WHAT ARE PIGMENTATION, HYPERPIGMENTATION, AND HYPOPIGMENTATION?
Your body contains a pigment called melanin, which determines the colour of your skin, hair and eyes. People with darker skin types tend to have more melanin in their skin cells than those with lighter skin - but imbalances and disorders of the skin can lead to inconsistent colouration, patterning and ‘blotches’.
When skin cells are healthy, your skin will appear normal and even. However, when skin cells become damaged or unhealthy, extra melanin is produced to help protect your skin. Alternatively, the cells that produce pigment can be damaged, which prevents melanin production. As a result, parts of your skin may turn lighter (hypopigmentation) or darker (hyperpigmentation), both of which are recognisable skin conditions. This page talks mostly about the symptoms of hyperpigmentation. For more information on hypopigmentation, see white spots.
WHAT CAUSES SKIN PIGMENTATION OR HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Pigmentation, or hyperpigmentation as it is also known, can occur for a variety of reasons. The effects can also become more obvious as we age, and if left untreated and unprotected can worsen.
Common causes of hyperpigmentation are:
- over-exposure to the sun
- hormonal changes
- medical conditions and trauma to the skin (such as burns or as a result of spots and picking).
SKIN PIGMENTATION SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- Darkened patches of skin that can vary in size and colour (hyperpigmentation)
- Light patches of skin (hypopigmentation)
- Losing pigment quickly on several areas of your skin (hypopigmentation)
HOW CAN I REDUCE HYPERPIGMENTATION?
It is important to help protect the skin from sun damage; wearing an SPF on a daily basis can defend against harmful UVA and UVB rays which may worsen pigmentation.
A healthy lifestyle and an effective skincare routine can also help clear the skin and create a more even skin tone. Products which contain sulforaphane will help lighten hyperpigmentation. You can also use an exfoliator that includes glycolic acid; an active ingredient that removes dead skin cells and lightens dark marks.
OTHER TREATMENTS FOR PIGMENTATION
There are a variety of treatments to help reduce dark patches or hyperpigmentation. Hypopigmentation (light patches) on the other hand is more difficult to treat and could be as a result of fungal infection, or a specific skin condition such as vitiligo. It is recommended you consult an expert skin practitioner who will advise you on the best treatment options for your individual case.
There are a number of skin peels that are designed to treat hyperpigmentation. The treatment involves applying a non-toxic chemical to the skin to encourage natural exfoliation and remove imperfections. As dead skin cells are removed, pigmentation is reduced.
Fraxel uses thousands of microscopic laser columns to penetrate deep down into the skin creating miniscule wounds. The wounds trigger the body's natural healing response, stimulating the growth of fresh, clear and healthy skin cells.
This effective laser resurfacing treatment can be used to treat pigmentation. The laser device targets the superficial and deeper layers of your skin to create a wound healing response and promote fresh new skin. The result: a more even skin tone and a brighter overall complexion.