What is pigmentation?
Pigmentation refers to the coloring of the skin. Skin pigmentation disorders affect the color of our skin. Skin gets its color from a pigment called melanin. Special cells in the skin make melanin. When these cells become damaged or unhealthy, it affects melanin production. Pigmentation, or hyperpigmentation, also known as dark spots, age spots and sun spots, are uneven brown patches that occur on the face, hands, décolletage and shoulders.
What causes pigmentation?
There are many reasons for the occurrence of skin pigmentation including sun damage, inflammation, or other skin injuries, hormonal changes in the body and genetic factors. People with darker skin tones are more prone to pigmentation, especially with excess sun exposure.
Let’s look at each individual trigger of pigmentation
Melasma is a very common hormonal pigmentation. Most frequently found in women, the exact cause is not known but several factors have been identified as a contributing factor including hormonal changes e.g. pregnancy or medication; cosmetics e.g. perfume and even some foods e.g. soy milk.
Prolonged exposure to the sun with little to no protection to the UVA and UVB infrared rays activates melanocytes in the skin. Melanocytes are melanin-producing cells located in the bottom layer (the stratum basale) of the skin’s epidermis which cause pigmentation.
Some, though not all, forms of pigmentation are hereditary either as a result of inherited skin tone or from a genetic disorder.
Injury / trauma
Known as Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation, PIH, it is a pigmentation caused by an injury or inflammation of the skin being exposed to sunlight. Though normally temporary, often fading after 18 months, PIH as a result of a sever injury may be permanent without treatment. Acne and Rosacea can cause Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation.