Skin pigmentation disorder is a common occurrence that affects a large population. It has different types – post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory erythema, vitiligo, melasma, and many others.
Pigmentation disorders also range in severity. Some of these disorders may fade over time or with the help of medical treatments. At the same time, other types of discoloured skin patches may be persistent and more difficult to remove.
Everyone facing pigmentation disorder should understand the symptoms and take proper care of them. Continue reading and learn more about the causes and treatments for skin pigmentation disorder!
What is skin pigmentation disorder?
Skin pigmentation disorder is a common condition due to patches of irregular colour changes on your skin. Causes of this unbalanced skin pigmentation may include inflammations, birthmarks, autoimmune diseases, and many other reasons.
It is relatively noticeable due to its distinct appearance from regular skin tones. Irregular pigmentation production can manifest as darker or lighter marks on the epidermis.
What causes pigmentation disorder to occur?
Excess or deficiency of melanin produced by melanocytes causes skin pigmentation disorders.
When the melanocytes deliver too much melanin, the skin will exhibit dark spots (i.e., hyperpigmentation). In contrast, a lack of melanin production will develop light patches distinct from the regular skin tones (i.e., hypopigmentation).
Several factors stimulate both hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. According to Healthline, uneven pigmentation may occur due to several factors, such as:
In many cases, excessive sun exposure without SPF protection can lead to sunburn and blisters. Eventually, it’s common for the blisters to form darker-than-regular skin tone scar tissues during the healing process due to excessive melanin production.
Skin inflammation is another trigger for skin pigmentation disorder. In many cases, people with darker skin tone (i.e., Fitzpatrick IV-VI) are more likely to develop inflammation-induced hyperpigmentation.
The hyperpigmentation caused by inflammation is also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Several skin conditions contribute to PIH formation, such as:
- Acne breakouts
Those conditions can contribute to PIH formations due to increased melanin during healing. The cells responsible for producing melanin can deliver more pigmentation to the wounded area, especially in darker skin tones.
There are many kinds of autoimmune diseases, and not all types of these conditions lead to pigmentation disorder.
However, the following autoimmune diseases commonly exhibit discoloured skin patches:
- Vitiligo: Vitiligo is a condition identified from skin colour loss in a few small areas. Depigmentation in vitiligo develops due to an autoimmune disease disrupting the melanin cells.
- Psoriasis: Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that appears as discoloured skin patches. The emerging hyperpigmentation will depend on the skin condition. People with lighter skin tones tend to develop erythema, whereas darker complexions will likely have darker marks.
- Eczema: Eczema is a condition that can cause itchy and dry rashes, which can develop into uneven pigmentation. Like psoriasis, eczema can develop into either hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, depending on the skin tone.
The excessive melanin production, which appears as dark brown patches on the skin’s surface, causes discolouration called melasma – a hormonal change that women most likely experience compared to other demographics.
Melasma usually arises under several conditions such as pregnancy, oral contraceptives usage, and child-bearing. For some people, melasma can be persistent and challenging to resolve.
Birthmarks are discolouration that becomes apparent at birth or a little afterwards. This type of discolouration may fade over time or stay on the skin epidermis for a lifetime.
To understand a birthmark’s formation, you must differentiate between vessels and pigmented marks:
- Strawberry nevus: This is a type of birthmark that mainly appears as rising red marks on the face, scalp, chest, and back.
- Salmon patch: It appears as flat red or pink marks that typically emerge on the face and neck.
- Port-wine stain: A port-wine stain birthmark is noticeable for its flat red or purple spots. This type of birthmark is relatively large and may require laser treatments to remove.
Pigmented birthmarks commonly appear as brown, blue, or grey spots compared to vessel birthmarks. Here are examples of pigmented birthmarks:
- Mongolian blue spots: These birthmarks appear as blue or grey marks on the back and buttocks. This type of birthmark will usually disappear as the baby grows up.
- Moles: Moles are harmless birthmarks commonly seen as rising and enlarged dark spots in the skin. There are available medical treatments to remove or reduce moles’ appearances.
In some cases, skin cancer can develop into skin pigmentation disorder. This condition can be triggered by long-term exposure to UV rays or dangerous chemicals.
Here is the list of skin cancer that causes pigmentation disorder
- Basal cell carcinoma: This skin cancer appears as flesh-coloured or pink patches. It is also the most common type of skin cancer and requires further medical treatments.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: This skin cancer appears as red bumps, sores, or scaly patches. It is the second most common type of skin cancer that can be threatening if left alone without a medical examination.
- Melanoma: A discolouration often confused with regular moles due to its dark appearance. However, melanomas are the most severe skin cancer, and it’s highly advisable to seek out medical treatment for it right away.
Rosacea has similar characteristics to post-inflammatory erythema. This condition typically appears as skin redness and affects the nose, cheeks, and forehead.
It can manifest into a wide range of severity. The mild form of rosacea might not be necessary to receive medical treatments. In comparison, the severe rosacea levels may need consistent clinical treatment to reduce the blemishes’ appearance.
