As recent studies suggest, the second most occurring skin condition of the decade, next to acne, is pigmentation (discoloration of skin). Pigmentation can occur anywhere on your body- you may have been unaware and called it a “birth mark” or a “beauty mark” as some say! To understand the cause of this discolouration of skin, it is essential to first know the constituents of your skin.
The colour of our skin is made of three components – melanin, collagen, and vasculature (blood vessels). The yellow in your skin tone is imparted by collagen and the pink shades by the vasculature.
Most pigmentary disorders are associated with excess melanin- melanin is a brown pigment produced by special cells called melanocytes, in your skin. Under the influence of UV radiation (sunlight) and hormonal factors, melanin levels can become uneven. This results in blotchiness, brown spots, freckles, and more seriously, cancer.
Cosmetically, the most common pigmentary presentations are of melisma and Diffuse Sun-related Hyperpigmentation (DSH). Melisma is more frequently detected in women under 30, and DSH is seen in women over the age of 30. Both of these conditions are greatly influenced by both solar radiation and hormonal levels; they can appear as ash-brown blotches of any size (largely visible in strong light) and give the affected area a dull, lifeless appearance. Their main cause is the over production of pigment (melanin) by the skin pigment cells (melanocytes).
So, what can you do prevent pigmentation?
- Protection from UV radiation
- Wear sunblock to prevent pigmentation all together or to keep it from getting worse.
- Avoid the sun when the UV radiation is at its strongest, i.e. between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Choosing your sunscreen carefully
- It must have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30.
- Re-application of sunscreen after 60-70 min is crucial if you will be outdoors all day.
- The most effective sunscreens for preventing pigmentation contain Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.
- Layering different kinds of sunscreens provides maximum protection from UV light.
- Sunscreen application for indoors
- Your skin needs a protective barrier from not only sunlight, but from any sort of flocculent light- which also has a component of UV radiation.
- Re-application of sunscreen after every 90 min is important if you will be working under flocculent light.
- Precautions for your young
- 80% of skin damage occurs before the subject has reached 18 years of age.
- Avoid direct sun exposure of children. Teach them to protect themselves with clothing.
- Use special sun creams that are meant for sensitive skin.
How is Pigmentation treated?
Generally, melanin inhibitors (compounds that prevent the melanocytes producing melanin) are used as a part of the treatment. Topical niacinamide has been shown to reduce the distribution of pigment in regular skin cells. Niacinamide is an extremely effective and gentle long-term maintenance therapy for pigmentation and can also be used in conjunction with hydroquinone to enhance the initial treatment process. It should be used daily under sunscreen.
Regular use of a Vitamin A compound called retinaldehyde, before bed, also helps to inhibit pigmentation, by blocking pigment and stimulating enzymes.
Other intensive short-term therapy courses can also help fast-track the reduction of your pigmentation. Options include Vitamin A peels, prescription-only retinoic acid/hydroquinone creams, chemical peels, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light), and other laser modalities.
To get a proper analysis of your skin, you must consult a professional who will identify your specific skin type, diagnose your skin condition, and provide the correct treatment.
To maintain youthful, beautiful skin:
- Keep yourself hydrated: 1.5 liters of water per day.
- Always apply a moisturizer to areas that are regularly exposed to sunlight
- Exfoliate on a regular basis- using appropriate exfoliates that are suited for your skin type.
- Choose mineral based and high quality cosmetic products- which suit your skin
- Use active and lightening skin-care products.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol.
- Preserve your biological rhythm (sleeping, eating. exercise etc. …)