Skin pigmentation refers to both the abnormal darkening and lightening of your skin. It is a common issue that can affect both men and women and there are a number of different causes that can lead to skin pigmentation.
Areas of skin affected by pigmentation are usually not itchy or painful, but they can affect a person’s self-esteem due to the uneven skin tone. They may also be an indication of an underlying problem and it is best to address it as soon as possible with a qualified dermatologist. Here are some common causes of skin pigmentation and the available treatment options.
1) Sun Exposure
UV rays from the sun can damage the skin and trigger the production of melanin. This results in visible dark spots or patches on the skin. Known as sunspots or solar lentigines, these types of skin pigmentation frequently occur in parts of our skin that are normally exposed to the sun such as the face, hands, and arms.
2) Hormonal Factors
Hormonal changes affect the entire body and the skin is no exception. One especially common example is Melasma, a type of pigmentation that occurs during pregnancy. Melasma causes dark patches on the cheeks, forehead, forearms and upper lip. Pregnancy induced melasma is harmless and tends to improve after a few months.
Some people are genetically more predisposed to skin pigmentation than others. These can include freckles and birthmarks. Usually these types of skin pigmentation are completely harmless. Treatment is not required except for functional or cosmetic reasons. Some treatment options include topicals, chemical peels, and laser treatment for pigmentation.
4) Skin Inflammation
When skin cells are damaged or irritated, they often react by producing extra melanin. This is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and it affects both men and women of all ages, but is more common in people with darker skin. The skin inflammation can be due to disorders like acne, eczema, and psoriasis but can also be the result of trauma to the skin.
5) Pigmentation Disorders
There are several pigmentation disorders which can severely affect melanin production and result in skin pigmentation. Some examples include vitiligo, albinism, hemochromatosis, and Addison’s disease. Many of these disorders cannot be cured but there are treatments which can manage the condition and improve the appearance of the skin.
Treatments For Skin Pigmentation
Treatment for skin pigmentation will vary based on the underlying cause, severity of pigmentation, and skin health. Often lifestyle changes to improve your skin may be prescribed as well. Three common methods of treating skin pigmentation include chemical peels, topical creams, and laser treatment for the face.
Topical creams may require prescriptions or may be ordered over the counter at a pharmacy. There is a wide variety of topical creams containing substances like hydroquinone, retinoids, or corticosteroids which can be used to treat different skin pigmentation issues. Their effectiveness is often tied to the underlying cause of the skin pigmentation and can vary.
Topical creams may be best for skin pigmentation caused by sun damage, acne scars, or age spots.
Chemical peels use solutions that reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation by removing the outer layer of skin to reveal a more even skin tone underneath. Some chemical peels may even penetrate deeper into the skin for more visible results. Chemical peels can be used to treat various types of pigmentation, including sunspots, melasma, and age spots.
Laser therapy utilises high-intensity beams of light to target and break down pigment in the skin. Often used to treat dark pigmentation, such as sunspots, melasma, or birthmarks, laser treatment for pigmentation can also be used to remove tattoos and help even out other types of skin discoloration.
Skin pigmentation can affect a person both physically and emotionally. Certain types of skin pigmentation are associated with other health conditions and the discoloration may make some individuals more self-conscious about their appearance. Treatments for skin pigmentation can restore a skin to a proper even tone and allow them to be more confident and less conscious about their appearance.
Thomson Specialist Skin Centre provides a wide array of evidence-based medical services that cover a comprehensive range of dermatological conditions for patients in Singapore. Contact us today to learn more and make an appointment with our team.