Pigmentation refers to the natural coloration of an organism's skin, hair, or other tissues. This coloration is determined by the presence of pigments, such as melanin, which are produced by specialised cells called melanocytes. In humans, variations in pigmentation can lead to differences in skin colour, hair colour, and eye colour. The pigmentation on your face that you experience is hyperpigmentation. It's when some areas have more pigment than others and thus appear darker. Pigmentation is also important for animals, for camouflage, communication, and thermoregulation.
Types of Pigmentation On the Face
You may be surprised to find out that there are many types of pigmentation:
Melasma is a common skin condition that causes dark, discoloured patches on the face. It is often associated with hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or with the use of birth control pills.
Freckles are small, flat, brown spots that often appear on the face and other sun-exposed areas of the skin. They are caused by an increase in the production of melanin in response to sunlight. Freckles are common and of course, aren't a health threat.
Age spots are flat, brown spots that appear on the skin due to sun damage. They are most common in older adults and occur on the face as well as other parts of the body.
An injury or inflammation of the skin, such as from acne, eczema, or a rash can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (quite a mouthful I know). It can cause dark spots or patches on the face that may take several months to fade.
Birthmarks are patches of pigmented skin that are visible at birth or develop shortly after. They can be flat or raised and may range in colour from brown to purple to blue to red. Some types of birthmarks, such as port-wine stains, can occur on the face. They are most common on babies with darker skin and usually go away after 4 years old.
Why Pigmentation Comes on The Face
Pigmentation can spring onto the face for a multitude of reasons:
Exposure to sunlight is one of the most common causes of pigmentation on the face. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can stimulate the production of melanin in the skin, which can result in the development of dark spots or patches.
Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or with the use of hormonal birth control, can cause pigmentation on the face. This is melasma (we just discussed this) and often appears as brown or grey-brown patches on the forehead, cheeks, nose, or upper lip.
Genetic factors mean some people are more likely to develop pigmentation on their faces.
As we age, we get exposed to a lifetime of sun exposure and other environmental factors, this makes our skin more vulnerable to pigmentation.
Additionally, Inflammation or injury to the skin can result in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
The Significance of Sunscreen In Preventing Pigmentation
Sunscreen is a crucial part of preventing pigmentation because exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun is one of the main causes of pigmentation on the face.
Sunscreen works by absorbing or reflecting UV radiation before it can penetrate the skin.
Make sure to use sunscreen every day, even on cloudy or overcast days, as UV radiation can still penetrate through clouds and cause damage to the skin. A high-SPF sunscreen is also necessary!
Using sunscreen can also protect against other types of sun damage, premature ageing, and the development of skin cancer.
How to Reduce Pigmentation From the Face
Sun exposure is a major cause of pigmentation, so protecting your skin from the sun can help reduce the appearance of pigmentation. Protect yourself and make sure to wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every day.
Also, some topical treatments available to help reduce are hydroquinone, kojic acid, and retinoids. These treatments work by reducing the production of melanin in the skin.
Furthermore, chemical peels can be used to exfoliate and peel the skin off. This can help reduce the appearance of pigmentation and improve the texture and tone of the skin.
Additionally, laser therapy uses high-intensity light to target and break up pigmentation in the skin, this can be an effective way to reduce the appearance of pigmentation, but it may need many treatments.
Finally, microdermabrasion involves the use of a device that exfoliates the top layer of the skin, which can help reduce the appearance of pigmentation. The device looks like this:
This article was read and reviewed by the face of DR Aesthetica himself - DR Baldeep Farmah.
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