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Pigmentation

Skin pigmentation affects everyone no matter the colour of your skin. Pigmentation is the result of excess melanin deposits in the skin by pigment producing cells called melanocytes (cells that produce our natural skin colour). The production of melanin is in fact a natural defense mechanism against trauma such as sun exposure or hormonal influences. There are different types of pigmentation and may appear as brown spots or clustered brown blotches.

There are different types of pigmentation and in order to treat pigmentation effectively, it is important to understand the differences. Below is a guide to help you identify and understand the different types of pigmentation.

Freckles

This type of pigment is one of the most recognisable as most people have freckles or know someone with freckles. These clustered flat and circular brown lesions appear mostly across the cheeks and over the nose. They generally develop from a very young age or due to genetics and can appear darker when exposed to the sun and tend to lighten in colour during the winter months, whereas other forms of pigmentation do not.

Melasma

Commonly seen in females, this type of pigmentation can appear as brown patchy shades across sun exposed areas of the face, especially the forehead, cheeks and upper lip and those with darker coloured skin it will worsen in summer such as Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Hispanic backgrounds. Melasma, also referred to as chloasma and pregnancy mask interchangeably does not have an exact cause. However, there are many elements that may play a role in the development of melasma - hormones which includes pregnancy and the oral contraceptive pill, ultraviolet radiation (UV) exposure, and sometimes genetics. Melasma can take longer to treat compared to the rest of the other types of pigmentation because melasma can be located in different layers of the skin. The excess melanin may be deposited superficially in the skin known as epidermal melasma, or deposited deeper in the skin known as deep melasma and/or both layers of the skin known as mixed melasma. 

Post Inflammatory Pigmentation 

Damaged and discoloured skin characterised by flat, tan, brown or black spots on the skin due to trauma or inflammation such as acne, allergic reactions, incorrect use of skin products or treatments. Compared with normal skin, the affected areas release pigment cells (melanocytes) to produce more melanin in the skin. When damage is severe to the skin from trauma or inflammation, the excess pigment can leak into the second layer of the skin (dermis) due to the disruption from the first layer of the skin (epidermis). Sun exposure and certain medications can exacerbate the discolouration. Although, this type of pigmentation can be seen in anyone, it is more common in people darker coloured skin (Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African and Hispanic) and can be challenging to treat, occasionally persisting for months or years depending on the initial cause.

Sun Spots/Age Spots

​​In other words, sun damage or photo damage are usually varying shades of brown spots induced by sun exposure. Excess ultraviolet radiation (UV) stimulates the production of melanin and these sun spots can form after years of exposure. Compared to freckles, these spots do not fade during the winter months. They are characterised by flat distinct spots that may appear on the cheeks, nose, forehand, décolletage and back of the hands. Common terminology for sun spots can be referred to as age spots or liver spots.

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