Skin Pigmentation Explained

A skin condition that is particularly common in Northern European countries where the population tends to be fairer, Rosacea is a long-term pigmentation issue that affects around 1 in every 10 people. Symptoms are extremely visible – the facial skin appears flushed with visible blood vessels and in some cases can thicken, particularly around the nose.

There is no cure for rosacea once it has developed. However there is normally a trigger that, if identified and cut out of your lifestyle, can help to control the severity of the redness. These include alcohol, excessively hot drinks, very cold weather, overexposure to sunlight, and eating spicy foods.

There are also many specialist products for sensitive rosacea-suffering skin available that will cool and calm the redness. Camouflaging cosmetic products are also widely available; try a green-tinted base to cancel out the redness, or apply a specialist foundation or concealer that has the capacity to cover any skin imperfection whatsoever.

Vitiligo occurs when melanin cells are lost, leading to a lightening of skin, hair and eye colour that mostly occurs in patches. These patches are extremely sensitive to the sun, making them more susceptible to sun damage and skin cancer.

The cause of vitiligo is unknown, although autoimmune problems are a suspected cause with the immune system attacking the melanin cells that produce skin pigment.

As a chronic skin condition, there is no cure for this lack of pigmentation, although there are very many ways to look after the skin and make any imperfections appear less noticeable. Making sure skin is well protected with sunblock is an important first step, as it is extremely sensitive to the sun’s harsh rays. Also protecting unaffected skin is a useful tip for lighter-skinned vitiligo sufferers, as tanning will increase the visibility of light patches. Camouflage cosmetics – that is, make-up that is thick and opaque enough to disguise any skin imperfection – can be also used to minimise the appearance of uneven pigmentation, and there is a very sophisticated range available for all manner of skin conditions.

An extremely common type of skin pigmentation, freckles are less a skin disorder and more a reaction to the sun. Although they can develop on anyone despite their genetics, the freckling trend tends to run in families. Freckles occur mostly in fair-skinned people when certain melanin cells produce more pigmentation than others following exposure to sunlight, producing spots of darker colour that become more pronounced the longer the exposure.

Although these freckles are not necessarily harmful, it is especially beneficial to learn how to look after them due to their sensitivity. These localised pockets of pigmentation are early signals that the sun is doing some damage to the skin, and though they cannot be treated, their darkness can be minimised through the use of a sunscreen. Those with freckled skin are especially susceptible to sunburn as they usually have a much lower level of photo-protective melanin, so a high protection is recommended.

Hyper Pigmentation
Hyper pigmentation can range from moles to cafe au lait birthmarks, age spots to freckles. They occur when an external or internal factor triggers an overproduction of melanin in a concentrated area, causing the skin to become much darker.

Age spots, freckles and moles are common hyper pigmentation examples that are often caused by excessive sun exposure, and are early signs of sun damage. As with all skin conditions, it is imperative to keep this areas very well protected with sun screen to prevent further damage or darkening.

Cafe au lait birthmarks -so called for their light, milky brown appearance – are one form of hyper pigmentation that is not caused by the exposure to the sun. Instead, they are common skin blemishes that are formed even before birth. They are usually nothing to worry about, although if they are on the face they can be an irritation as they do not fade with age. Their relatively light colour normally means that they can be easily disguised by a slightly thicker foundation or concealer.

Another innate form of hyper pigmentation is the ‘mask of pregnancy’ that occurs during pregnancy, an overproduction of melanin that causes darkened skin on the face and abdomen. A cosmetic rather than health-related condition, these patches often fade naturally over time.

Port Wine Stains
So-called for their resemblance in colour to port wine, port wine stains are a more prominent form of birthmark caused by the abnormal development of capillaries on both a superficial and a deeper level in the skin. They normally appear as a large red or purple mark that is most commonly found on the face, although they can also occur elsewhere on the body. Apparent from birth, early stains are usually pink in appearance. However, as the child grows this discolouration grows too, deepening in colour with age.

Short of laser treatment or steroid creams, Port Wine Stains are a permanent skin condition that cannot be removed. If that your mark is particularly large or is in a very visible place and you’d like to cover it, there are plenty of options available. Specialist ‘camouflage’ make-up is now widely available to help you to cover up your imperfections, and tends to be waterproof, heatproof and smudge-proof to give you the ultimate peace of mind.