Pigmentation is when the skin, whatever natural tone it has, changes colour in patches. Either it loses colour, ie goes lighter, or increases in colour, ie goes darker.  It can be a long process to improve pigmented areas, but at the same time, overall skin health will improve.

It’s a common problem brought about by several factors. The process of pigmented areas in the skin  is when the natural pigment in our skin, called Melanin either increases or decreases. Melanin production and its spread through the skin cells is a natural protective response and the colour of our skin is determined by the amount and type of pigment we are genetically born with.

Darker skins have more Eumelanin in it, whereas lighter skins have predominantly Pheomelanin and no Eumelanin. This is a simplification but you get the idea. I like to think of Eumelanin as being melanin that has been down the gym, strong, robust and lasting, whereas Pheomelanin is a bit watery and floppy  and a hit and miss in its distribution through the skin.

So what is Melanin trying to protect our skin from? Well, mainly UV light which is not only important for Vitamin D synthesis, but is also destructive to our skin’s structure and ability to perform its essential roles of protection, immunity, excretion, temperature control to just mention a few of the skin’s key roles.

Other situations that stimulate the production of melanin are pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, stress, pollution, medication.

So what happens? There is a complex chain reaction of enzymes and hormones that kick into place when the skin feels the need to protect itself. Ultimately, whatever the trigger event, special cells within the skin called Melanocytes, release the melanin pigment that travel up these finger like cells, called dendrites and flood into the main skin cells, called Keratinocytes. One melanocyte cell is capable of communicating with up to 40 keratinocyte cells.

This is how a tan (skin darkening) develops. So a tan is a scar, a self-protective discolouration. Darker skins are genetically programmed to be able to self protect more efficiently than lighter skins. But they are still susceptible to getting pigmented areas.

Ultimately, a very damaged skin through excess UV or other factors is at risk of skin cancer, pre-cancerous cells, or benign lesions such as solar keratosis.  Ageing also makes the skin weaker, so our aim is always to prevent/reduce pigmentation, strengthen and increase skin health through well chosen products,  appropriate treatments and other encourage other lifestyle choices that support general wellbeing.