Uneven skin tone, dark spots, blemishes – regardless of what you call it,
hyperpigmentation is a major complexion killer.
Is hyperpigmentation giving you the beauty blues?
And if asked, what skin type would you really like?
Why, an air-brushed finish that is complete with no blemishes would, no doubt, be on your wish list.
Well, I want to let you into a little beauty secret.
There is no such thing as perfect skin.
That’s hard to get your head around, I know.
But not when you realize that there are 529 genes involved in pigmentary disorders.
Regardless of colouring or ethnic background, hyperpigmentation is a real life issue.
Many people struggle with their skin appearing lighter or darker than usual in concentrated areas.
But stop, don’t panic: I’m here to help you deal with your beauty blues, and give you the guidance to get back that lovely, even glow, which is your next step in skin health.
So, how does your skin colour?
Hyperpigmentation is the result of very complex biological processes in the skin, which can lead to the production of melanin by melanocytes, found in the basal layer of your outer layer of skin.
Melanocytes can be likened to tiny PIGMENT FACTORIES in the skin.
It is these pigment-producing cells, which are triggered by tyrosinase enzymes, that are responsible for creating the colour of our hair, skin, and eyes.
Different coloured skin types all contain the same number of melanocytes, but those with different ethnic backgrounds carry genes that make melanocytes produce more pigment – referred to as melanin.
Excess melanin creates hyperpigmentation: brown spots on the skin that can appear anywhere, but most commonly on the face, hands, neck, and décolleté.
- Birth control
- Excessive UV light
- Trauma to the skin, including picking and acne scarring
All of these and more are responsible for stimulating excessive melanin production.
The nitty-gritty of hyperpigmentation
There are essentially four types of pigmentation disorders:
They range in colour from light brown to black and are predominantly found in areas that have excess sun, such as the hands, face, and arms.
These are often referred to as ephelides. They are small pigmented spots containing more melanin than the surrounding skin.
Freckles are believed to be an inherited skin characteristic due to overactive melanocytes. The cause of freckles appears to be largely genetic.
Interestingly, research has found that those who possess a variant of the melanocortin-1 receptor gene have more of a tendency to develop freckles than those who don’t.
Hyperpigmentation appears on pregnant women who have a genetic disposition to over-producing melanin when they are expecting; often, these marks disappear, but in some cases they remain permanently.
It appears as a mask on the face and sometimes on the belly, where it shows up as a vertical line that is known as “line nigra” which is Latin for black line.
You can read about both melasma and chloasma here.
PIH appears as a result of trauma to the skin such as a burn, acne or from squeezing pimples.
Basically, it is an overproduction of melanin following inflammation. Cytokines and inflammatory mediators have a stimulatory effect on melanocytes, which leads to an increase in melanin production.
In the case of PIH, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure; the key is to avoid inflammation, so no SQUEEZING.
Essentially, every time you INTERFERE with melanin production, you are COMPROMISING the HEALTH of your SKIN.
Capillary flow becomes restricted, which is critical to skin protection because it is the only way that antioxidants and co-factors such as minerals are delivered to the skin, giving you natural free radical support that helps to maintain skin health.
It is a vicious cycle, because a deficiency in antioxidants and protective enzymes can result in an increase in melanin production.
It’s your skin’s way of saying, if I don’t have enough antioxidants to help, I will go into the second tier of protection and create more melanocytes, which will result in excessive hyperpigmentation.
Note: Hyperpigmentation shows up as brown patches, whilst skin cancer appears as red or brown lesions. If you are concerned about pigmented lesions, I’d advise you get them looked at by a medical practitioner.
Are you sporting that tan?
UV exposure is the biggest contributing factor to hyperpigmentation.
When melanin is produced in an even fashion, your skin will tan.
A tan is a normal reaction to the sun, which stimulates the skin and produces an enzyme called tyrosinase. This signals the melanocyte to INJECT into the surrounding cells; after a couple of days, a tan begins to develop.
UV rays – in particular UVB rays – cause melanocytes to produce an excessive amount of melanin. This forms dark patches of colour on the skin’s surface, which creates blotches and uneven skin tone.
Why does our tan fade? Melanocytes inject melanin into a cell, and as these cells move towards the surface, they shed.
Hyperpigmentation can be improved or eliminated completely by a variety of treatments; the article, “How to Lighten Skin“ covers this topic in more detail.