Skin Pigmentation

What are the causes of skin pigmentation?

Skin pigmentation occurs because of abnormal synthesis or accumulation of melanin, a substance that gives skin its colour. Melanin is produced by skin cells called melanocytes that protect our skin from the sun. When the melanocytes are damaged, the melanin production will be affected thus patches may appear on the skin.

If your skin appears darker compared to the other areas, it means that your skin cells are producing an excess amount of melanin which results in darker skin. And decreased production of melanin makes the skin lighter.

The other causes for skin pigmentation include exposure to UV radiation from the sun, hormonal changes during pregnancy, trauma which is a result of laser treatments, acne, and chemical peels and birthmarks.

How can skin pigmentation be treated?

Pigmentation can be treated on any part of the skin using skin lightening agents or creams and laser techniques. Topical application of skin lightening agents such as creams and lotions are used which inhibits the enzymes that produce melanin and increases the turnover of the skin to remove the existing pigmentation.

How can skin pigmentation be prevented?

You can prevent the occurrence of the pigmentation by use of good sunscreen lotions or creams every day, even if it is cloudy, or overcast. There are two types of sunscreens such as physical and chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens are not absorbed by the skin and provide long lasting protection. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by the skin and require an application of this cream after every 2 hours.

What are the most common pigmentation disorders?

The most common pigmentation disorders include melasma, vitiligo, and solar lentigo.

What is melasma?

Melasma is the formation of brown-grey patches on the skin surface. It is commonly seen on the cheeks, forehead, nose, chin, or any part of the body that is frequently exposed to the sun.

Who is more likely to get melasma?

Women are more susceptible to this condition. Approximately 90% of the incidences of melasma occur in women. People with dark skin and those with a relative who has melasma are also more at risk for developing this condition.

What causes melasma?

The cells in the skin that are responsible for pigmentation become hyperactive. The exact cause of this hyperactivity is unclear. The triggering factors are thought to be increased sunlight exposure, change in hormones during pregnancy, use of birth control pills and hormone replacement.

What are the symptoms of melasma?

Besides the unsightly appearance caused by the blotches of dark pigmentation on the cheeks, forehead, and other sun-exposed areas of the skin, there are no other symptoms.

How is melasma diagnosed?

Your doctor may be able to make the diagnosis by examining your skin. A device known as a Wood’s light may be used to see how deeply the melasma has penetrated the skin.

How is melasma treated?

Often, melasma will resolve if the triggering factor is removed. If not, treatment may include topical creams, lotions, and gels containing hydroquinone, tretinoin, steroids, or other agents that help with the lightening of the skin. Procedures that are used in the treatment of melasma include chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

What is the expected outcome of treatment?

Within a few months of treatment, you can expect to see a marked improvement in the appearance of your skin.

What steps can I take to prevent the worsening of melasma?

The following tips will help in maintaining an even skin tone:

  • Apply sunscreen daily
  • Use a wide-brimmed hat for added protection
  • Choose skin care products that are gentle and do not irritate your skin
  • Avoid waxing as it causes skin inflammation.

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