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Skin Pigmentation: Causes And Treatments

Assist. Prof. Dr. Mahvish Aftab Khan

5 min read

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Pigmentation means colouring. When a person is healthy, their skin color will appear normal. In the case of illness or injury, the person’s skin may change color, becoming darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation). Some pigmentation diseases only impact specific areas of the skin. Others have a body-wide impact.

Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin its color. It is created by certain skin cells called melanocytes. The production of melanin is impacted when these cells are harmed or become unhealthy. Your skin darkens if your body produces an excessive amount of melanin and vice versa. Spots or patches of pigmentation might be brown, black, grey, red, or pink. Sometimes these spots are referred to as liver spots, aging spots, or sun spots.

Your skin can become pigmented due to things like Addison’s illness, sun exposure, pregnancy and some other disorders. If you encounter any kind of pigmentation on your skin, it is advised to consult a dermatologist because self medication can make matters worse.

Causes of Skin Pigmentation

Below mentioned are some conditions that may cause skin pigmentation:

  • Albinism: In this condition, melanin is absent so there is no pigmentation in the skin, hair, or eyes. Albinism is an inherited disorder. A defective gene in albinos limits the generation of melanin. Albinism cannot be treated. People with albinism are more likely to develop UV damage and skin cancer, so they must never skip wearing sunscreen. Albinism can affect people of any race, but Caucasians are the most susceptible. A patient with albinism should also see an ophthalmologist because people with albinism also have ocular issues, such as blurred vision or irregular eye movement.
  • Melasma: Brown or tan spots that show up on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip, nose, and chin are the result of melasma (also called chloasma). It is sometimes referred to as the “pregnancy mask” because it is often experienced by women in pregnancy. It can also happen to women who take estrogen or birth control pills. If melasma persists after delivery, it can be managed with several over-the-counter and prescription medications. Men can also get melasma. Choosing to self-treat this condition can cause serious problems. So patients must get a proper treatment regimen from a dermatologist. And use sunscreen at all times because exposure to sunshine will exacerbate the problem.
  • Pigmentation alteration as a result of skin damage: If you have had a skin infection, blisters or burns it is possible for the pigmentation in the affected area to reduce or increase. Although this kind of change is typically not permanent, it could take several months for it to go away or improve. In the meantime, the region can be covered with cosmetics. Prescription or over-the-counter lightening treatments may decrease the time it takes for hyperpigmented areas to disappear. Ask your dermatologist to prescribe you the one which goes well with your skin type. Use sunscreen regularly as sunlight might prolong the healing process.
  • Vitiligo: In vitiligo, the immune system of the body targets pigment-producing cells (melanocytes), resulting in the loss of pigment. Diabetes, pernicious anemia, thyroid illness, and Addison’s disease are a few immune system disorders connected to vitiligo. Smooth, white skin patches are typically found on the hands’ backs or around the mouth and eyes in people with vitiligo. Some people may develop these spots all over their bodies. There are several treatments available, however there is no known cure for vitiligo. It could take up to six months or a year for the therapies to show results
  • Periorbital Melanosis: Dark circles are the usual name for this type of skin discoloration. Although stress or eye strain might contribute to it, it is typically inherited.
  • Freckles: Usually genetic, freckles are more noticeable on people with lighter skin tones. However, sun damage can contribute to excessive outbreak of freckles.
  • Photo-melanosis: It is a skin condition brought on by excessive sun exposure, and it manifests as blotchy pigmentation on the arms, face, neck, and back.
  • Sunburn: It is a sort of reddish skin discoloration brought on by excessive sun exposure and is typically more prevalent in people with fairer skin tones.

Treatments for Skin Pigmentation

Skin pigmentation is a common skin condition, and there are a number of different treatment options available. Keep reading to learn more about your options, including what to expect from different treatment procedures.

1. Pico Laser Treatment

A laser treatment uses targeted beams of light to reduce hyperpigmentation. The latest and most popular laser technique in this area is the PicoSure laser technology. It’s fast, safe, and non-invasive, and the results are backed by scientific evidence too.

