Harsh environmental conditions in Australia and New Zealand make us susceptible to pigmentation or freckling, and these little spots can often be the start of more serious skin conditions. In this section we take a look at the various types of pigmentation, from hereditary conditions, birthmarks, to trauma and sun damage.
|The colour of your skin is determined by the level of melanin (or pigment) in the skin. It ‘colours’ your skin, hair and the iris of the eyes. Your level of melanin depends on race and exposure to sunlight.
Production increases with exposure to the sun as it attempts to protect the skin against harmful ultraviolet rays. Both women and men can have skin pigmentation problems relating to Thormone changes and sun exposure. Pigmentation is really a chain reaction in response to damage being inflicted to our skin.
Signs and Symptoms
Distinguishing between hypo pigmentation (loss of pigment) and hyper pigmentation (increase in pigment), is crucial to diagnosing the treatment. Hypo pigmentation is a decrease in the level of pigmentation of the skin, whereas depigmentation is a total loss of skin pigment. Both can be either concentrated in one area or generalised.
|Hyperpigmentation is stimulated and caused by UVR (sun), inflamed, or other skin injuries, including those related to acne vulgaris. People with darker Asian, Mediterranean or African skin tones are also more prone to hyperpigmentation, especially if they have excess sun exposure.
Many forms of hyperpigmentation are caused by an excess production of melanin. Hyperpigmentation can be diffused or local, affecting such areas as the face and back of the hands. Melanin is produced by melanocytes at the lower layer of the epidermis. Melanin is a class of pigment responsible for producing colour in the body in places such as the eyes, skin, and hair. As the body ages, melanocyte activity, and where concentrations of the cells are denser than surrounding areas, hyperpigmentation is affected. Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by using poorly formulated topical creams.
Types of pigmentation
Presents as brown patches on the face of adults and some adolescents. Most commonly affected areas are the cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead, and upper lip. Usually occurring in women, it affects only 10% of men. Often women who take contraceptive pills or have an IUD fitted develop this type of pigmentation.
It can become more prominent if the skin is exposed to sunlight; hence often worsens during summer.
| Some pregnant women overproduce melanin and develop this condition often referred to as the ‘mask of pregnancy’. Chloasma can cover a relatively large area of the face and even abdomen and may worsen after sun exposure.
Also called sun, age, or liver spots, these are benign flat brown spots that look like large brown freckles.
- 90% of fair skinned people over the age of 60 develop this condition. In general, those who are most likely to have solar lentigines are people who have a tendency to sunburn and tan a little or not at all (skin Fitzpatrick Types 1 and 2)
|Freckles are also common and usually a hereditary skin blemish. Though freckles are often thought of as attractive, some people seek treatment to reduce them.
- These white patches are extremely sensitive to the sun. Affecting nearly 2% of the population, it is most prevalent amongst those with darker skin and typically strikes those as young as 10 through to approximately 30 years of age.
As expected, this type of abnormal skin discolouration will appear at birth or
As expected, this type of abnormal skin discolouration will appear at birth or shortly following. Most are non-cancerous, though a doctor should examine your child if born with abnormally coloured skin or develops birthmarks shortly after birth.
Types of birthmarks include Haemangioma, Port-wine stains, Macular stains and pigmented birth marks.
Post Inflammatory Hyper Pigmentation (PHI)
PHI (post inflammatory hyper pigmentation) usually occurs after an injury to the skin. It can commonly occur after acne spots or other skin lesions, after traumatic skin treatments, such as inappropriate or overly aggressive laser or after over use of some skin care products-particularly those that have been mis-diagnosed for the skin type.
Aggravating Factors of Pigmentation
- UV exposure
- Immunological conditions
- Genetic predisposition
- Perfumes and essential oils in conjunction with UV exposure-particularly Bergamot
- Fruit acid or chemical peels in conjunction with UV exposure
- Incorrect use of IPL and Lasers
- Some medications including the contraceptive pill
- Hormonal fluctuations such as menopause
- Free radicals
- Pigmentation post acne
- Trauma to the skin (post inflammatory pigmentation)
- Vitamins A, C and D deficiency
Pigmentation can be very difficult to treat effectively as the causes can be from so many different underlying reasons. While pigmentation often can be prevented simply by avoiding UV exposure, sometimes it cannot be avoided. Cellular health is very important to improving the condition and a dietary intake of essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 & 6 is beneficial. Protection from UV exposure is of the utmost importance.
Dermatological Skin Care
- Dr Hans. Lautenschlaeger, various publications beauty forum & cosmetic medicine
- Dr Lance Setterfield