What is pigmentation?

Pigmentation is caused by an abnormal production of melanin, the pigment-producing cells in the skin. Everybody has some level of melanin in their skin. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin will be. This isn’t an issue until your body begins to produce irregular levels of melanin in certain areas. This can lead to slightly darker areas (hyperpigmentation), or lighter patches of skin (hypopigmentation).

What causes pigmentation

The causes of irregular skin pigmentation vary widely. Genetic predisposition, hormonal changes and imbalances, medications (such as the contraceptive pill) and certain diseases can lead to an imbalance of melanin in skin cells. Sun exposure is also a major contributing factor, so it is important to always wear sunscreen with a high SPF. Trauma to the skin that causes pigmentation, also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), is a very common type of pigment, especially for acne sufferers.

The most important step to treating pigmentation is getting the correct medical diagnosis followed by the correct treatment. Treatment varies depending on the type of pigmentation, the area in which it is found and the colour of the surrounding skin. Some pigmented areas, such as sun spots or freckles, may respond well to laser treatments to fade, or even completely remove the pigment. Other pigment, for example melasma, may require the use of topical lightening creams or lotions. Topical lightening agents will not necessarily completely remove the pigment, they generally only fade pigment, but are safer to use than lasers on certain skin types.

All areas of the body can be treated with topical agents and lasers, from the face, neck, décolletage and backs of hands. Raised or pigmented moles need to be check by one of our skin doctors and usually cannot be treated with laser or topical agents.

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