What is Pigmentation and how to treat it.
A common area of concern for many of our Prodermal clients is an uneven skin tone and dark spots or patches appearing on the skin. We regularly get asked how best to treat and so we have put together a guide below that outlines the causes and treatments to help combat and prevent pigmentation and uneven skin.
What is an uneven skin tone?
An uneven skin tone, also called hyperpigmentation, is the forming of dark spots or patches on our skin because of our body producing excess melanin.
What is melanin?
Melanin is a chemical substance in the body that is responsible for our hair, skin and eye colour. Melanin also protects the skin and skin cells from potential harm from the sun’s UV rays. Melanin absorbs the UV rays (UVA, UVB and UVC) and spreads them out over the skin’s top layer creating a darkening of the skin or what we know as tanning.
We all have roughly the same amount of melanin cells, but some people’s cells make more melanin than others. Producing more melanin will result in darker skin (a darker tan). Some melanin will only build up in certain areas and cause dark patches or spots which is called hyperpigmentation.
What causes hyperpigmentation?
There are four main factors that can contribute to an uneven skin tone:
1. Sun and UV exposure: The sun is the number one cause of pigmentation and uneven skin tone. Sunlight triggers the production of melanin which causes the colour to appear.
2. Hormones: Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation caused by an imbalance of hormones. During pregnancy many women can experience pigmentation or dark spots forming on facial areas. Reactions to hormonal medications such as the contraceptive pill can also increase the chance of pigmentation forming.
3. Pollution: Living in cities we are exposed to particles and gases from things such as traffic pollution which can affect the skin and its melanin processes. Particulates from air pollution can become trapped in the skin tissue and start to oxidize. This oxidization can cause free radical damage that will trigger a response in the skin. The result can be dark spots and uneven skin tone especially on the face.
4. Inflammation: any injury or trauma to the skin can result in pigmentation. Trauma such as wounds, laser, resurfacing treatments, acne breakout or medical treatments can stimulate the melanin cells (called melanocytes) to overproduce causing dark spots and pigmented areas. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) can be a result of scarring from injury, wounds or acne. This can also be reddish in colour.
How to treat pigmentation and uneven skin tone
1. Use an SPF everyday: Applying an SPF every day before venturing outdoors is one of the best ways to avoid pigmentation from forming. An SPF rating of 30 or 50+ is highly recommended. Wearing a wide brim hat, staying in the shade and limiting your time to sun exposure will also help.
Popular sunscreens we recommend: Coola Rosilliance SPF30 BB+ Cream, Coola Classic Face Organic Sunscreen SPF50, Aspect Sun Hydrating Face SPF50+, Aspect Physical Sun Protection SPF50+, asap Moisturising Defence SPF50+
2. Exfoliating the skin: Including an exfoliant into your weekly skin care routine can help to minimize and control hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Exfoliation will slough off the top layer of dead skin cells and allow ingredients to penetrate that will help to treat the pigmentation deeper in the skin layers.
3. Targeted treatments: Using products that specifically target pigmentation and dark spots and that help to control the melanin process, repair and restore the skin back to a more even complexion.
4. Time: Treating pigmentation and uneven skin is no quick fix. As pigmentation is formed in the deeper layers of the skin, allow a minimum of 30 days plus to see a difference in the skin. Treating pigmentation is a slow race but one that can be won with patience and commitment to a skin care routine.