Pigmentation of the skin varies, according to the individual genetic characteristics of each person. A general guideline is to look at the colour of the skin. The darker the skin, the more pigmentation is present. This being said, there are cases where some abnormal changes in the skin’s pigmentation can occur:
The two most common changes are:
- Hyperpigmentation – in which case an increase in pigmentation occurs in an area
- Hypopigmentation – in which case loss of pigmentation occurs in an area of the skin
There are many different types of pigmentation lesion:
Ephelides / Freckles
A freckle is the common name used for Ephelides, which are multiple small pigmented areas of the skin. These can either be caused by a genetic predisposition or by the stimulation of an overproduction of melanin due to Ultra-violet light (sunlight) in an area of the face or body.
They are not infectious and are small flat, pigmented areas, which are darker than the surrounding skin. They are commonly found on the nose and cheeks of fair-skinned people. They may also appear on the shoulders, arms, hands and back – all areas of increased sun exposure.
Freckles may be treated by concealing them with cosmetics or with IPL/Laser treatment to reduce their colour. A sun block should be worn, to prevent them intensifying in colour.
These are pigmented areas that are slightly larger than freckles, do not darken with exposure to UV light and are slightly raised.
They are not infectious and appear to be brown, slightly raised, pigmented patches. They are commonly found on the face and hands and are often referred to as Sunspots. The only way to treat them is to apply cosmetics or to have their colour reduced with IPL/Laser treatments.
Vitiligo or Leucoderma
This is a form of hypopigmentation in which patches of completely white skin, which have lost their pigmentation or which were never pigmented appear on the skin. These patches can coagulate and in some cases take over large areas of the body. They can also be a cause of over exposure to UV light.
They are not infectious and are commonly found on the face, neck, lower abdomen and the thighs. If vitiligo occurs over the eyebrows, the hair in the area will lose its pigmentation also.
This condition can only be treated with camouflage cosmetic concealer. You can also apply skin staining preparation in the depigmented areas. One should always be careful when the skin is exposed to UV light, as the skin will not have the same protection in the areas lacking pigment.
This is a genetic DNA disposition in which the skin is unable to produce melanin (pigment) and the skin, hair and eyes lack colour. This is not a form of pigmentation problems, but is often said to be a form of hypopigmentation.