Getting to the pigment of Hyperpigmentation
Ohhhhhh where do I begin with this very hot….yet not so colourful topic of skin discolouration?….It’s not so cut and dry as one would like it to be….but I’ll give it a go in this blog without getting too technical.
What is pigmentation?
Pigmentation is skin colour that is influenced by a number of pigments, namely melanin….carotene….and haemoglobin.
Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes that is found scattered throughout the stratum basale of the epidermis (surface/top layer of the skin).
Human skin contains carotenoids, which protects against oxidation. Carotenoids provide a yellow-orange hue to skin.
Haemoglobin is the iron-containing pigment that enables red blood cells to carry high concentrations of oxygen to the tissues in the body.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation can be described as a
discoloured/darker than usual appearance that present as patches on the skin. This can occur in small patches on the face/body….or cover larger areas….It is generally harmless, but it can seriously affect one’s self-esteem confidence and morale.
Some of the causes of hyperpigmentation include:
. Hormones….the responsible hormone for triggering melanocytes is the melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH). This hormone increases the production of melanin, which is responsible for darkening the skin.
. Certain medication/drugs can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect.
. Changes in hormonal levels during pregnancy can affect the melanin production in some women.
. Excessive exposure to the sun.
. Genetic eg. dark circles around the eyes.
. Prolonged use of skin bleaches….whitening and lightening products that contain hydroquinone.
Some types of hyperpigmentation are:
. Melasma that is believed to be caused by hormonal changes that develop during pregnancy. This is usually referred to the mask of pregnancy.
. Sunspots also called liver spots or solar lentigines. They’re usually attributed to excess sun exposure over time. They generally appear as spots on areas exposed to the sun, like the hands and face.
. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin. A common cause of this type is acne.
. Freckles are the most common type.
. Carotenoid pigmentation and skin yellowness is associated with excess beta-carotenes in the blood that latch onto areas of the body that have thicker skin, like the palms, soles, knees, elbows and folds around the nose.
. Frictional pigmentation caused by excessive rubbing of the skin like thighs rubbing together.
Although not all causes of hyperpigmentation can be prevented….there are some steps that you can take to prevent certain instances of hyperpigmentation:
. Avoid direct sunlight. Try to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10h00 to 14h00. Use a hat. Limit touching your skin.
. Some of the best foods to eat are green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, oily fish like salmon, strawberries, broccoli and citrus fruits rich in vitamin C.
. Cosmetic skin creams….serums and other preparations properly formulated can assist in reducing surface discolouration/scars and/or marks.
Here’s the rub….these formulations are not allowed to penetrate the dermis (2nd layer) of skin as this is out of a cosmetic skincare formulator’s scope since this pivots towards a ‘drug’ and not a ‘cosmetic’….This is where pharmaceutical legalities apply….and that’s a whole different ball game.
Surface discolouration/scars and/or marks can be successfully treated with well formulated cosmetic skincare products….but any discolouration/scars and/or marks that presents in the dermis of the skin falls under the scope of a dermatologist.
Now….how do I know whether my discolouration is surface or deeper? Ask yourself these questions in an attempt to ascertain where your skin’s at.
. How long have you had this skin discolouration/scars and/or marks?
. What is your age?
. Is your condition genetic?
. Are you on any drugs/medication….if so what?
. Are you on any hormonal therapy and/or oral contraceptives?
. Are you pregnant?
. Have you used any skin bleaches/whiteners or lighteners….if so….what product was it and how long did you use it for?
. How have you been treating your skin and body through the years?
. Are you under any stress/anxiety?
. Do you drink enough clean water?
. Is your body receiving the proper nutrients to function properly – are you eating properly?
. Are you oxygenating your body….Are you exercising enough?
. Are you getting enough good sleep?
. What products are you using on your skin?….Is there a visible/noticeable difference….and have you given the products enough time to see any visible/noticeable differences – at least 3 to 6 months of use? If there’s no noticeable difference in 3 to 6 months after religiously using the products ….then it’s time to re-evaluate your way forward.
A healthy skin will regenerate itself approximately every 28 days. Do bear in mind that as one gets older….the turnaround time for the skin to regenerate itself lies between 30 to 45 days….so please be patient with your skin and the skincare products you lavish upon it….after all the skin is the largest organ of your body.