Albinism is a condition that is triggered by the lack of melanin in the body. People who have albinism can be identified by the colour of their hair and skin that looks white and pale.
Usually, it is caused by genetic factors and is harmless to physical health. Since this condition is safe, people with albinism don’t require specialised treatments.
What is the correlation between pigmentation and pigmentation disorder?
Pigmentation means colouring, and it’s an agent responsible for giving colour to our skin. In addition, pigmentation is related to the melanocytes (cells that produce melanin). In regular occurrence, melanocytes release a proper amount of melanin and give the epidermis a balanced colour.
Hyperpigmentation happens due to excessive melanin. In contrast, hypopigmentation occurs because of the lack of melanin on the epidermis
How can I identify if it’s a pigmentation disorder?
Diagnosing skin pigmentation disorder involves an examination performed by a medical aesthetics doctor. Since there are many pigmentation disorders, it’s best to have a professional check them to suggest the proper procedures.
If you have any pigmentation disorder symptoms, your doctor may conduct the following checkups:
- Medical history examination: A professional performs this checkup method by asking patients several inquiries regarding their condition. Medical history examination techniques can be helpful to detect atopic dermatitides such as eczema and psoriasis.
- Wood’s lamp examination: This examination method illuminates long-wave UV light onto the observation areas. It effectively detects various pigmentation disorders such as hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, and colour-changing blemishes.
- Skin biopsy: This examination involves a medical aesthetics doctor taking tissue samples from the affected areas. They will closely examine the tissue samples to identify what pigmentation disorder affects your skin.
Genetics link to pigmentation disorders
Pigmentation disorders classified as hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation can occur due to genetic factors. The skin pigmentation disorder types triggered by genetic factors are commonly hereditary and run in the families.
The following list is the pigmentation disorders that are relatively genetic and run in the family:
- Albinism: This condition is caused by hereditary abnormal melanogenesis. The abnormality of melanin production manifests as pigmentation deficiency and affects hair and skin colours.
- Vitiligo: Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder that might run in the family. However, it isn’t guaranteed that parents will pass this gene to their children. Approximately 30% of people with vitiligo have close family relatives who have a similar condition, according to NCBI.
Is pigmentation disorder preventable?
Pigmentation disorders that belong to the hyperpigmentation category are still possible to prevent. However, other pigmentation disorder conditions (e.g., vitiligo, albinism, and birthmarks) occur naturally and are impossible to control.
Here are the following steps that you can do to prevent hyperpigmentation:
- Apply SPF (sunscreen): SPF is an important element to protect your skin from UV rays. Direct and excessive sun exposure may worsen the skin condition of people with hyperpigmentation.
- Use soothing creams: Inflamed skin causes some pigmentation disorders. Therefore, using creams that can soothe your skin is helpful to prevent your inflammation from getting worse and forming into discoloured patches.
What are the treatment options for pigmentation disorders?
Some pigmentation disorders are natural and don’t require any treatment. However, there are still other pigmentation disorders that medical or homemade therapies may improve.
If you ever wondered what the available options for pigmentation removal are, we got you covered. Find out what are the most suitable methods that can reduce how the uneven pigmentation appears:
Laser resurfacing treatment helps with targeting hyperpigmentation. Patients can expect new skin cell growth and boosting collagen production by undergoing this treatment. According to Healthline, there are two types of laser methods that are ideal for treating hyperpigmentation:
- Ablative laser treatment: This procedure is considered the most intense type of laser resurfacing as it involves removing your skin’s layers. As a result, patients may renew their skin cells and boost collagen production by undergoing this kind of laser technique.
- Non-ablative laser treatment: It is a milder laser resurfacing procedure if we compare it with ablative laser treatment. This procedure will only target the hyperpigmented dermis area without removing the skin’s layers. Therefore, patients can have rejuvenated skin with minimal side effects.
Revlite laser treatment is a non-ablative technique that is ideal for treating hyperpigmentation. This procedure directs a gentle light beam into the skin’s upper layer.
Furthermore, the light will generate heat, absorbed beneath the skin’s surface. As a result, the energy transfer will help lighten the wounds by destroying the pigmented scar tissue.
Intense Pulse Light (IPL) therapy
IPL therapy, or photo facials, effectively treats several skin pigmentation disorders. Patients with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) may benefit from this treatment.
Furthermore, due to its non-ablative method, patients who undergo this treatment can be assured of receiving minimal injury. Although it has few side effects, patients may notice an improvement in the appearance of their skin because it stimulates collagen growth so effectively.
A chemical peel is an excellent method to reduce hyperpigmented discolouration. This technique involves a medical aesthetics doctor applying glycolic acid and salicylic acid onto the skin surface.
These applied acid-like agents help by exfoliating the skin’s top layer and minimising dark spots. In addition, glycolic acid and salicylic acid can work wonders when combined with other topical creams such as hydroquinone and tretinoin.
