Facial pigmentary problems like dark patches, brown marks, liver and age spots are a common skin condition affecting people of all ethnicities and skin types. Although generally not a health concern, they can negatively affect your self-esteem and have a significant impact on your psychological wellbeing.
The biology behind pigmentation
Hyperpigmentation, darkening of the skin, is the result of excess melanin production whilst hypopigmentation, lack of pigment, occurs when there’s a decrease of melanin in the skin.
Melanocytes are skin cells that are found in our epidermis. Tyrosinase is an enzyme found in our melanocytes that triggers the production of melanin. Through a process known as melanogenesis, melanocytes produce the pigment melanin and deliver it to the upper layers of the skin. Melanin gives us our skin its colour and protects us from over-exposure to UV light from the sun.
Skin tone is determined by the type and quantity of melanin and its distribution between keratinocytes, the principal cells of the epidermis. Although there are a similar number of melanocytes in the skin of dark versus fair-skinned people, the melanocytes of dark-skinned people are more active, producing nearly ten times more melanin than the melanocytes of fair-skinned people.
What causes uneven skin tone?
Pigmentation irregularities are often caused by a combination of external factors including UV exposure, hormonal fluctuations, age, illness, medication or physical trauma to the skin.
Excessive UV exposure
The skin produces more melanin when exposed to the sun to protect itself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Unprotected sun exposure is the leading cause of excess and uneven melanin production and can result in solar lentigos, commonly known as age or sun spots. Sun spots occur in light and dark skin but fair-skinned people are likely to be more affected by them. Sun spots are a warning sign of increased risk of skin cancer from over UV exposure, so it’s worth protecting your skin against further sun damage.
Pigmentation can be caused by hormonal fluctuations during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal changes. It mainly affects pregnant women, women on a contraceptive, or those receiving hormone therapy. Melasma is difficult to treat as it tends to be persistent and unresponsive to treatment.
Age is not an actual cause of uneven skin tone. Age spots are not caused by age, just as liver spots are not caused by your liver, they are skin damage caused by the sun. Sun spots become more prominent over time, as you get older, as they are the result of cumulative sun exposure.
Some systemic and autoimmune diseases, like lupus and Addison’s disease, can influence melanin production and result in unwanted pigmentation.
Pigmentation can be induced by a wide variety of medication like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, thyroid medication, HRT and the contraceptive pill. In most cases, once the medication has been stopped, the marks fade, but occasionally the pigmentation may become permanent.
Injury, irritation, inflammation and trauma to the skin can result in dark spots or scars called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is because melanin, which is a natural protector, is triggered when your skin goes through the healing process. PIH can affect all skin types but occurs more often in darker skin tones.
The fight against pigmentation problems
There’s no quick fix to effectively tackling pigmentation concerns, it requires diligence and consistency. A multifaceted approach of regulating pigment production, speeding up cell renewal and protecting the skin from sun exposure is an effective way of combating uneven skin tones.
Sun exposure is the trigger for melanin production, making sun protection an integral part of preventing further pigmentation problems. Wear a high factor, broad-spectrum SPF to protect your skin from the sun every day. Re-apply every couple of hours to ensure that you are adequately protected.
Hyperpigmentation is a result of increased melanin production. Tyrosinase inhibitor ingredients that regulate or slow down the action of its main catalyst, tyrosinase, can help prevent an overproduction of melanin. Look out for pigment fighting ingredients like azelaic acid, liquorice root extract, niacinamide, kojic acid, bearberry and ascorbic acid.
Our Pristine Brightening Essence is a gentle yet highly active skin clarifying essence that tones and brightens the skin. It contains a potent blend of high-performance active ingredients that work in synergy to target multiple steps in the skin pigmentation process; simultaneously impacting the production of melanin and intercepting the migration of melanin to the upper layers of the skin.
Gentle but regular exfoliation effectively speeds up the skin renewal process and may help fade dark spots by assisting in the removal of excess pigment granules. Our Instant Glow Calming Exfoliator is a mild, creamy exfoliator formulated with bamboo stem particles and enzymatic AHA fruit acids to gently exfoliate, and jojoba oil and shea butter to nourish and moisturise the skin.
Be patient and consistent. Pigmentation tends to be stubborn so it takes time to see results. Allow at least 8 weeks for visible signs of improvement and up to 6 months to see significant changes.
We love sharing skincare information with you, our customers, and receiving your feedback. Are you struggling with uneven skin tone? Would you like further skincare advice? We’re always here to help, you can contact us at email@example.com
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