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  • Writer's pictureRachel Cootes

Skin Pigmentation- let's explore!

Skin pigmentation refers to the colour or pigment of the skin. It is primarily determined by a pigment cell called melanin. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes, melanin plays a crucial role in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. However, various factors can influence melanin production, leading to changes in your skin colour.  So let's delve into the details of pigmentation, particularly hyperpigmentation, its prevention, and treatment strategies.

What is Pigmentation?

Pigmentation is the natural colouring of the skin, hair, and eyes. Melanin, the pigment responsible for this coloruing, is produced in varying amounts depending on genetic and environmental factors. The primary functions of melanin include protecting the skin from UV radiation and determining your skin colour. When melanin production is balanced, the skin tone remains even. However, imbalances can lead to pigmentation disorders and colour changes in the skin.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation occurs when certain areas of the skin produce more melanin than usual, resulting in dark patches on your skin. This condition can affect people of all skin types and is often harmless, though it can sometimes indicate underlying health issues. Common forms of hyperpigmentation include age spots (also called solar lentigines & liver spots), melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).

Preventing Hyperpigmentation

Preventing hyperpigmentation involves several strategies:

  1. Sun Protection: UV exposure is a significant trigger for melanin production. Use broad-spectrum (chemical or mineral) sunscreen with at least SPF 30, wear protective clothing, and avoid peak sun hours.

  2. Skincare Routine: Incorporate products with ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide, and retinoids, which can help regulate melanin production.

  3. Avoid Picking at Skin: Picking at acne, scabs, or other skin injuries can increase the risk of hyperpigmentation.

  4. Healthy Lifestyle: A balanced diet, adequate hydration, and managing stress can contribute to overall skin health.

Treating Pigmentation

If you find yourself with pigmentation changes,  there are treatment options available. Here are some common methods:

  1. Topical Treatments: Creams and serums containing ingredients like hydroquinone (available on prescription), kojic acid, vitamin C, and retinoids can help lighten hyperpigmented areas.

  2. Chemical Peels: These involve applying a solution to the skin that exfoliates the top layers, promoting new skin growth and reducing pigmentation.

  3. Laser Therapy: Lasers can target and break down melanin deposits, effectively reducing pigmentation.

  4. Microneedling: Microneedling increases collagen production and stimulates the production of new healthy skin cells.

  5. Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy is a great option for smaller ‘age spots’ as it ‘freezes’ the pigmented cells to remove them from the top layer of the skin.

  6. Sun Protection: SPF is the most vital element in preventing & treating pigmentation.

What is Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)?

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a type of hyperpigmentation that follows skin injury such as acne or inflammation. It occurs when the skin overproduces melanin as a response to inflammation, resulting in darkened patches or spots. PIH is particularly common after acne, eczema, or skin injuries.

Causes of Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Several factors contribute to the development of PIH:

  1. Acne: Inflammatory acne lesions can leave behind dark spots once they heal.

  2. Eczema and Dermatitis: Chronic skin conditions causing inflammation can lead to PIH.

  3. Skin Injuries: Cuts, burns, and other injuries can result in hyperpigmentation during the healing process.

  4. Medical Procedures: Certain dermatological treatments and procedures can cause temporary skin inflammation and subsequent PIH.

Treating Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Addressing PIH involves a combination of preventive measures and treatments to reduce existing pigmentation:

  1. Sun Protection: As with general hyperpigmentation, protecting the skin from UV rays is crucial in preventing PIH from worsening.

  2. Topical Agents: Ingredients like azelaic acid, niacinamide, and tranexamic acid can help reduce PIH by inhibiting melanin production and promoting skin renewal.

  3. Chemical Peels: These can be effective for PIH by exfoliating the skin and encouraging new cell growth.

  4. Laser Treatments: Targeted laser therapies can help break down excess melanin.

  5. Gentle Skincare: Using non-irritating skincare products helps prevent further inflammation and promotes healing.


Pigmentation and hyperpigmentation are common skin concerns influenced by various internal and external factors. Understanding the mechanisms behind these conditions and adopting preventive and treatment measures can help maintain an even skin tone. Whether through diligent sun protection, topical treatments, or professional procedures, managing pigmentation effectively requires a combination of approaches tailored to individual skin needs.

Before you invest in any of the treatment options available for pigmentation - it is CRUCIAL you are in a regular routine of using SPF30 or 50 on a daily basis along with reapplying throughout the day.

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