Pigmentation is basically defined as dark colour dots, spots or patches on our face or body. Pigmentation disorders are very common in Singapore due to its intense hot weather.
Skin pigmentation is a common problem that can affect anyone, regardless of age or skin type. While it is not usually a serious condition, it can be unsightly and cause discomfort.
What is Pigmentation?
Melanocytes are specialised cells that produce pigments called Melanin. The amount of Melanin produced determines the colour of our hair, eye and skin. When Melanocytes become damaged in skin, it affects melanin production, leading to pigmentation problems.
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What Factors Contribute To Skin Pigmentation?
There are a number of factors that contribute to skin pigmentation. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its colour, and the amount of melanin produced by the body is determined by genetic factors. Sun exposure also plays a role in skin pigmentation, as UV light can stimulate the production of melanin. Other factors that can affect skin pigmentation include certain medications, hormones, and injuries.
In general, people with darker skin have more melanin than those with lighter skin. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes, which are found in the outer layer of the skin. The number of melanocytes a person has is determined by their genetic makeup.
Sun exposure is one of the most significant factors that can affect skin pigmentation. UV light from the sun can stimulate the production of melanin in the skin, resulting in a darker complexion. People who are exposed to more sunlight tend to have darker skin than those who are not.
Certain medications can also cause changes in skin pigmentation and can trigger melasma. For example, some birth control pills can cause the skin to darken, or medications used for treating thyroid or ovarian problems.
Inflammation causes a temporary increase or decrease in the pigments for wound healing due to the trauma experienced by the skin. For example, scars that form as a result of acne, eczema, burns or other injuries will trigger a natural would healing process which can cause the skin to become darker in colour.
The fluctuation in hormones can trigger melasma, which shows up as small, dark patches. This is very common during pregnancy.
The vast majority of people have skin pigmentation that is within the normal range. However, there are some conditions that can cause abnormal skin pigmentation. These conditions include vitiligo, albinism, and melanoma. Vitiligo is a condition in which the body produces little or no melanin, resulting in white patches of skin. Albinism is a condition in which there is no pigment in the skin, hair, or eyes. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can cause changes in skin pigmentation.
While most cases of abnormal skin pigmentation are benign, it is important to see a doctor if you notice any changes in your skin colour.
What Are The Different Types Of Skin Pigmentation?
There are many different types of pigmentation with different causes and treatment modalities. Immediate accurate diagnosis can usually be made on the spot by careful inspection of the pigmentation shape, colour and distribution.
Some of the common pigmentation are:
Freckles are small, flat, brown spots that appear on the skin. They are usually clustered together and most often found on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, shoulders, arms and hands.
Freckles are caused by increased production of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to the skin. Although freckles are not harmful, some people may want to reduce their appearance for cosmetic reasons.
Sun spots, Age spots, Liver spots
Sun spots, also known as age spots or liver spots, are small, dark patches that occur on the skin. They’re caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, and tend to be more common in people over the age of 50.
Sun spots can be treated with a variety of methods, including laser therapy, light therapy, and topical bleaching agents.
Melasma is a type of skin pigmentation that results in brown or grey patches on the skin. It is caused by an overproduction of the pigment melanin in the skin.
Melasma can occur on any area of the body that is exposed to the sun, but it most commonly affects the face. Melasma is relatively common and affects both men and women.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a type of skin pigmentation that can occur after the skin has suffered an injury, such as from a burn, acne, or other inflammation. The pigmentation results from the overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour.
PIH can also be caused by certain medications or treatments, like topical steroids, radiation therapy, or chemical peels. The pigmentation typically appears as dark spots on the skin and can take months or even years to fade away completely.
Nevus of Ota
Nevus of Ota is a type of melanocytic nevus that is characterised by its blue-grey coloration. It is usually found on the face, but can also occur on the neck, chest, and back. This type of nevus is caused by an increased number of melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation.
Nevus of Ota is benign, meaning it is not cancerous. However, it can be associated with other skin conditions such as melanoma. Treatment for Nevus of Ota is typically not necessary unless it is causing cosmetic concerns. In some cases, laser therapy may be used to lighten the nevus.
Hori’s nevus is a type of skin pigmentation that results in a dark patch on the skin. It is caused by an overgrowth of melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in the skin.
