You may not have deep frown lines or crow’s feet, but if you feel like you are ageing, chances are that it is thanks to uneven skin tone. Now, we’re not talking a sweet smidgen of freckles over your nose, but the bigger, uneven brown patches on the face, hands, décolletage and shoulder areas. These ageing dark spots are known as pigmentation.
Pigmentation means coloring. Your skin gets its colour from a pigment called melanin. If your body makes too much melanin, your skin gets darker.
The main cause of dark spots is from sun damage. Years of sun exposure can result in hyperpigmentation – the darkening of an area of skin caused by increased melanin. The extent of sun damage depends largely on a person’s skin colour and his or her history of long-term, or intense, sun exposure.
Light individuals – Dark spots from early sun damage occurring in light-skinned individuals tend to be more superficial, affecting only the top layer of skin.
Darker individuals – The most common pigmentation problems occurring in darker skin tones are melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Melasma, also known as Hormonal Pigmentation, is a significant problem for South African women. It is a chronic skin condition that occurs on the face in the form of brown patches that needs lifelong treatment. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a condition in which an injury or inflammation to the skin causes increased pigment production. PIH occurs in darker-skinned individuals and like melasma, can be difficult to treat when it involves a deeper skin layer. The most common cause of this type of pigmentation is acne, but it also can result from psoriasis, a burn, or an injury.
Other factors that cause pigmentation are Addison’s disease, pregnancy, the birth control pill, picking at the skin, certain medications such as anti-biotics and it can be heredity.
One of the best ways to avoid pigmentation is to apply a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30+, which will block both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen needs to be applied regularly if you are outdoors.
Topical creams that contain alpha hydroxyl acid, hydroxyl quinine, azelic acid or kojic acid can be used together with a sunscreen.
If creams do not work there are a number of other treatment options available such a microdermabrasion, chemical peels or fractional lasers.
Anyone who is experiencing changes in their skin tone should see a board-certified dermatologist for proper diagnosis and to start a customized treatment regimen. There are a few home care remedies that could also be tried, although the success of these treatment options is unknown.
Home care remedy
• Peel an avocado, mash it up and apply the juice on pigmented skin.
• Mix a few drops of lime juice with honey and leave it on for 10 minutes.
• Massage cocoa butter on affected skin twice a day for about 2 to 3 weeks.
But as always, prevention is better than cure!