The natural colouring of a human skin is known as pigmentation. Why are some people fair and others dark? Variation in skin colour was due through evolution, as those living near the equator where darker due to strong UV radiation.
Lighter skin people lived in environment of low radiation. Extrinsic factors, things outside the body, also influence skin colour.
Pigmentation is created due to the deposition of melanin, a pigment produced by the skin cells, melanocytes.
Melanin also acts as a kind of natural sunscreen to protect against harmful UV rays; however, it cannot prevent sunburn all on its own.
There are two major types of pigmentation disorders: Hyperpigmentation and Hypopigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation refers to skin darkening caused by increased levels of melanin. This condition usually isn’t harmful and can be a symptom of another medical condition.
Types of hyperpigmentation include age spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Hypopigmentation refers to the loss of skin colour. Hypopigmentation is majorly caused due to genetic conditions, harsh environmental conditions, or injuries.
Types of hypopigmentation include albinism and vitiligo.
Unwelcomed in our lives, hyperpigmentation effects millions of females and males.
In my treatment room I offer skin counselling. Identifying the possible causes is a vital part of the program.
Cause - The Sun
Sun exposure can increase melanin production and induces photo-ageing with uneven pigment distribution.
Excess sun exposure causes sunspots, also called liver spots, they appear as spots of hyperpigmentation on areas exposed to the sun, like the hands and face.
UV effects DNA and is the culprit cancer, aging and hyperpigmentation. The Sun produces three 3 rays, UVA , UVB and UVC.
UVA is not felt directly but penetrates skin deeply.
UVA is around 365 days a year and therefore, sunscreen should be worn 365 days a year as those UVA rays can penetrate through cloud and glass, even when it’s raining or snowing you need to wear sunscreen. Hyperpigmentation may take up to 10-20 years to develop, so if you notice some showing now it could have been caused when you were a child. Ensure you use sunscreen.
UVB is only partially blocked by clouds or fog, so it is important to wear sunblock even on cloudy days.
This type of radiation intensifies during the summer.
UVC is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not reach the earth.
Limit sun exposure when the sun's rays are the most intense.
Use a sunscreen daily with a SPF of 30 to protect the skin and stop hyperpigmentation from becoming darker, reapply frequently.
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation.
Day creams with built in sunscreen is compromised. The best way to apply is to put on moisturizer first, then apply an SPF 30 or more each morning at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. That way, you will have the full benefit from the sunscreen.
Add a brightening product, to your skincare regime designed to tackle pigmentation .
Include products containing Vitamin C an antioxidant, with anti-inflammatory , anti-aging effects and that inhibits tyrosinase, which prevents melanin production.
Another fantastic ingredient is Alpha Hydroxy Acid, that aids in cell renewal and is an important part of the process.
See a skin expert for a skin program. Have patience and be disciplined with treatments.
Cause - Hormonal Changes
Melasma is also known as Chloasma, Pregnancy mask, occurs when melanocytes are stimulated by abnormal levels of oestrogen and progesterone resulting in uneven tone and hyperpigmentation. They often appear on the forehead, face, and abdomen.
Women who take birth control pills may also develop hyperpigmentation because their bodies undergo similar kind of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.
Avoid hot baths they can cause excessive inflammation and may aggravate hormonal pigmentation.
Oral anti-oxidant supplement daily helps to reduce the melanin production and
Evening Primrose supplement known for its hormone-balancing properties.
Sunscreen and skin program. As mentioned above is applicable to treat all hyperpigmentation.
Consult with your medical practitioner for stubborn spots.
Cause - Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
A result of an injury to the skin or skin trauma.
Due to injury or inflammation of the skin that can result from several illnesses, disorders or hormonal problems. For example, PIH may also be caused by acne, eczema, psoriasis or contact dermatitis. All of these can contribute to higher pigmentation and pink, red or dark brown spots developing. PIH can affect people with any type of skin tone but tends to affect those with dark skin most often.
Acne needs to be under control.
Monitor your skin for irritation and triggers.
Treatments include healing and calming effects. I noticed effective results with combination of Light Therapy, Alpha Hydroxy Acid, Vitamin C and Hyaluronic products, that can help dramatically repair the quality of your skin.
Sunscreen and anti-oxidants are always a must.
- Illnesses including autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, metabolic disorders and vitamin deficiencies that increase inflammation, especially of the blood vessels within the skin.
- Taking certain medications that cause increased photosensitivity, or from exposure to chemicals/toxins.
- A poor diet, high in inflammatory foods, sugar, refined grains, sodium and chemical additives.
- Skin damage caused by shaving, picking at blemishes, waxing, tattooing, burns, allergic reactions, cuts, etc.
- Older age.
It’s not always possible to prevent hyperpigmentation especially if the cause is medical. Using sunscreen daily is essential. The UV rays just send existing pigments into overdrive, turning dark spots darker.
Depending if hyperpigmentation is superficial (epidermal) or deep-seated (dermal), or even both can impact on treatment plan.
This is a chronic condition and therefore a progressive, safe and realistic program is required.