Shady Process of Pigmentation Formation
The hyperpigmentation of our skin is due to many factors, both internal and external. The sun being the most important one. This you already know, but how is the pigmentation formed within the skin? Let’s have a look…
Picture: Process of pigmentation formation in the Melanocyte
The melanocyte is the cell that makes Melanin which results in the pigmentation in your skin. Melanin is what gives colour to our skin. There are 2 different kinds of Melanin, Eumelanin (Black/brown) and Phaeomelanin (yellow/ orange). Our skin is classified into 6 categories based on our skin colour and risk of burning in the sun. This is the Fitzpatrick Skin Type classification. The Tyrosinase enzyme in the Melanocyte is responsible for changing the Tyrosine in the melanosome into Melanin. The melanosomes containing Melanin are then transferred to the Keratinocytes (the epidermal skin cells) to give them colour. Under certain conditions the melanocyte can overproduce melanin which in turn can cause uneven hyperpigmentation in the skin (darkening of the skin).
It is thus important to be aware of the causes of hyperpigmentation as the discolouration of the cells could be more than just aesthetic. Skin cancer develops when the melanocyte cell division is corrupted and the DNA is damaged.
Let’s have a look at some of the causes of Hyperpigmentation…
Internal Causes for Pigmentation
- Poor diet that leads to inflammation in the body
- Certain Medications that make the skin more sensitive to the sun
- Tanning/skin darkening injections
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Inflammatory processes
External Causes of Pigmentation
- Direct and indirect sun light
- Fluorescent lighting
- Perfumes (including those found in your skin care)
- Over stimulating your skin with treatments like scrubbing
The aesthetic field has grown exponentially in the treatment and prevention of hyperpigmentation. Many of the skin care products used to treat or prevent hyperpigmentation contain ingredients that inhibit the enzyme Tyrosinase, thus preventing Melanin production. Some of these ingredients are retinol, anti-oxidants, Chromabright, Synovea HR, Licorice, Arbutin and many more. Any treatment regimen for Hyperpigmentation MUST include a sunblock. This must be at least SPF 50 and be applied every day. This is due to the actives making your skin more sensitive and prone to damage to the sun. Think of it as a balancing act, you need corrective measures in the one hand and protective measures in the other.
Picture: Example of freckles that surface due to sun exposure etc.
It is crucial that you to look after your skin. Both to prevent hyperpigmentation from forming and to protect the integrity of your skin cells, against more aggressive concerns like pre-cancerous and cancerous cells from forming.
Book your appointment with one of our doctors to find out more about how we can help to treat and/or prevent hyperpigmentation in your skin.
- Lee, R. 2014. Just About Skin, ‘Melanin & The Pigmentation Process’, http://www.justaboutskin.com/2014/04/pigmentation-process/ – Accessed March 2018
- PhysOrg, 2016. ‘Formation of the browning pigment melanin decoded’. Universitaet Mainz. https://phys.org/news/2016-07-formation-browning-pigment-melanin-decoded.html – Accessed March 2018
- Eucerin, ‘signs and symptoms of pigmentation’, https://www.eucerin.co.za/skin-concerns/uneven-skin/hyperpigmentation# – Accessed March 2018
Written by Danike Bouwer
Edited by Dr Jenni Irvine
©The Aesthetics Centre March 2018