What is Pigmentation? – Understanding the Causes and Types
We have often heard the term pigmentation when it comes to skincare. Let’s understand what exactly it is. Pigmentation is the coloring of the skin, hair, and eyes, which is determined by the presence of a pigment called melanin. Melanin is an important aspect of the skin that gives it its color. Melanin is produced by specialized cells which are known as melanocytes. They play a big role in protecting our skin from UV radiation.
However, if there is an imbalance or some irregularities in the production of melanin, it can lead to various pigmentation disorders. There are many factors that can trigger the pigmentation disorder. Let’s look closely and understand the causes and types of pigmentation.
Types of Pigmentation
Hyperpigmentation causes darkening of the skin because of excess melanin production. These can appear as sunspots, melasma, or PIH.
- Melasma causes dark patches to appear on the face. They appear particularly on the cheeks, forehead, chin, and upper lip. Melasma is often associated with hormonal change.
- They are brown spots and appear on exposed areas like the face, hands, and arms. Sunspots are also known by the names, age spots, or liver spots. Sunspots are caused by sun damage over a period of time.
- Freckles are usually genetic. They are small brown spots that often occur in sun-exposed areas. They become more noticeable when exposed to the sun.
Hypopigmentation is the loss of melanin, which results in light patches on the skin.
- Vitiligo is a condition where the melanocytes are lost in the form of patches. This leads to depigmented, white, or pink areas on the skin. Vitiligo is not restricted and can affect any body part and may spread over time.
- After inflammation or injury to the skin due to burns, infections, or certain treatments, hypopigmentation can occur. The healing process may damage the melanocytes causing depigmented patches.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
The Sun’s UV radiation is a major factor that can trigger pigmentation. When there is prolonged skin exposure to the sun, it boosts the production of melanin. This further causes darkening of the skin, which we commonly call tanning. Excessive sun exposure can lead to sunspots, freckles, and uneven pigmentation.
Certain pigmentation disorders can be inherited genetically. Genetic predisposition can affect the quantity and distribution of melanin in the skin. This causes variations in pigmentation levels and leads to disorders.
Melanin production can get influenced by hormonal changes. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy or hormonal treatments can lead to dark patches on the skin.
The skin gets inflamed by cuts, acne, injuries, or burns. This skin inflammation can trigger an increase in melanin production. This causes dark spots and patches which are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
With age, the skin undergoes natural changes. The melanin production can also get less regulated which causes age spots and uneven pigmentation.
What Causes Hypopigmentation?
Severe malnutrition can lead to hypopigmentation. Deficiencies particularly in vitamin B12, folic acid, and copper can affect the function of the melanocytes.
Exposure to certain chemicals, such as hydroquinone, or other medications can have hypopigmentation as a side effect.
In these conditions, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the melanocytes. This causes depigmented patches on the skin.
Prolonged exposure to the sun can damage the melanocytes and lead to uneven pigmentation. In some cases, it can cause hypopigmentation.
Understanding pigmentation helps us appreciate and comprehend the diversity in human skin. Some disorders are genetic and unavoidable, while others can be triggered by external factors. Understanding the types of pigmentation helps us make informed decisions to deal with it. It is essential to seek professional advice and proper treatment in case you notice any of the above indications.