Skin pigmentation issues arise due to irregular deposition of melanin in the skin.
These factors may be genetic or may be activated by external and more controlable circumstances. Melanin is depostited in the skin by melanocytes. These cells have long arm-like extensions called dendrites that deposit the melanin into melanosomes for transport through the skin. The health of melanocytes is key to almost all pigmentation issues.
Pigmentation concerns can be broken into hypopigmentation (light patches) and hyperpigmentation (dark patches). The patches may be large (e.g. vitiligo) or they may be barely perceptible. There are more than 70 different pigmentation disorders and these can’t all be covered here but there are some common causes.
Here are some of the factors that may be contributing to disturbances in the normal deposition of pigment in your skin
- UV radiation is the prime aggravating factor in pigmentation – all cases will be affected by excessive UV exposure
- Vitamin D deficiency is involved in a large percentage of pigmentation cases. Vitamin D levels are dangerously low in a large proportion of the population due to indoor lifestyles. Some sun exposure is essential to your health and the health of your skin. This may seem contradictory but 15 minutes of mild sun exposure on a large part of your body a few times a week is healthy. Sunburn should definitely be avoided.
The most common initial triggers are the following
- Intense sunburn – one acute sunburn incident can have long-term impacts but mild exposure regularly is beneficial for the skin
- Reaction to chemicals
- Hormonal changes
- People carrying the red-head gene are most susceptible to UV induced damage
Here are some suggestions on lifestyle changes that should have a balancing effect on your skin
- Frequent low level sun exposure with the affected areas covered
- Oral Vitamin D supplements if levels are low
- Essential fatty acid intake – either 15 g per day of flax seed oil or 400 mg of long chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA)
- Supplement with vitamin C (400mg) on a daily basis
- Re-evaluate your diet – move to a high fibre, low sugar, fresh food diet
- Check for photosensitising ingredients in make-up, skincare and hair care products