I thought I’d developed age spots at 30. Three years ago, DJ Erika North developed disfiguring brown patches on her face.
She tells how it affected her confidence and the treatment that’s changed her life.
When Erika North went to Devon one weekend three years ago, she was delighted with the hot weather and returned home with a light, golden tan.
But just a few days later she was horrified to notice ugly brown patches had developed on her face.
‘Dark brown marks appeared on my forehead, but the worst were two square 1in patches on my cheeks,’ she says. ‘
They looked horrible, I thought I’d developed age spots at only 30.’
Initially hoping that the marks would fade with her tan, Erika tried to disguise them with make-up. But when they didn’t go she finally visited her GP, who diagnosed it as melasma.
‘I’d never heard of it, but my GP explained it was the result of increased levels of certain hormones in my body caused by the contraceptive pill I’d just changed to,’ the 33-year old Heart FM DJ explains.
‘I was really angry as I’d never taken the Pill had I known the effect it could have.’
The condition is also known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’ because it can affect women in their second and third trimesters due to hormonal changes. After coming off the brand of Pill she was on, Erika was told the best thing she could do was to stay out of the sun and hope the marks would fade over time.
‘For the next two years I always wore sun block and thick make-up hoping that the marks would disappear, but they didn’t,’ she says.
‘I felt disfigured, particularly as I’d suffered from acne when I was a teenager. Having to wear heavy make-up again brought back unhappy memories and feeling of self-consciousness.’
Finally, she become so unhappy that she began researching the condition in a bid to find an alternative treatment.
But it was a chance encounter in the hairdresser’s salon that finally prompted her to take action.
‘I was moaning about the marks to my friend and a woman in the chair next to me said she’s had hers removed with microdermabrasion, which uses tiny crystals to exfoliate the skin,’ she says. ‘I organised a consultation immediately’.
Unfortunately, Erika’s pigmentation went too deep for microdermabrasion to be effective and a chemical peel was recommended. These can be of various strengths and work to strip away the top layers of the skin.
‘I wasn’t over the moon a the thought of having a chemical peel, but I didn’t want to spend years feeling self-conscious about my skin and decided to go for it,’ she says. ‘Although I could have tried bleaches and whitening treatments first, I thought it was better to spend £350 on one more treatment I thought had more chance of working than money on lots of different lotions.
‘Before undergoing treatment, Erika spent three weeks applying the prescription cream Retin-A. A derivative of vitamin A,this helped to exfoliate the top layers of skin and boost skin renewal in preparation for the peel. And although the treatmenti tself only took 90 minutes, she was advised to take five days off work to allow the process to be completed.
‘I was really nervous before the treatment and, although it wasn’t painful, my skin tingled and looked pink afterwards, as if I’d been in the sun. It stayed that way for the next few days until it started to peel off in strips. ‘It looked so disgusting I didn’t want to go out and my skin felt really tight in the mornings,’ she reveals. ‘I looked awful and there was a moment when I thought I’d made things worse.
Thankfully, 10 days after the treatment she began to see the benefits. ‘The peeling had stopped and the brown marks were virtually unnoticeable,’ she says. ‘And now my skin has never looked better. It’s all the same colour and I feel confident enough to go out with just a slick of lip gloss and some mascara.
Although I looked like a freak, it was only for a week and it was definitely worth it as it’s really boosted my self-confidence. ‘Last week I saw on old friend and she rushed up to tell me how amazing my skin looked. Having been called pizza face as a teenager I never thought anyone would say that about my skin.
You can hear Erika every weekday between 4-7pm on Heart 106.2 FM.
Erika underwent treatment at The Private Clinic.