Skin pigmentation occurs as a result of abnormal synthesis or accumulation of melanin, a substance that gives skin its color. Melanin is produced by skin cells called melanocytes that protect our skin from the sun. When the melanocytes are damaged, the melanin production will be affected as a result darker or lighter areas may appear on the skin. Causes for increased skin pigmentation include exposure to UV radiation from the sun, hormonal changes during pregnancy, inflammation and irritation of the skin

If your skin appears darker compared to the other areas, it means that your skin cells are producing excess amount of melanin which results in darker skin. And decreased production of melanin makes the skin lighter.

Pigmentation can be treated on any part of the skin using skin lightening agents or creams and laser techniques. Topical creams and lotions have ingredients which inhibits the enzymes that produce melanin and increases the turnover of the skin to remove the existing pigmentation.

You can prevent the occurrence of the pigmentation by applying an SPF 50+ sunscreen daily, even if it is cloudy, or overcast. There are two types of sunscreens, physical and chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens are not absorbed by the skin and provide longer lasting protection. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by the skin and require application of every 2 hours.

Topical Medications

This option is suitable for the superficial pigmentation that affects the top layer of skin only. The topical agent that is usually used to treat pigmentation is hydroquinone. Other options include retinoids, kojic acid and azelaic acid.

Oral Medications

Oral medications are also a treatment option for pigmentation but are suitable for certain kinds of discoloration only.

Laser Treatment

Laser treatment is also effective for reducing the pigmentation marks on the skin. Laser treatment not only removes the pigmented marks on the skin but also promotes skin regeneration and production of new collagen. Various kinds of lasers are available but alexandrite and fractional CO2 lasers are mostly used for treating pigmentation.

IPL Therapy

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is the most modern form of light based therapy. Besides number of other conditions, it is also effective for treating pigmentation. The light energy emitted by IPL device is converted into heat energy that destroys melanin – pigment in the skin that causes discoloration of skin.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are the most effective and non-invasive treatment option for pigmentation. The procedure involves applying chemical on the skin that peels off the upper layer of skin revealing new healthy and clear skin. Chemical peels are available in different strengths depending on the severity of condition.

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Pigmentation Disorders

The most common pigmentation disorders include melasma, vitiligo, and solar lentigo.

Melasma– Also known as chloasma, is a form of pigmentation which causes brown-gray patches on cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin and commonly occurs in pregnant women or those taking the oral contraceptive pill. Exposure to sun may also be a cause of melasma. There are several treatment options available for treating melasma such as chemical peels, skin lightening creams, use of a laser.

Vitiligo– It is a pigmentation disorder where white patches or spots appear on the skin. It develops when the melanocytes are unable to produce the required amount of melanin.

Solar lentigo or sun spots– The solar lentigines appear as flat, large brown spots that resemble freckles and commonly appear on the sun exposed areas such as face, back, and hands. It commonly develops in individuals with a history of sun exposure.
Lentigines can be treated by topical creams which help in peeling the affected surface and regeneration of new skin with healthy cells. Other treatment options include cryotherapy and laser therapy.

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