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Skin pigmentation

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Melanin is a special skin pigment that is produced by melanocytes in the skin. These melanocytes are responsible for the skin color and tone. These melanocytes decide the natural tone and pigmentation of your skin.

Pigment means color and every individual’s skin has a definitive color.  If there’s a defect in the cells that produce melanin, then skin problems would crop up which could be darkening of the skin or loss of color.

An Overview of Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation results from excess production of melanin by the melanocytes.

Causes and symptoms of hyperpigmentation

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy leads to formation of dark patches on face
  • High concentration of melanocyctes or hyperactive melanocytes in your body
  • Overexposure to the sun, which stimulates the melanocytes. Your skin acquires a darker tone
  • Side effects of cosmetics products and hair dyes. It can cause serious reactions on your skin
  • Side effects of some drugs like chemotherapy drugs, antiarrhythmics, antibiotics and birth control pills
  • Symptom of Addison’s disease- an endocrine disorder

Hyperpigmentation disorder- Melasma

This is the most common dermatological disorder that leads to hyperpigmentation on your face. Dark brown patches appear on your forehead, chin, nose, upper lips, and nose. It appears usually in pregnant women and postmenopausal women with estrogen therapy. Men can also develop melasma.

An Overview of Hypopigmentation

It is just the opposite of hyperpigmentation and is characterized by reducing melanin production in your body.

Causes and symptoms of hypopigmentation

  • Formation of white patches over the skin from autoimmune conditions like thyroid, diabetes, hormonal disorders, etc.
  • Genetically inherited
  • Loss of melanin from melanocytes
  • From external skin conditions like burns, infections, blisters, scrapes, infection or any other trauma
  • Side effects of improper cosmetic treatments like laser peels, chemical peels and photofacials

Hypopigmentation disorders- Vitiligo and Albinism

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that leads to damage of the melanocytes as a result of which white skin patches usually develop on hands and around the mouth and the eyes. Albinism is an inherited genetic disorder characterized by complete de-pigmentation (absence of melanin) of the skin due presence of an abnormal gene.

Diagnosis of skin pigmentation

Usually your dermatologist can identify the skin condition from a simple physical examination. Let your doctor know if you have a medical history, have used any chemical treatment, dyes or other cosmetics that could have possibly triggered a reaction or if you are taking any medicines.

Wood's lamp examination is often conducted. Itis a device that emitsultraviolet (UV) light in the 365 NM rangeand focuses on your skin in a dark room to diagnose the skin condition.

Treatment of skin pigmentation

The treatment depends on the type of condition you are suffering from. Your doctor will ask you to restrict exposure to sun, precisely during of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as much as possible and would prescribe medicated sunscreens, whose application is mandatory, every day. Topical creams may also be suggested to reduce the hyperpigmentation from melasma, sunburns or melanin accumulation.

Vitiligo and albinism cannot be cured, yet in the case of the former, some dermatologists prescribe topical corticosteroids to control the spread of hypopigmentation or suggest cosmetic skin grafting.

Home care for skin pigmentation

Home remedies work very well on reversible type ofpost inflammatory hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation. Aloe Vera, honey, lemon juice, tomatoes, papaya, sandalwood, oatmeal, turmeric and almonds are some natural ingredients that help to manage skin pigmentation problems.

If you have skin pigmentation that is causing cosmetic embarrassment, speak to an experienced dermatologist. The doctor will be able to make an accurate diagnosis of your condition and suggest a suitable treatment for the type of skin pigmentation affecting you.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 28, 2015