It can occur on any part of the body, but is most commonly found on the face, neck, or trunk. Hori’s nevus is usually benign and does not require treatment. However, in rare cases, Hori’s nevus can develop into a type of skin cancer known as melanoma.
Is Skin Pigmentation Permanent?
The pigmentation of your skin is determined by the amount of melanin present. Melanin is a dark brown pigment that is produced by cells known as melanocytes. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin will be.
Pigmentation can vary from person to person and also change over time. For example, you may have more melanin in your skin during the summer months due to sun exposure.
While the pigmentation of your skin is mainly determined by genetics, there are certain environmental factors that can also influence it. For example, if you suffer from a condition known as vitiligo, this can cause patches of your skin to lose pigmentation.
So, is skin pigmentation permanent? The answer is that it can be, but it’s also possible for it to change over time. If you’re concerned about the pigmentation of your skin, it’s best to speak to a doctor who will be able to advise you on the best course of action.
How Can I Prevent Pigmentation From Recurring Or Getting Worse?
Sun protection. Sun protection. Sun protection.
Almost 80% of pigmentation problems root from the same cause which is sun exposure. We cannot stress enough the importance of sun protection in determining the success of pigmentation removal treatment and its long term prevention of recurrence.
Sun protection can be in the form of physical protection such as bringing an umbrella, wearing covered clothing and masks or chemical protection such as oral or topical sunscreen.
What Are The Available Treatments For Skin Pigmentation?
In general most pigmentation can be removed effectively with laser treatment in a few sessions with some requiring prolonged treatment durations. Hence, accurate diagnosis is the key in treatment of pigmentation disorders.
There is no one size fits all solution for pigmentation removal. But there are various options available for pigmentation removal such as aesthetic laser treatments, medical grade skin products or medications.
Available Treatments For Skin Pigmentation
Pico laser is a laser treatment for skin pigmentation. It uses short pulses of laser energy to break down melanin so it can be metabolised easily. Pico laser can treat all sorts of pigmented lesions such as age spots.
The key innovation behind Pico laser lies in its ability to deliver laser energy in extremely brief pulses. These ultra-short pulses create a photomechanical effect, wherein the laser energy is absorbed by the target pigment or tissue without significant heat generation. This minimizes the risk of collateral damage to surrounding skin, making it safer and more effective than traditional laser systems.
Sylfirm X is a radiofrequency microneedling treatment that can treat pigmentation like melasma and PIH. It targets the papillary dermis to improve skin elasticity, pigmentation and collagen production.
The mechanism of action of Sylfirm X involves the generation of electrohydraulic shockwaves within the skin tissue. This is achieved through controlled electrical discharges that create high-pressure plasma channels within the dermal layer, without causing significant heat. These plasma channels stimulate a cascade of physiological responses within the skin, including the activation of fibroblasts and the release of growth factors. As a result, collagen production is stimulated, and the skin’s natural healing processes are triggered.
Pro Yellow Laser uses a wavelength of 577nm to treat vascular lesions such as rosacea and post-acne redness, and also pigmentation like melasma and solar lentigine.
The 577nm wavelength emitted by the Pro Yellow Laser is selectively absorbed by hemoglobin, the red pigment in blood vessels, and by melanin, the pigment responsible for skin and hair color. When the laser light is applied to the target area, it is absorbed by these chromophores, leading to the conversion of laser energy into heat. This localized heating causes coagulation of blood vessels in the case of vascular lesions or fragmentation of melanin particles in the case of pigmented lesions.
Carbon Laser provides instant glow to the skin. It uses carbon lotion as a photoenhancer to gently exfoliate the skin’s surface and breaks down unwanted melanin production that causes the skin to appear uneven.
The procedure begins with the application of a thin layer of a carbon-based lotion to the patient’s face. This lotion is left to dry and adhere to the skin’s surface. The carbon particles in the lotion have a strong affinity for laser light absorption. Subsequently, a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser is used to emit high-energy, short-duration pulses of light that are specifically absorbed by the carbon particles on the skin’s surface.
As the laser interacts with the carbon particles, several key processes occur. First, the carbon absorbs the laser energy and becomes heated, which leads to a controlled and precise micro-explosion of the carbon particles. This results in the removal of the superficial layer of dead skin cells, excess oil, and contaminants, effectively exfoliating the skin.