Our guide to skin pigmentation discusses tips for skin pigmentation removal, what causes the skin to change colour and how to prevent it from happening.
What is skin pigmentation?
When the skin is stressed and irritated it can lead to a change in the production of melanocytes.
These are the melanin-producing cells responsible for giving skin its colour. An increase or decrease in melanin can cause visible changes in the skin pigment.
Dark skin pigmentation is due to an increase in melanin while white skin pigmentation is caused by a decrease in melanin.
What causes skin pigmentation?
All skin types and tones can be impacted by pigmentation. Depending on the type of pigmentation you’re dealing with; hypopigmentation, hyperpigmentation, or depigmentation (more on these in a moment) there are various reasons this skin condition can form.
Common causes of skin pigmentation include:
- Sun exposure
- Excessive exfoliation or products that damage the skin
- Skin injuries; such as burns
- Certain medication
- Hormonal changes
- Inflammatory skin conditions
Types of skin pigmentation disorders
Pigmentation of the skin can be grouped into 3 main categories.
melanin increases/skin darkens
In the case of hyperpigmentation, areas of the skin become darker because the production of melanocytes has increased. This results in patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding areas.
Hyperpigmentation is caused by trauma to the skin and develops in the areas the skin has been affected.
Hyperpigmentation can be brought about for numerous reasons:
UV exposure - photoaging
The most common cause of hyperpigmentation is sun exposure; the warmer months are known to trigger skin pigmentation.
The skin increases the production of melanocytes to protect itself from harmful UV light. The forehead and cheeks are the areas most likely to be darkened due to sun exposure. “Age spots” are the result of accumulated UV damage over time and become more prominent in mature skin.
Acne and other skin damage
The darker spots that present in the aftermath of acne are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. As the skin heals from the damage of breakouts, an excess amount of melanocytes can be produced which leads to acne marks. This is also the case if the skin is recovering from another type of trauma like a cut or burn.
Pregnancy and hormonal changes
Changing hormones, particularly elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone, during pregnancy can lead to a type of hyperpigmentation called melasma. Melasma is commonly referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” as the areas around the forehead, cheeks, chin, and mouth can be affected. Hyperpigmentation may also make an appearance during menopause.
Lack of melanin/skin lightens
Hypopigmentation causes the skin to become lighter. Rather than an overproduction of melanin, there is a decline in the pigment which leads to a loss of colour. The appearance of white spots skin pigmentation is a hallmark of hypopigmentation.
Hypopigmentation can be caused by:
- Skin trauma - burns, infections, or blisters for example.
- Inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema
- Genetic conditions including vitiligo and albinism
Skin care for pigmentation
Depending on the condition, skin pigmentation treatment will vary.
Hyperpigmentation is the skin pigment condition most readily treatable with a targeted at-home routine Hypopigmentation is usually addressed with prescribed medications or professional treatments.
Treating hyperpigmentation with an at-home routine
Focus your skincare routine on ingredients that brighten dark patches to restore a vibrant complexion and protect skin from further damage.
Following are some of the best ingredients to include in skin care for pigmentation.
This all-star vitamin is arguably the most effective, natural brightening ingredient to address dark skin pigmentation. Vitamin C works to suppress the production of melatonin which, over time, fades dark patches. It also brightens the skin to promote a smoother, more even appearance.
Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C performs at its best when formulated with Ferulic acid or Vitamin E in skin care. These combinations help stabilise Vitamin C and maximise its effectiveness.
Liquorice root extract
This potent extract also delivers a major brightening glow up for dull and pigmented skin.
Liquorice root contains a compound called glabridin, a polyphenolic flavonoid which research shows acts as a melanin inhibitor to promote skin lightening. Glabridin’s antioxidant activity also benefits the skin by putting a stop to free radical damage.
A staple in traditional Japanese skincare, rice bran (Oryza sativa) possesses a unique mixture of plant sterols and ferulic acid esters known as Gamma Oryzanol.
This combination helps reduce skin darkening from UV exposure by subduing the production of melanin. The ferulic acid in rice bran also helps repair damage already done.
Retinoids (Vitamin A)
All forms of Vitamin A (retinol, retinoic acid, etc) can assist in lightening dark skin pigmentation, in addition to encouraging cellular regeneration, for brighter, smoother and plumper-looking skin.
Pigmentation serum for sensitive skin should only contain a gentle/low concentration retinoid (if any) as Vitamin A can aggravate sensitive skin.
Remember, check if your Vitamin A serum should be worn in the day, night or both and you must wear SPF the following day. Retinoids make skin more sensitive to photodamage so without broad-spectrum sunscreen, hyperpigmentation will become worse.
Alpha hydroxy acids and enzymes
Fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic, malic, and lactic acids are ingredients to consider when choosing an exfoliant. These chemical exfoliants not only unblock pores but also remove cells with dark skin pigmentation thus lightening hyperpigmentation.
Must-have skincare for hyperpigmentation
We’ve covered some of the best ingredients to improve darkened skin pigment conditions at home. Now, here are the products to include in your routine.
Daily brightening / antioxidant serum
A daily antioxidant serum powered by a skin brightener like Vitamin C or liquorice root extract should lead the fight against hyperpigmentation in your skincare arsenal.
Moisturising Active Oil Serum for the Face is formulated with 7 unique brightening actives, including liquorice root extract for nourished and glowing skin.
Exfoliation helps improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation by breaking up the pigmented cells on the surface and sloughing them off.
Choose an exfoliant suited to your skin type - acids, enzymes, or physical particles - and be cautious not to over-exfoliate. Doing so irritates the skin and rather than improving hyperpigmentation, it can make it worse.
The number one defence against UV damage (the main perpetrator of hyperpigmentation) is, of course, daily broad-spectrum sunscreen.Have questions about the best skin pigmentation treatment? Reach out to the Vela Days team. We’re here to help!