Pigmentation comes in many forms such as freckles, sunspots, and melasma (commonly known as hormonal pigmentation), and post-inflammatory pigmentation, which can occur after trauma.
Hyperpigmentation, which is the name given to areas of the skin that become darker than the surrounding skin, and how to treat it, is one of the most frequently asked questions across the skin care industry.
To help tackle some of the mystery, misconceptions and uncertainty surrounding how to deal with the various types of pigmentation, let’s take a closer look at how it occurs.
How does pigmentation occur in the skin?
Skin gets its colour from various pigments, including melanin, which is produced by cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes reside in the lower layers of the epidermis. Our skin colour is determined by genetics, and how active or inactive these melanocytes are. Different factors can increase melanocyte activity and cause uneven pigmentation - known as hyperpigmentation.
What are the primary triggers for hyperpigmentation?
Melanin is produced by the melanocyte cells when they are exposed to the sun. The more sun exposure, the more melanin that is produced.
Hormonal fluctuation, especially the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, can stimulate the overproduction of melanin. This can also occur when taking the contraceptive pill and other types of medication and is often more prevalent in deeper skin tones where the skin is already producing an abundance of melanin.
Trauma to the skin triggers melanin to deposit at the site of injury - this is commonly seen post blemishes and breakouts. Over exfoliating, certain types of hair removal and topical steroid use can also cause this type of pigmentation which is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.