Pigmentation refers to the natural colouration of the skin. There are two main types of pigmentation: hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when certain areas of the skin become darker than the surrounding skin. This can be caused by a variety of factors, such as sun exposure, hormonal changes, or inflammation. Some common types of hyperpigmentation include age spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory pigmentation.
Hypopigmentation refers to areas of the skin that are lighter in colour than the surrounding skin. This can be caused by a lack of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour. Some common types of hypopigmentation include vitiligo, albinism, and certain types of scarring.
What causes pigmentation?
UV exposure can cause DNA damage in the epidermis by inducing immediate pigment darkening and stimulating melanin production.
Prolonged exposure to heat can cause changes to the elastic fibers that make up your skin, leading to significant skin pigmentation.
Certain medications can react with melanin to form a drug-pigment complex, causing hyperpigmentation.
Menopause can cause changes in the skin, leading to hyperpigmentation. Visit our menopause page for more information.
Irritation from skincare products
Inflammation triggered by skincare products can stimulate melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) to release excessive melanosomes (pigment granules).
Fluctuations in hormones can lead to pigmentation, such as melasma, which is common during pregnancy due to elevated hormone levels and stimulation of melanocytes.
Pregnant women may experience hyperpigmentation, often referred to as the ‘pregnancy mask’ or melasma, due to the stimulation of pigment-producing cells by female sex hormones.
Overproduction of melanin after inflammation can cause hyperpigmentation, commonly associated with acne breakouts. Visit our acne page for more information.
What can you do to prevent the formation of and reduce existing hyperpigmentation?
Wear daily sunscreen and minimise sun exposure
Excessive sun exposure can bring dark sunspots to the skin’s surface, so it’s important to wear daily sunscreen and limit time spent in the sun.
Avoid heat in the area of melasma
While melasma is mostly caused by hormonal changes, it’s important to avoid heat in the affected area.
Stress increases inflammation within the body, which can trigger pigmentation as a response. Incorporating stress-reducing practices into your daily routine can help prevent hyperpigmentation.
Strengthen your skin barrier
A strong, efficient skin barrier will protect and promote your skin’s water levels to keep a healthy balance of moisture and hydration within the skin. A healthy skin barrier will also maintain efficient skin cell regeneration to encourage regular shedding of dead, pigmented cells.
Focus on hormone-balancing
Some pigmentation is hormone-related, so focusing on a diet rich in antioxidants can help to reduce free radicals, lower inflammation, and support cellular turnover from within.
Don't pick active acne breakouts
Picking or squeezing acne breakouts can cause trauma to the skin and leave post-inflammatory pigmentation.
Try vitamin c
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to promote skin brightening as well as blocking some of the pathways that cause pigmentation.
Retinol helps to block pigment production and maintain healthy skin cell regeneration to bring even, new cells to the surface.
Try azelaic acid or mandelic acid
Both gentle exfoliating acids with anti-inflammatory properties to help exfoliate dead, pigmented skin cells while calming the skin.
Try kojic acid
Kojic acid inhibits melanin production while providing chemical exfoliation.