What does ‘Pigment’ mean?
Let’s start by defining the word “Pigment”. In simple language, pigment is a substance (naturally occurring) that gives colour to animals and plants.
The origin of this word comes from the Latin word “Pingere” which means “To Paint” the adaptation of this word in English language resulted in the word “Pigmentum” and later Pigment.
What is Pigmentation?
Now that you know what pigment means, you will be able to understand what pigmentation is.
Pigmentation is discoloring of skin. Bridget March of the Cosmopolitan UK — refers to pigmentation as uneven dark, dark brown patches not only on the face but also on other areas such as hands, shoulders etc.
But I’d like to extend that definition. Pigmentation is not necessarily dark or brown spots on the skin, it can even be lighter spots, otherwise known as white patches on the skin as well. It really just depends on your skin tone.
What is Melanin?
I’m actually pretty sure you’ve heard about melanin. Whenever you hear or talk about pigmentation, you’ll hear the term melanin as well.
Melanin is a Pigment. And this pigment is what gives your skin it’s colour. There are special cells in your body that make this pigment. The skin tone you have is related to the amount of melanin your skin produces.If your skin produces more melanin, your skin will be darker and if it produces less melanin, your skin will be lighter.
So, when these cells get damaged and become unhealthy is when you will start noticing pigmentation on your skin.
The Two Forms Of Pigmentation:
Hyper-Pigmentation: This form of pigmentation is what Bridget March was talking about when she wrote about pigmentation on the cosmopolitan UK website. It is when melanin production is increased by some cells in the affected area, causing them to darken. Dark spots, which are also a form of pigmentation, also come under this category.
Hypo-Pigmentation: This is the opposite of hyper-pigmentation. Meaning, the spots or patches on your skin are lighter than the rest of the skin.
Main Causes Of Pigmentation On Skin:
Sun Damage: Dr. Nick Lowe says that UVA rays from the sun stimulate your pigment cells called Melanocytes to manufacture the pigment called melanin. This is what causes tan and also unwanted dark patches. Meaning, sun exposure boosts melanin production. Also as you age, sensitivity towards sun exposure is also increased.
Post Inflammatory Hyper-Pigmentation: This type of pigmentation appears after some sort or injury or trauma to the skin. For example: marks left behind by your acne or by an injury you might have suffered when you were a kid.
Pigmentation that results from Pregnancy: Of course this condition is only found in women. And is what is most commonly known as “Mask Of Pregnancy”. Pigmentation like this can occur on face as well as abdomen.
Freckles: Often considered a beauty and generally deemed attractive are also a form of pigmentation. It is also, generally, hereditary condition.
Melasma: It is when dark spots appear on the face, generally affected areas are nose, cheeks, temples, forehead and jaws. Melasma is commonly caused by a hormonal imbalance but what hormone imbalance causes this is difficult to say. It is also to be noted that hypothyroidism as well as consumption of contraceptive pills have been associated to Melasma.
Dry Skin: This is related to aging. Your sebaceous glands will produce less and less oil as you age and dry skin usually tends to be inflamed. This can lead to stimulation of melanocytes (remember that earlier in the beginning of the article I told you that there are special cells that make melanin? Well Melanocytes they’re called.) and formation of patchy pigmentation on your skin.
Facial Cosmetic Melanosis: This is a rather rare condition expresses Dr. Rekha Sheth t(he Founder-President of the Cosmetology Society of India and a leading cosmetologist) in the July issue of The Prevention Magazine India. People that suffer from this type of pigmentation usually develop it due cosmetics like moisturizers and perfumes.
Sun Damage: Exposure to sun may also be a cause you hypo-pigmentation on your skin. Sun damage is what worsens pigmentation of any form and cause.
Vitiligo: It is an auto immune disease and happens when the immune system attacks one or more parts of your own body. White patches on skin appear because melanocytes are destroyed on certain affected areas.
Albinism: Is a disease in which there is complete or partial absence of melanocytes in the skin. It affects even the hair and eyes.
Now that we’re through with getting to know the types of and the causes of pigmentation, it is time to know what can be done to prevent and cure pigmentation. We’ll start off by discussing the prevention first, Why you ask? Because prevention is always better than cure! Duh.
Here are some really easy daily habits that you can incorporate in your daily lives to reduce the risk of pigmentation:
Using A Mild Face Wash: Harsh soaps and cleansers can dry up your skin, leaving it a little irritated and/or inflamed. And as I mentioned above, dry skin is a trigger to pigmentation. So make sure you use a very mild face wash. Go for one that doesn’t lather well or at all on the skin. Those tend to be mild. I would recommend using the Cetyl and Stearyl Alcohol Cleansing lotion as it is really mild and gentle on the skin yet effectively cleanses. Or you can switch to a ayurvedic or herbal formulation to cleanse your face.
