver spots and patchy deposits of pigment are often seen in older individuals as manifestations of hyperpigmentation. These darker areas are caused by accumulations of the pigment melanin. Hyperpigmentation affects individuals of all skin colors and is most commonly caused by years of exposure to excessive sunlight or because of inflammation of the skin. Although harmless, hyperpigmentation can be cosmetically displeasing and can add years to a person’s appearance.
Vitamin C is an important dietary vitamin and plays many roles in skin health. One of its functions is to block the action of an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is essential for the formation of the pigment melanin. Application of large amounts of vitamin C to the skin will slowly fade away deposits of hyperpigmentation as long as the skin is also protected from sunlight with sunscreen or a hat. Vitamin C doesn’t seem to affect normal skin coloration – it will not, for example, fade away normal dark skin pigmentation, just the abnormal melanin deposits that are associated with sun damage.
The problem with the use of vitamin C to treat hyperpigmentation is effectively getting it into the skin. Oral consumption of vitamin C doesn’t get sufficient amounts of the vitamin to the right place to lighten skin. Simply applying solutions of vitamin C to the face allows only a tiny amount of the vitamin to penetrate into the skin. Iontophoresis uses a controlled electrical charge to propel molecules into the skin. Vitamin C iontophoresis has been shown in clinical studies to improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
What to Expect
At the start of treatment, the skin in the treated area will be cleansed. A solution containing the vitamin C will then be applied to the skin, and the device will be moved slowly over the surface. Each treatment takes about 30 minutes. A mild tingling sensation may occur, but treatment is not painful. After treatment, individuals can immediately return to their regular activities. There is no recovery period or downtime, but there may be some minor, temporary skin irritation after each treatment.
Most individuals will need to get a weekly iontophoresis treatment for about three months to fade away dark liver spots and hyperpigmentation areas completely. During and after this period, the skin will need to be diligently protected from sunlight or the pigment deposits may recur. As a side effect, increasing the amount of vitamin C in the skin can induce the skin to manufacture more collagen, which can improve the texture of the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Schedule Your Consultation
At Metro Dermatology in Elmhurst, we offer cosmetic treatments for a variety of skin concerns including hyperpigmentation. We’ll work with you to determine if vitamin C Iontophoresis is right for you, and we can recommend treatments for your specific needs. Contact Metro Dermatology today to schedule your consultation.