What is pigmentation?
The skin consists of two main layers, the epidermis which is the upper layer and the dermis which is the lower layer.
Within the lowest layer of the epidermis are cells called melanocytes, which are responsible for producing the pigment called melanin.
This melanin production is what gives our skin its genetically predetermined colour and what can be agitated to produce excess pigmentation.
Excess pigmentation can be triggered by a number of factors including UV exposure, trauma from an injury, hormonal activity,
medical conditions or genetic predisposition.
What is Skin Pigmentation?
Your skin colour is determined by pigments called melanin that are produced by specialized cells (melanocytes) of the skin.
There are more than 150 genes that affect skin colour either directly or indirectly.
So there is really nothing much you can do about the natural pigmentation of your skin.
What Causes Skin Pigmentation Disorders?
Sometimes, the melanin production goes awry; either too little or too much melanin is produced causing skin pigmentation disorders.
These conditions make the skin appear lighter or darker than normal, or blotchy and discoloured. Too much melanin causes
hyperpigmentation and too little melanin results in hypopigmentation.
The root cause is generally attributed to internal factors such as hormones, endothelial cells, or biological conditions
such as pregnancy. External factors such as ultraviolet radiation, burning, or contact with certain chemicals,
may sometimes cause pigmentation disorders. Stress and dietary imbalances, the precursors of many disorders,
are also known to cause skin pigmentation disorders.
Common causes of skin hyperpigmentation include:
• Sun exposure
• Hormonal changes
• Botched skin treatments
In situations where hyperpigmentation is caused by acne, botched skin treatment, or some other cause of skin inflammation,
it is known as PIH, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Typically, hyperpigmentation is a harmless skin condition, however if moles or other possible signs of skin cancer appear, they should be checked.
The most common cause of hypopigmentation is damage or trauma to the skin. Burns, infections, pimples, blisters, scrapes,
and any injuries that result in scarring can all lead to skin discoloration.
Other hypopigmentation causes
Some chronic skin disorders can also cause hyperpigmentation, such as the following:
• Albinism – characterized by colorless skin, hair, and eyes that occurs because skin cells produce little or no melanin
• Vitiligo – characterized by patchy loss of skin color that occurs when skin cells that produce melanin die
or stop production for no known reason
• Seborrheic dermatitis – an inflammatory skin disease characterized by red, scaly, itchy patches of skin in areas prone to oiliness
• Tinea versicolor – caused by fungal (yeast) infection and characterized by scaly, itchy patches of lighter or pinkish skin
• Pityriasis alba – most commonly affects children and is characterized by colorless, scaly skin patches
light or laser treatment, or surgical skin grafting.