When you are born the color of your skin is predetermined. However as you age certain factors can change the uniformity of your skin colour. In order to understand skin pigmentation changes you must first understand exactly what skin pigmentation is.
What is Skin Pigmentation?The colour of a person's skin can range in tone from very light (a pinkish tone that is considered white) to very dark (black). This coloring is determined by the amount of melanin (a type of pigmentation) that is found in the skin. The amount of pigmentation that you have is determined by your ancestors and your sex. Males have slightly more pigmentation than females no matter what their skin colour or heritage.
Most people take skin pigmentation for granted. No matter what colour their skin is it is usually fairly regular in shade and tone. However, certain conditions and factors do exist that can cause skin pigmentation changes.
Common Skin Pigmentation ConditionsThere are four main types of skin pigmentation conditions. Three of these cause changes in skin tone and colour as a person ages. One condition is present at birth. The first three conditions- vitiligo, melasma, and solar lentigo- all share a common cause, sun exposure.
Vitiligo is a skin pigmentation disorder that is recognised by the lack of melanin in a certain area of the skin. In this disorder white (or lighter) spots appear on the skin. Although this condition is mainly brought on by the development of severe sunburn, genetic factors and immunologic factors play an important role in its development.
Vitiligo is not a commom skin pigmentation disorder and is only seen in about 2% of the population. Of that percentage dark skinned people make up the majority, as do those individuals between the ages of 20 and 30.
In contrast, melasma is a skin pigmenattion disorder that results in hyper-pigmentation or dark spots on the skin of females. These spots usually appear on the face, neck, and arms and are most commonly brought on by excessive sun exposure. However, these spots can also be brought on by hormonal changes and affect over 50% of women during pregnancy. Solar lentigo skin pigmentation disorder, commonly referred to as age spots or liver spots, is exclusively brought on by exposure to the sun. These spots resemble large freckles and are found on any area of the skin that has experienced repeated, prolonged sun exposure. The most common areas for solar lentigo to appear is on the hands, arms, neck, face, and forehead. These spots are very common in individuals over 60, light skinned people, and people who have trouble getting a tan.
The last skin pigmentation condition, albinism, is characterised by a complete lack of skin coloring. In this condition the sufferer's skin does not contain any melanin so they have very light skin and hair. The condition is genetic and incurable at this time.
Are There treatment Options for These Conditions?While there is no known treatment for albinism; vitiligo, melasma, and solar lentigo can all be treated and sometimes eliminated. The treatment for these conditions ranges from a what-and-see attitude (melasma sometimes fades away naturally after time or after the delivery of a baby) to laser treatments. Topical creams, both over-the-counter and prescription also exist for the treatment of pigmentation problems. These creams contain ingredients that help bleach out or lighten the affected area. Although these creams are effective it is important to understand that they may not lighten the skin to a matching tone and that over lightening is a risk.
If the spots don't disappear and the creams are not working, you can see a dermatologist for information about laser treatments or other doctor prescribed treatments. New advances are always coming forward and these conditions are becoming easier to treat.
Protecting Yourself Against These ConditionsAlthough treatment exists for these skin pigmentation conditions, it is best to avoid dealing with them all together if you can. Albinism cannot be prevented but you can avoid some risk of developing the other three by limiting your sun exposure. Be sure to apply a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 every day before you leave the house. And do not skip the sunscreen on cloudy, cold, or rainy days. Some UV rays can still reach the ground on overcast days and these rays can result in sun damage.
For further sun damage protection wear a hat, long-sleeved shirts, and darker, heavier clothing whenever possible. These items will shade your skin during long periods of outdoors activities.
While you may not be able to eliminate every risk you can protect yourself and reduce the chances that you may ever suffer from one of these common skin pigmentation conditions.