The Truth About Pigmentation Part 1

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Pigmentation can be the bane of some people's lives and sometimes causing them huge distress. There has been a lot of misconceptions about pigmentation regarding what causes it and how you can prevent or even cure it. Dr. Askari Townshend is a renowned skincare expert and aesthetic doctor. He is also the founder of ASKINOLOGY, which is an award-winning concept offering a cosmeceutical boutique based in London. It contains a facial bar plus laser and aesthetic clinic all under one roof. He took time out to give us his expert advice on pigmentation.

What is pigmentation? It is coloured pigment (melanin) is made by melanocytes in the base of the epidermis. White skins also contain melanocytes but they do not produce as much.

How does it present itself on the skin? The most common example is a tan after sun exposure when there is an increase in melanin production. The pigment helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays in sunlight – it is actually a sign that your skin has been damaged to some degree and is trying to protect itself. As the years pass with more and more damage from the sun, the melanocytes can start to malfunction resulting in patchy areas of pigmentation rather than the even tan once obtained when younger. This process is the same that leads to sunspots/age spots and uneven colouration across the face.

What are the causes of pigmentation? The main causes of pigmentation are: sunlight, injury and pregnancy hormones. With injury the melanocytes are stimulated by inflammation and more so in darker skins. This is called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Most obvious is PIH after acne outbreaks leaving dark spots on the skin.

Pregnancy hormones can stimulate pigmentation – e.g. darkening of nipples but more worrying for most women, chloasma (commonly called the mask of pregnancy). This often presents as a symmetrical area of pigmentation across the cheeks but can also affect the top lip and forehead as well as other areas.

What can you do to help avoid/minimise it? The best way to protect against and minimise pigmentation is to cover up. Sun protection creams are vital and it’s important to shield yourself with hats, glasses and cover up with clothing as much as possible. Avoid going out in strong sunshine during the hottest part of the day. As mentioned another cause can be hormones, so if you are on hormonal medication such as the contraceptive peel or HRT and are experiencing pigmentation, discuss this with your doctor.

We will be publishing part two of our Pigmentation series on Friday when Dr Townshend will be discussing treatments for it.

For more information about ASKINOLOGY, please visit their website.