skin pigmentation

Hyperpigmentation or skin pigmentation features spots of darkened skin and affects people of all ethnic groups. Although this condition is most common in middle age and beyond, younger individuals can also suffer from it. A person may suffer either from melanotic hyper pigmentation or melanocytotic hyperpigmentation. Melanotic hyperpigmentation results from overactive melanocytes, which are the cells that produce melanin. Melanocytotic hyperpigmentation results from a proliferation of the melanocytes.

Skin pigmentation usually brings great concern on it aesthetic implications especially for individuals with facial hyperpigmentation, leading to anxiety and depression. This article gives a diligent analysis of these problems coupled with a variety of pigmentation treatments to help people address this serious issue.


Main types of hyperpigmentation classified by their cause

  • Lentigines

These are commonly known as age spots or liver spots. They are more prevalent with older ages than younger ones, and affect nearly all individuals ageing beyond 60 years. However, they are a result of UV exposure rather than a direct cause by the aging process.

  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)

PIH occurs following a previous skin injury. This may include injuries from burns, acne lesions, friction, psoriasis or certain skin care treatments. It will start to disappear as the skin continues to regenerate itself, although this natural healing process can take months or even years. PIH usually respond to treatments easily, thus easier to treat.

  • Melasma

This type of skin pigmentation results from certain hormonal fluctuations. The use of birth control pills, undergoing hormone replacement therapy, people with thyroid dysfunction and during pregnancy are some examples that can lead to this hyperpigmentation.

Quick Facts about Skin Pigmentation Treatment

  • There are several causes of excessive skin pigments, including hormones, UV exposure, congenital or genetic origin, and skin trauma
  • There exist various medications for pigments such as lightening creams and lasers
  • A professional cosmetic surgeon will use a mode of treatment depending on the patient’s risk tolerance, preference and the type of pigmentation.
  • Skin care professionals classify pigmentation into dermal (deep), epidermal (superficial) or mixed
  • They use different lasers for different skin types and type of skin pigment.
  • Sunscreen or UV protection is paramount when it comes to Pigmentation Treatment.
  • Professionals need to approach laser treatment with caution, especially for darker or olive skin.

Pigmentation Treatment options that patients can consider

Patients can opt for either lasers or creams (topical lightening agents) in their hyperpigmentation treatments. In most cases, lasers show a more efficient and a faster result compared to creams. In some case, topical lightening agents may fail to remove the pigment completely butt only fade it.

However, lasers expose the user to more risks as opposed to creams. In this regard, lasers can lead to scarring skin, worsening of the pigmentation, or damages to the normal skin pigmentation (hypopigmentation). Besides, the patient will undergo post-treatment during the recovery period following a laser treatment. As a result, the choice of a laser mode of therapy highly depends on patient preference, risk tolerance, and the pigment type. The two methods can treat pigmentation on any part of patient’s body, including the back, neck, décolletage, and back of hands.

Laser treatment for excessive skin pigmentation

The advancing technology, especially the use of selective photo thermolysis technique, has raised some lasers that can treat skin pigmentation with minimal impact, if any, on the surrounding healthy skin. Selective photo thermolysis is a process that describes how the target pigment lesions attract certain lasers wavelengths, but they are attracted minimally to the unaffected skin, allowing selective elimination of a lesion.

skin pigmentation

In other words, the laser can selectively disrupt the pigment with less or no damage to the surrounding skin. Researchers have noted the melanin in a pigmented lesion to attract laser wavelength that ranges between 532nm to 1064nm, producing the desired result. There are various types of laser, including the millisecond pulse lasers like the Gemini Laser, and q-switched lasers like the Medlite laser and Sinon Ruby laser.

Tropical lightening creams for excessive skin pigmentation

These treatments involve the application of sunscreen on a daily basis to prevent skin pigmentation from appearing or worsening. UV exposure will undoubtedly worsen any existing skin pigmentation while increasing the risk of skin cancer. One can use a physical sunscreen, chemical sunscreen, or even both to reduce and control skin pigmentation. Topical lightening agents work by inhibiting enzymes that produce skin pigment or melanin, and by increasing the skin ability to flush out the existing pigmentation.

Many professional recommend physical sunscreens rather than chemical sunscreens because the skin does not absorb physical sunscreens in addition to providing long hours of protection in a day. The skin, however, tends to absorb chemical sunscreens, needing reapplication after few hours.