Dark pigmentation of the genital skin has always been looked down to by women.Even though this may be a sensitive subject for many to talk about, more and more women resort to intimate skin whitening laser treatments because they want to remove unwanted, unaesthetic darker-coloured skin that surrounds their intimate area, mostly for cosmetic reasons. This dark tissue can be caused by ageing, bacterial infection, hormonal changes, can be genetic, or appear after giving birth. There have also been cases for both women and men in which, after having undergone hair removal in their genital areas, they were left to discover areas of darker, unaesthetic colour.
Darker-coloured skin is a harmless condition, but if it starts to bother you and make you feel uncomfortable, you may want to take action, because it can often affect your self-confidence and sex life
Causes of Genital Hyperpigmentation
Skin color is formed by a combination of the pigments carotene, hemoglobin, and melanin. The main cause of vulvar hyperpigmentation is the production of melanin. Everyone has the same number of melanin-producing cells (melanocytes), regardless of ethnicity; however, the amount of melanin produced and how it is distributed will differ from person to person.
Benign pigmented hyperpigmentation of the vulva can occur in patients with dermatologic conditions such as lentigines, melanosis, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, seborrheic keratoses, acanthosis nigricans, lentigo simplex, warts, lichen planus, discoid lupus erythematosus, and psoriasis.
Most common causes of vulvar hyperpigmentation are physical in origin: waxing treatments for hair removal and the wearing of G-string undergarments and tight clothing or swimsuits. These practices result in excessive rubbing against the skin, which causes irritation and darkness of the vulvar-inguinal and perianal areas.
Chemical Agents Used for Genital Whitening
Lactic acid belongs to the alpha-hydroxy acid group and is a gentle acid commonly used in many skin care products. It is naturally occurring and present in sour or fermented milk. Lactic acid improves skin hydration, coloration, and quality. This chemical agent has moisturizing, exfoliating, and skin-lightening properties. As a moisturizer, lactic acid improves the skin hydration level by creating a barrier to hold moisture inside skin cells. The exfoliation property of lactic acid gently removes dead skin cells. After the skin scales, the new, younger skin looks softer and smoother. For skin lightening, the use of low concentrations of lactic acid for multiple cell cycles evens the skin tone.
Azelaic acid is produced by Malassezia furfur, which is a yeast that lives on normal skin. Its main chemical properties are antimicrobial and keratolytic, and it also removes free radicals. Originally, azelaic acid was used to treat rosacea and grade I and II acne. With regard to hyperpigmentation, azelaic acid is used for its skin-lightening properties and as a tyrosinase inhibitor to reduce melanin synthesis. It also has antioxidant and bactericidal properties.
Mandelic acid is extracted from bitter almonds. It has exfoliative properties, and it gently
adheres to the skin to peel away dead skin cells. Like glycolic acid and lactic acid, mandelic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid. The bigger size of its molecule (as compared with
glycolic acid and lactic acid) favors less penetration into the skin and thus less irritation.
It also has bactericidal and moisturizing properties.
A chemical peel is an older but nonetheless excellent technique for resurfacing the skin. After the skin peels, the new skin surface is lighter and smoother. Chemical peel treatment of the external genital skin is more difficult because of the sensitivity of the tissue in this area. Another challenge is in determining the extent of the area to treat, because the excess pigmentation may extend beyond the labia majora skin and affect the inner groin region. Because of the natural folds of the skin of the groin area rubbing with movement and against clothing, the skin in this area can be easily damaged. However, some chemical peel agents and formulations have been used in these areas with good results, including formulations combining phytic, retinoic, and azelaic acid in low concentrations.