Pigmentation which commonly appears as a few spots could in more severe cases affect the whole body. We explore the condition skin deep.
Pigmentation is a condition that has numerous myths and natural remedies surrounding it. Besides the often obvious physical appearances, the affected person may experience psychological impacts on their self-esteem and confidence. To best understand pigmentation, we need to take a look into the root causes.
A pigment called melanin gives the skin its colour. Besides skin colour, melanin protects the skin from environmental damage as a result of exposure to light and air. However, when melanin-producing cells on the skin are damaged, they cause pigmentation.
Pigmentation causes skin to change in colour. There are broadly two types of pigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when there is a marked increase in the volume of Melanin produced by the body. Excessive exposure to sunlight, pregnancy and hormone induced factors are common reasons for this cause. Most non serious conditions can be treated by over-the-counter skin creams.
Sunscreens that contain Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are also helpful in blocking UV rays. They are not absorbed by the skin and remain at the exposed layer as a protective shield
Hypopigmentation in skin is the result of a reduction in melanin production. It is often characterised by lightening of skin on various body parts. Its underlying causes are skin trauma, autoimmune and hereditary disorders.
Skin trauma may cure on its own over time. However, there is often no underlying cause for autoimmune and hereditary disorders. It is also largely irreversible and there is also no permanent cure. As the volume of melanin reduces, hypopigmentation may also increase the risk of skin cancer.
As mentioned previously, melanin forms a protective layer that prevents harmful external factors from penetrating beyond the dermis – the exposed layer of the skin. A lack of melanin equates to a lack of protection. Hence it is recommended for patients suffering from Hypopigmentation to wear a sunscreen at all times.
We look into a few common types of pigmentation and some strategies to overcome them.
Freckles are more common in individuals with a lighter skin tone. They are flat circular spots which are usually tan or light brown in colour. While they may appear on any part of the skin, they are more common in areas with greater exposure to the sun.
Tropical climates and Genetics are the most common factors attributed to freckles. Genetic Freckles appear as young as two years and ageing makes its presence increasingly obvious. Freckles are also caused due to pollutants, increased sun and UV exposure. Inadequate skin protection can cause the surfacing of new freckles and the darkening of existing ones.
Freckles create an illusion of older age and hence may make a person more self-conscious and anxious about their image. Existing Freckles can be covered by make-up and a good sunscreen can avoid new freckles from appearing.
Hardly anyone has escaped puberty without those unsightly spots almost all over the face. As much as an eye sore, they were also uncomfortable, creating the urge to scratch and break them.
Scratching of acne often results in broken blood capillaries leaving red spots Skin inflammation in the area may also result in the production of increased melanin and the eventual presence of dark spots where the acne used to be. Even with skin treatments, the complete removal of such scars may take months or even years.
Pimples do not end at puberty. An acne outbreak may occur due to allergies or the use of unsuitable skin products Excessive dryness of the skin may also cause increased production of sebum and in turn increased acne outbreaks.
The condition is one of increased severity in comparison to other forms of pigmentation. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease caused by the body attacking its own melanin producing cells, hence resulting in light patching on parts of the body. While such patches can initially be concealed make up and clothing, they gradually spread to more exposed areas.
Vitiligo affects about 2% of the global population and an equal number of men and women. Besides being an autoimmune condition, it is also thought to be largely genetic, setting in between the 20s and 30s.
While there is no known cure to this condition, the appearance of affected skin can be treated with cosmetics and corticosteroid creams. UV light therapies and skin grafts are also being explored as treatments for more severe cases.
Being the largest and most exposed organ on the human body, our skin demands a large extent of attention and maintenance. Using a SPF50 or above sunscreen, a healthy diet and adopting some simple skin care tips will help to sustain radiance and skin colour. Find out more on simple tips to defray your ageing skin.
Keep the radiance shining!.
A Special Feature in
APR/ MAY 17 issue
Get a Glimpse Below
Skin Foods: Beauty Treats for Your Skin > PP 30
The Four Faces of Hyperpigmentation > PP 32
Fight the Lines: Anti-ageing Facial Exercise > PP 36
Know your Scars > PP 38
Skincare for Men > PP 40
The articles published on www.prime.sg are intended to provide tips for health and lifestyle for individuals aged 40 years and above. The articles are based on secondary research and do not represent the opinion of the author, Spring Publishing Pte Ltd or any mentioned third party. Spring Publishing Pte Ltd recommends professional consultation in medical treatments and will hold no responsibility for medical causes or consequences of the information contained in articles.