You may have discovered small spots on your skin which are a little darker than the rest of your complexion. They are most likely to be hyperpigmentation, i.e. pigmentation, age or sun spots. Do you know why they occur? And how do we remove pigmentation?
How does pigmentation occur?
Increased melanin levels are mainly responsible for the occurrence of pigmentation – melanin is a natural pigment that gives our hair, eyes and skin their colour. Excess melanin can be affected by several factors:
- Excessive exposure to sunlight without the use of SPF products.
- Hormonal changes: spots often occur in women using hormonal contraceptives, during pregnancy, or during the menopause.
- Age: the number of melanocytes decreases with age but their activity and volume increase.
- Skin inflammation and injury result in the release of melanin.
- Certain medicines (e.g. antibiotics) and herbs (e.g. St. John’s Wort).
We can differentiate between the basic types of pigmentation according to the specific causes.
Types of pigmentation
One unusual and mostly harmless type of hyperpigmentation is melasma (chloasma). It most commonly occurs on the cheeks, nose and above the top lip. Women suffer from it in particular because the occurrence of this type of pigmentation is affected by hormones and changes in their levels which affect the amount of melanin.
Melasma occurs in up to 15% of pregnant women; that is why this type of pigmentation is called “pregnancy mask”. Alongside pregnant women, women who use oral hormonal contraceptives can get this. The good news is that melasma can disappear on its own after birth or on reducing the dose of oestrogen.
Age and sun spots
Occur mainly as a result of the effects of sunlight; that is why they are most commonly found in places exposed to the sun. You can find pigmentation on the face, neck, chest or hand areas. This is a harmless type of hyperpigmentation.
The occurrence of these minor dark spots is also affected by age and skin colour. Darker people are affected by pigmentation more than people with light complexions, who have less melanin.
As the name suggests, this type of hyperpigmentation, also known as PIH, results from inflammation or injury. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation often occurs after acne.
When skin inflammation occurs, the melanin is released and excess pigment causes hyperpigmentation. Flat pink, red or brown spots remain on the skin. Even though sunlight does not cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, it can make it worse. That is why you should avoid direct sunlight and follow other rules to prevent the condition of post-inflammatory pigmentation from worsening. In addition to reducing exposure to sunlight, try other methods to get rid of pigmentation on the face.
How to avoid hyperpigmentation
Sunlight affects the intensity of pigmentation. That is why sufficient sun protection reduces the likelihood of skin pigmentation occurring.
How to get rid of pigmentation
Pigmentation removal depends on the size of the spots and the intensity of the colour. You can try cosmetic products for pigmentation, professional treatment and “old wives’ cures” for skin hyperpigmentation.
Cosmetics for pigmentation
- An intensive serum or whitening skin pigmentation treatment works well on lighter pigmentation.
- A chemical peel is also effective, renewing the skin deep down and removing dead skin cells. You can have one at a dermatologist or try a gentle chemical peel at home.
The best products for pigmentation
When cosmetic products are not enough for pigmentation, it is time to get professional help.
- Laser therapy has similar effects to a chemical peel but is more accurate. Dermatologists focus on the specific area with pigmentation, which they go over with a high-energy light to remove the pigmentation spots.
- Hydroquinone is a drug that can reduce pigmentation. However, it can also irritate the skin, and in extreme cases may cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It should only be used for a limited time.
What to do about “old wives’ cures” for pigmentation
Hyperpigmentation treatment does not always have to be necessary but if they distract from your beauty, try these home tips for how to get rid of skin pigmentation:
- Mix lemon juice (1 teaspoon) with a teaspoon of honey and white yogurt. Place the mask to remove hyperpigmentation on your face for 15 minutes then wash off.
- Mix turmeric (½ teaspoon) with a tub of fresh cream and apply to pigmentation on your face. Wash off after 15 minutes.
- Mix almond oil with honey and ground almonds, leave on your face to work for an hour, then wash off. Or massage the almond oil into your skin before bed and leave to act overnight.
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