Pigmentation (also referred to as Hyperpigmentation) – are areas of skin that become darker in colour than surrounding healthy skin. This darkening often occurs because there is an excess of melanin or an abnormal production and deposition of melanin by the melanocytes, which deposits in the skin. Melanin is the brown pigment that produces our normal skin colour.
Hyperpigmentation terms include melasma, chloasma, solar lentigines, PIH, sun damage and freckles (ephilides).
Excess pigmentation can be triggered by a number of factors including UV exposure, hormonal changes, skin trauma, or genetic predisposition.
Many people believe that tanned skin is healthy skin. In actual fact, tanned skin is damaged skin. The ultraviolet radiation (UV) in sunlight penetrates the deepest layers of skin, and harms the cells. The body responds by forming pigment to protect itself (hence we view this as tanned skin), but damage is easily done, and may be permanent. The more exposure you have to the sun, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer later in life.
UV radiation leads to many skin problems including sunburn, age spots, wrinkles, dehydration, pigmentation, freckles and allergic rashes. Most importantly, overexposure to the sun is the major cause of skin cancer, including melanoma.
Hormonal pigmentation or ‘Melasma’ can occur during times of hormonal fluctuations associated with pregnancy (sometimes called the “pregnancy mask”), oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). For some, the condition fades after childbirth, hormone therapy or discontinuation of oral contraceptives. For many it does not and it can prove to be very difficult to successfully remove.
Skin Trauma and Birthmarks
This type of pigmentation, called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, is temporary pigmentation that follows injury or physical trauma to the skin (e.g. a thermal burn) or inflammatory disorder of the skin (e.g. dermatitis, infection). It is mostly observed in darker skin types. Postinflammatory pigmentation is also called acquired melanosis.
Skin pigmentation can also be present at birth (birthmarks), appear in childhood, or adulthood.