Although chemical peel may give wonderful results, this treatment also comes with side effects. A chemical peel increases the skin’s sensitivity to sun rays in many cases. Applying a minimum of SPF 30 sunscreen is highly recommended to protect the skin from further damage.
Light-based therapy is a method that helps in minimising uneven skin pigmentation. It’s a relatively safe and convenient technique that leaves little to no downsides. Typically, two types of light therapy can be ideally used for minimising hyperpigmented skin:
- Blue light therapy: This therapy is one of the common methods used to treat skin pigmentation disorders, such as excessive and lack of pigmentation. This method delivers blue light wavelengths that stimulate melanogenesis target melanocytes to produce melanogenesis.
- Red light therapy: This therapy works differently than blue light therapy. Instead of using blue light wavelengths, this treatment stimulates collagen production by delivering red lights. The light will then be absorbed by the skin and produce energy for the discoloured skin cells to repair effectively.
Sciton Broadband Light (BBL)
Sciton Broadband Light (BBL) is a light therapy brand. This method employs pulsed light of variable wavelengths that absorbs beneath the skin’s layers.
Patients with visible veins and hyperpigmented skin may be good candidates for this treatment. They may effectively improve their discoloured skin by undergoing this procedure because the light promotes the growth of new skin cells and collagen production.
Hydroquinone comes in gel and creams. This topical medication works by decreasing the number of melanocytes on the skin, thus effectively lightening and eliminating your skin’s dark spots.
A medical prescription is required to access hydroquinone due to its harsh ingredients. Using hydroquinone will require professional supervision to prevent negative side effects.
In addition, hydroquinone also increases the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. If you are prescribed hydroquinone, you must apply SPF onto your skin to prevent sunburns.
Azelaic acid is a topical treatment with anti-bacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. The element combination makes azelaic acid a good choice to diminish hyperpigmentation and skin inflammation.
Azelaic acid creams are available in both prescription and over-the-counter. If you wish to get more optimal results, it’s advisable to get the prescribed products with 15 – 20% concentrations.
Applying azelaic acid may be enough to recover regular skin tone to these dark spots. Combining azelaic acid with niacinamide and Vitamin C may excel in treating hyperpigmentation.
If you plan to combine azelaic acid with other pigmentation medications, it’s advisable to apply SPF onto your skin. Using SPF will protect your skin from any damages caused by the UV rays.
A retinoid is a form of vitamin A that can be an alternative to treat uneven pigmentation. This active ingredient removes the dead skin cells and promotes collagen production. As a result, the discoloured skin area may heal over time by applying a retinoid.
If you wish to use retinoid as your skin pigmentation disorder remedy, you may get this ingredient at various over-the-counter (OTC) products. You can get it in the form of gel or skincare products. Any type of form may be ideal for reducing the appearance of your discoloured skin.
Although retinoid acts effectively against pigmentation problems, you might want to apply SPF altogether with this ingredient consistently. Retinoids may increase your sensitivity to excessive sun rays, and using sunscreen may protect you from further damage.
Vitamin C contains antioxidants that can treat various discolouration issues, including hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. This ingredient works by inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme that produces melanin in the skin. As a result, you may effectively reduce your uneven complexions.
Furthermore, vitamin C may also be suitable for relieving uneven skin tone caused by acne or inflammation. You can get it at various over-the-counter (OTC) products if you wish to use vitamin C.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 involved in cellular metabolism. This content is mostly used to treat acne breakouts while preventing hyperpigmentation simultaneously.
You may choose this active ingredient to treat your pigmentation issues. You may also combine it with other skin-lightening ingredients such as vitamin C and retinol for more optimal results.
Alpha arbutin is a natural form of hydroquinone, a chemical that has a very beneficial skin-whitening function. By applying this ingredient, you may minimise the appearance of skin hyperpigmentation that is caused by several factors, such as acne breakouts, inflammation, and many others.
If you wish to use alpha-arbutin, you can get this ingredient in several creams and serums widely available on the market. Ultimately, you might want to use this ingredient for consecutive one to two months for optimal results.
EstheWhite & EstheShield Skin Whitening Supplement
EstheWhite & EstheShield is a skin brightening supplement made in the United States. Patients with skin discolouration issues can use this supplement to complement the topical or clinical treatment they’ve already chosen.
Consuming EstheWhite & EstheShiled may help you reduce your risk of UV rays and free radical damage. Furthermore, by consuming this phytoflORAL-rich supplement, you can combat your skin’s uneven pigmentation caused by various issues.
Pigmentation disorders are common skin conditions that many people might face from birthers or as they age. Some environmental factors can cause discolouration, while some are genetically inherited.
In addition, skin pigmentation disorder can be harmless, yet it can also reach a severe case that causes wounds on your skin. Some blemishes can potentially be resolved, while the others tend to be persistent and very challenging or impossible to remove.
You can always consult with our medical aesthetics doctor if you observe any pigmentation disorder symptoms on your skin. Our medical aesthetics doctor, Dr Dylan Chau, will be available to provide further information about skin pigmentation disorder diagnosis, causes, and further treatment plans.