Using a Sunscreen: You see how Both the leading cosmetologist (Dr. Rekha Sheth) and the leading dermatologist (Dr Nick Lowe) expressed how prolonged exposure to the sun eventually resulted in pigmentation or worsening the already pigmented areas? That’s exactly why you need a product to protect you from the harmful rays of the sun. You should use a sunscreen that PA+++ and covers both the UVA and UVB spectrum. It should also have a minimum of a SPF 25 which is a must.
Update: November 2015: I recommend using the Blossom Kocchar Aroma Magic Sunlite Spray (SPF 30) It’s natural ingredients, and free from parabens.
Using A Skin Cream: You can use any skin cream you like, and start moisturising your skin right away if you haven’t been doing so. You know, how I mentioned that dry skin can also lead to pigmentation? So, yes. Any over-the-counter skin cream would do but if you can find one that has ingredients like: niacinimide, arbutin, turmeric, licorice, mulberry extract or vitamin C suggests the “Banish Patches” section in the Prevention India magazine (July 2015 Issue).
Drink Plenty Of Water: Dehydration can also cause dullness and premature aging of skin. Keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day eliminates the risk of many diseases and ailments.
Proper Diet: All over the cyber space you must have come across many “Foods for Skin” articles that tell you what foods are good for your skin. It’s time you incorporate those into your diet. Chances are you’ll see better skin soon. Promise.
So maybe you were too busy with work, family, children, school-life, college, studies and managed to neglect your ‘skin’s needs’ perfectly. And now, over time it has caught up on you — in the form of pigmentation. Or maybe you’ve just grown x2 times wiser than you ever were in your 20s and it hasn’t come without a price.
What ever the reason may be, fear not, with the advancement of science and technology many things became achievable. Curing or ridding yourself of pigmentation is on the list, it’s not easy but it’s achievable.
How, you ask? The answer is really simple. Proper skin care coupled with some ayurvedic or herbal (or all natural and organic) treatments.
Make a Proper Skin Care Routine: This includes having a good AM as well as PM routine. Ideally you should start with cleaning your face, exfoliating, and then moisturising. This is a ver basic skin care routine that shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes and frankly you should give yourself at least 10 minutes daily if you don’t already.
Moisturising Cream: It is recommended you swap out your regular moisturizing cream with the one that has ingredients like kojic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids and retinol. Use this moisturizing cream at night every day before going to bed.
Creams like Dr. Nick Lowe’s Super Light Skin tone Perfector would work well. You can even try Clinique’s Even Better Dark Spot Corrector and Shisedo’s Anti-Spot Serums. I’ve heard pretty good reviews about these products. But if they’re too expensive for you, you can try similar sounding anti-aging creams from brands like Olay, Loreal (Buy on Amazon)etc as they aren’t as expensive. These Creams can be found on Amazon Or boots.com.
Talking about expensive, while affording these creams is a good option but I’ve got some good old home remedies for you in store too. There may be a hundred remedies out there but only some work, and these do. Sure, they’re home remedies and they take their own sweet time but they’re not as pricey and you can count on the fact that they are free from side-effects. Unless, well, you’re allergic to the ingredients used.
So here are some really effective home remedies that will combat pigmentation for you at a skin deep level:
Rose and Patchouli Anti-Ageing Blend: All you need is some rose water and patchouli essential oil. Take about 15ml of rose water and put in 1 drop of patchouli essential oil. Apply this as a toner all over your face and affected areas. Rose water is a firming agent to your skin and works to repair skin at a cellular level. Patchouli Essential Oil is the perfect choice because of its anti-aging properties. To know more about the Patchouli Essential oil you can even read the article I wrote about Essential Oils as well.
Potatoes: They are very effective and you don’t really have much effort to put in on this one. Just slice up a potato and rub it on your skin and pigmented areas daily. There’s no hassle of making or mixing anything at all.
Cucumber: This one is just as easy as the one mentioned above it. Slice up a cucumber and rub this daily on your face. It helps reducing pigmentation, blemishes and other dark spots.
Aloe Vera Gel and Vitamin E Blend: If you have an aloe vera plant then take out it’s gel and mix it with Vitamin E capsule (such as Evion 400) and apply this on all affected areas as well as your face before you go to bed.
Always remember that home remedies, are natural blends and they take time to solve out your problems. This is because they work at skin deep level. Nature has it’s own process of healing and it is usually slow. So be patient, and let it work. There are several other home remedies available for treating pigmentation but I desperately chose the ones that where really easy and I have myself tried and tested.
I have noticed, the main reason people tend to turn towards manufactured creams and lotions is because they’re so easy to apply and you don’t have to put in any effort to make it. That’s why I added these home remedies as they’re as easy as it gets.
You can even have a look at this home remedy. This home remedy channel on YouTube is known for it’s credibility. So go ahead and experiment if this works for you.
So, what are some other remedies you know of that help treat pigmentation? Or some other creams and lotions you have come across and have found them to be really helpful? I’d like to know!