The Pico laser works by sending ultra-short pulses of energy without heat to targeted areas. The laser’s impact on the skin is intense, it breaks the problematic skin pigment or particles. These are then eliminated naturally by the body. The benefits of Pico laser are as follows:

  • It is extremely precise, allowing the practitioner to achieve the optimal photomechanical effect.
  • Although its pulses of energy are highly concentrated, the effect is gentle to the outer layer of the skin.
  • Pico laser treatments do not burn the skin. Patients usually go through a little or no discomfort during the treatment.
  • It can be used to treat all common skin imperfections, including spots caused by sun damage, acne scarring, birthmarks, melasma and other skin discolorations.
  • This laser also enhances elastin production in the skin, resulting in a softer, fuller and youthful look.
  • Pico laser technology is strong and effective enough to produce noticeable results in just one session.

2. Face Acids

Face acids and skin acids act by removing the top layer of your skin through exfoliation. Every time you exfoliate your skin, fresh skin cells replace the old ones. Your skin will become more even in tone and smoother overall as a result of the process.

Many face acids are available OTC at beauty stores and drugstores. Popular options include: alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic, citric, malic, or tartaric acid, azelaic acid, kojic acid, salicylic acid and vitamin C (in the form of l-ascorbic acid). Face acids work well for mild hyperpigmentation on fairer skin tones.

3. Retinoids

Retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A, are one of the oldest traditional OTC skin care components. Their small molecular size enables them to treat the skin layers beneath your epidermis by penetrating the skin deeply. Both prescription and over-the-counter retinoids are available widely. However OTC versions typically have lower efficiency.

After a few months, if you still don’t notice any improvement, consult your dermatologist. All skin tones may be safe for OTC retinoids, but if you have darker skin and intend to use these products, you should double-check with your dermatologist. It’s also crucial to remember that hyperpigmentation is less frequently treated with retinoids because retinoids are more suitable for treating wrinkles.

4. Chemical Peel

When performing a chemical peel, greater concentrations of acids are used to treat the targeted skin area. By eliminating the top layer of your skin, chemical peels lessen the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

To achieve more dramatic results, stronger versions of chemical peels are used, they may actually reach the central layer of your skin. But you may want to think twice about obtaining a professional-grade peel or consult your dermatologist for a heads up before you get the chemical peel done.

It is because redness, irritation, blisters, infection, scarring, and an allergic reaction are all potential side effects of chemical peels, whether done at home or in a medical facility. Chemical peels might not be suitable for you if you frequently spend time in the sun. As your skin becomes more susceptible to the sun’s rays after chemical peels.

5. Whitening Creams

Whitening creams are over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that help reduce pigmentation. They’re often used once or twice a day to gradually lighten the skin. Licorice extract and vitamin B-3 are two substances frequently found in over-the-counter lightening remedies.

For flat areas like melasma or age spots, whitening lotions or gels work well. These treatments work for almost all skin types. But if you have sensitive skin consult your dermatologist before using lightening creams.

6. IPL Therapy

IPL therapy, also referred to as photofacial, promotes collagen production in the dermis. It is used to treat general pigmentation problems, although flat areas respond particularly well to this therapy.

Also, it can aid in lessening the visibility of wrinkles, spider veins, and enlarged pores. But you may require several sessions of IPL therapy before it shows any results.

7. Microdermabrasion

An in-office technique called microdermabrasion is used to treat hyperpigmentation that only affects the epidermis (superficial scarring). Your dermatologist will use a drill-like handheld equipment with a wire brush or other abrasive attachment throughout the operation.

The epidermis is then swiftly removed from your skin using the instrument. To get the best results, you might require several sessions of microdermabrasion.

8. Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion removes your epidermis, but it also has an impact on a portion of your dermis. Dermabrasion is typically used to address textural issues, these include scars from acne, age spots, chickenpox, injuries, and sun damage. Also it is occasionally used to smooth out wrinkles.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Assist. Prof. Dr. Mahvish Aftab Khan
Assist. Prof. Dr. Mahvish Aftab Khan - Author Assist. Prof. Dr. Mahvish Aftab Khan is a dermatologist with over 22 years of experience. You can consult her through oladoc.com

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