Skin pigmentation refers to the coloring of your skin. Skin pigmentation disorders are changes to the color of your skin.
Your skin cells are made of melanin and are the pigment responsible for giving your skin its color.
Hyperpigmentation is a condition that often leads to changes in the color of your skin.
This can affect patches of your skin or your entire body.
Age spots or liver spots are a common type of hyperpigmentation.
It is important to note that skin pigmentation is harmless, however, sometimes it can be due to an underlying medical condition.
Moreover, using certain medications can also cause your skin to darken.
However, it is more of a cosmetic issue for most individuals.
You can describe skin pigmentation when your skin appears darker and can occur in small patches, cover a large area, or affect your entire body.
Keep on reading to learn more about it in detail.
Types of Skin Pigmentation
There are different types of skin pigmentation, while the common ones are melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Let’s discuss them as follows:
Areas of hyperpigmentation can appear on any area of your body, however, they appear on your stomach and face in most cases.
Also termed liver spots or solar lentigines, these are common.
Moreover, these are related to excess exposure to the sun over time.
They often appear as spots on areas that receive maximum sunlight like your hands and feet.
This is a result of injury or inflammation to your skin, and the common cause of this type is acne.
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Symptoms and Risk Factors of Skin Pigmentation
One of the main symptoms of skin pigmentation is the darkening of your skin.
It is important to note that the patches can vary in size and develops anywhere on your body.
Moreover, the biggest risk factors for general hyperpigmentation are sun exposure and inflammation.
This is because they both can increase the production of melanin.
Therefore, the more you are exposed to the sun, the greater your risk of increased skin pigmentation.
Thus, depending on the type of disorder you have, other risk factors for patches of hyperpigmentation are as follows:
Oral contraceptives or pregnancy as with melasma.
Darker skin type and this one is more prone to pigmentation changes over time.
Certain drugs can increase your sensitivity to sunlight.
Traum to your skin like a wound or superficial burn injury can also increase your risk factor.
Causes of Skin Pigmentation
One of the most common causes of skin pigmentation or hyperpigmentation is an excess production of melanin.
Melanin is naturally found in your skin and is a pigment.
This pigment gives your skin its color.
Your skin cells: Melanocytes produce it. Several different factors can alter the production of melanin in your body.
Moreover, certain drugs can also cause hyperpigmentation, as well as, chemotherapy medications can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect.
It is important to note that pregnancy also changes your hormone levels and can affect the production of melanin in your body.
A rare endocrine disorder: Addison’s disease can also produce hyperpigmentation that is one of the most obvious in areas of sun exposure.
These are your face, neck, hands, and the areas of friction like elbows and knees.
Additionally, hyperpigmentation is a direct result of an increase in the hormones in your body that can often result due to an increase in the synthesis of melanin.
Excessive sun exposure can also cause an increase in melanin.
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Causes of Hypopigmentation and Depigmentation
If your skin is lighter in color due to an abnormally low amount of melanin then this is hypopigmentation.
Reasons for this can be:
Past skin injuries like burns, blisters, ulcers, chemical exposure, or infection.
Rare genetic conditions like albinism can cause hyperpigmentation and are due to a lack of a melanin-producing enzyme.
On the other hand, depigmentation is when your skin loses pigment and turns white.
One of the common causes is vitiligo (hence vitiligo treatment becomes essential) which is an autoimmune disorder that causes smooth, white patches to appear on your skin.
Medical Conditions and Skin Pigmentation
Certain medical conditions can cause skin pigmentation like Addison’s disease and hemochromatosis.
Addison’s disease affects your adrenal glands and can cause hyperpigmentation in areas parts of your body.
These include foods of your skin, lips, elbows, and knees.
It can also affect the knuckles, toes, and insides of your cheek.
Other symptoms are fatigue and weak muscles, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, stomach pain, and dizziness.
In such a case, you should seek medical attention.
On the other hand, Hemochromatosis is an inherited condition and can cause your body to contain too much iron.
Moreover, it can cause hyperpigmentation, thus, making your skin appear darker or tanned.
Seek medical attention if you notice fatigue, stomach pain, joint pain, or weight loss.
This is because these are the signs and symptoms of this condition and needs medical attention immediately.
Diagnosis of Skin Pigmentation
If you have skin pigmentation or hyperpigmentation, you can visit a doctor or dermatologist.
They can help to identify the type and cause of this condition.
Moreover, they might also take a small sample of your skin or order a biopsy to determine the cause of your skin pigmentation.
It is important to note that most often doctors or dermatologists can diagnose melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation just by looking at your skin.
They may also use a special light, Wood’s light to examine your skin.
Thus, with the help of diagnosis, they can create a treatment plan if necessary.
Treatment of Skin Pigmentation
Although skin pigmentation is harmless, still you might want to get rid of it.
There is a range of possible treatment options and home remedies that you can try.
To prevent this condition or stop it from becoming more prominent you can :
Avoid Sun Exposure: Make sure to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more to protect your skin.
Moreover, it can help prevent hyperpigmentation from becoming even darker.
Avoid picking at your Skin: To prevent this condition, avoid picking at spots, scabs, and acne as it can lead to the formation of an injury.
You can also choose to use the following treatment to lighten the dark patches on your skin and remove hyperpigmentation.
On the other hand, hypopigmentation can go away with time and patience.
However, for depigmentation, you will need to consult your dermatologist to determine the best treatment plan.
You can benefit from therapies like light-sensitive medications, light therapy, prescription creams, or surgery.
Let’s discuss them as follows:
In most cases, using topical treatment can help to treat hyperpigmentation.
Topical treatments often include ingredients that help to lighten your skin.
These ingredients are:
- kojic acid
- vitamin C
- retinoids like tretinoin
- azelaic acid.
You can choose one of the ingredients to apply on your skin, however, you can also consult your dermatologist and they can suggest the best topical cream for you.
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You can also choose to have cosmetic procedures to lighten areas of your skin.
These procedures help to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Cosmetic procedures for skin pigmentation are as follows:
- laser therapy
- intense pulse light
- chemical peels
It is important to discuss your options, the procedure, process, and possible side effects with your skin care specialist or dermatologist if you are considering any one of the above procedures.
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Home Remedies for Skin Pigmentation
It is possible to lighten areas of hyperpigmentation with the help of natural remedies.
However, there are no extensive studies to confirm the positive effects of these remedies on hyperpigmentation.
You can try a new treatment or a natural remedy, however, always do a small patch test to make sure you are not allergic to the components.
According to a review study, the following can help to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation:
Aloe vera contains a compound: Aloesin that can help to lighten skin pigmentation.
Moreover, it works by inhibiting the production of melanin in your skin.
According to a study, taking aloe vera capsules can help relieve melasma in pregnant women.
However, you can also apply aloe vera directly on your skin to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Licorice extract can help lighten hyperpigmentation. Research suggests that it contains Glabridin that has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and skin whitening properties.
Use can use creams, containing this ingredient on areas of skin pigmentation.
Green tea extracts can help improve skin pigmentation. Research suggests that green tea has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
However, there is limited research suggesting that it help reduce melasma and sunburn.
Any shift in the skin tone can be upsetting or concerning, however, if you are living with skin damage or chronic skin conditions, it is normal to feel stressed out, embarrassed, or frustrated about having to deal with these changes.
It is important to reach out to a health care professional to determine the cause of skin pigmentation as in some cases, it could be due to an underlying medical condition.